“Take It From Me, Phil Was So Much More Than Shark Movies,” by Juliana Gray

Apr 16th, 2014 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

It’s my honor to speak in memory of our departed friend Phil Anderson today.  When most of you think of Phil’s work for the SyFy Channel over the years, you probably think of his shark movies, like Vampire Sharks and Sharks on a Plane.  But take it from me, Phil was so much more than shark movies.

When Phil first came to work for us, he was full of big ideas, what with his brand-new Iowa MFA.  He was all Raymond Carver this and Alice Munro that.  Sweet kid, but he wasn’t getting the hang of the job.  I started to think he might not be SyFy Channel material.

One night, I took him out for drinks at a gentlemen’s club, and he knew what was coming; he was nervous and put away way too many bourbon and gingers, way too fast.  He kept talking about how he needed the job, with Doreen pregnant– Doreen, his first wife, I see her here today in the back of the room, how you doing, sweetheart?

Anyway, Phil was so pathetic, moaning about how people didn’t want good stories anymore, I couldn’t bear to do it.  I just kept ordering bourbon and gingers and letting him pour his heart out.

And that was the night he pitched Arachnoshark.

It was rough, and he was maybe a little sarcastic, but boy, I knew right away I was hearing SyFy Channel gold.  He outlined the whole thing– the secret lab on the beach in Cancun, how the Arachnoshark was attracted to the smell of suntan oil, the web strung across the bikini parasailing contest finish line– all right there in the bar.  I was scribbling it down on napkins the whole time he was talking.  Pure genius.

And would you believe, when we showed up at the office the next day, he tried to take it all back?  Said that wasn’t the kind of writer he wanted to be, he had artistic integrity, blah blah.  No way, baby, I said, you just wrote your first hit.

And I was right.  After that, Phil was off and running.  I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone in this room of some of the Phil Anderson classics that we produced over the years.  Sharkcano.  Sharkicane.  Planet of the Sharks.  Frankenshark.  His great western trilogy A Fistful of Sharks, For a Few Sharks More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Sharks.  All classics.

Sure, Phil was his own worst critic.  He always talked about getting back to his roots, writing what he called “real stories,” whatever.  And some would say he hit a slump with Psychic Shark, Sharknami and Thirty-Seven-Headed Shark Attack.  He was going through some personal stuff; that was around the time that he and Doreen split, and he took that pretty hard, her taking the kids to Minneapolis and all.

But then he met the lovely Tatiana– at that same bar, actually– and turned a corner.  He got married again, got his head together, and made an amazing comeback with Larry Putter and the Chamber of Sharks.  And Tatiana, may I just say, black is definitely your color, sweetheart.

I could go on all day, but I’ll end with just a couple of things.  For one, the cause of Phil’s death has officially been ruled an accidental mishap.  While we’ll never know exactly what happened that day at the aquarium, we all know how seriously Phil took his research.  It’s safe to say that he died doing what he loved.  And I want to give my personal thanks to the funeral home for doing such a fantastic job with . . . er, the remains of  . . . anyway, Phil looks great.

And then, one last thing.  When we were going through Phil’s office, we found a draft of a book.  That’s right, folks, that great American novel he always said he was working on?  Well, it’s real.  And since it was written on his work computer, it’s legally the property of SyFy and NBC Universal.

It’s long, and kinda talky, not much action, but our SyFy family and Tatiana’s lawyers have decided that the best way to honor his memory is to adapt his book into one last Phil Anderson SyFy original film.  We think it’s what he would have wanted.

So look for Phil’s final movie in Summer 2015.  We had to change the title– Phil called it O Soul, Be Changed Into Little Waterdrops, which the lawyers tell me is from a play or something.  We’re calling it The Mysterious Secret of Mr. Krahs.  I don’t want to give it away, but I think you’ll all be shocked at the twist ending.


Defenestration-Juliana GrayJuliana Gray is primarily poet, but not the pretentious alcoholic kind, since she can quit any time she wants to. Her most recent poetry collection is Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve, which won the 2013 Winged City Chapbook Press poetry chapbook contest.  Her humor writing has previously appeared The Big Jewel.  An Alabama native, she lives in western New York and is an associate professor of English at Alfred University.

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