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Titus Takes Off

From the Sci-Fi Channel to John Cleese comedy, producer Tavin Marin Titus is making her mark

By Etana Jacobson     April 25, 2002

The Intercon-X website in ON_LINE, directed by Jed Weintrob.
© Plinyminor
After only a few years as an independent producer, Tavin Marin Titus has already built up an impressive resume of genre-based work. If you haven't seen any of her films yet, you may soon.

A horror short, "A Fate Foretold," sold to a division of Universal. A groundbreaking digital feature, ON_LINE, is on the international festival circuit. A short for the Sci-Fi Channel's EXPOSURE series, "The Man With No Eyes." A comedy short starring John Cleese, "Taking the Wheel," is also at top global fests.

"I've always liked twisted little stories," Titus explains. "Universal stories, fantasy. Stories with aliens, or set in imaginary places. And the characters of genre stories are really deep. They have a sense of mystery. You only learn a few things about them. There's a sense of shared excitement in where they're going to go."

Tavin Marin Titus

It's no secret genre entertainment has another bonus: economic viability.

"From indies to the studio level, something genre-based is easier to finance and sell," Titus says. "There's more places to put it, bigger markets. And the fans are incredible. That's what drives their success, something my bosses figured out a long time ago."

Titus learned from the best in sci-fi and fantasy entertainment. One of her first employers was the French company Gaumont, which produced the HIGHLANDER film series.

"I was constantly surrounded by the mechanisms of the franchise," she says. "There were conventions all over the world. The type of fans was incredible. It was a form of continuous storytelling, of which the fans became a part. It's great to share [a film] with a community that will get equally excited. You're both getting something from it."

With this sense of excitement, Titus eventually joined a then-untried new production company as an assistant.

"My friend suggested I meet this young producing-directing team, saying, 'Even if you don't make any money, you'll have fun,'" Titus explains. "I couldn't find anybody to recommend them. But I met them and we just clicked."

The team turned out to be Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's Centropolis Entertainment, which had yet to make blockbusters like INDEPENDENCE DAY and GODZILLA.

John Cleese stars in "Taking the Wheel."

"So I went from working with [them as] unknown guys to the team behind the summer's biggest movie [ID4]," Titus says. "They went on a huge ride and took everyone with them."

Eventually, Titus found herself wanting to make movies from scripts friends had sent her. With Centropolis' blessing, she made my first short, "A Fate Foretold."

"It gave me the courage to say, 'I can do this,'" she says.

A retelling of the Circe myth, "A Fate Foretold" is a 1999 horror film directed by Rick Nahmias. It was bought by Hypnotic, a division of Universal. It played on the Sci-Fi Channel, film fests and the Internet, and was eventually sold to a Japanese distributor.

Feeding off its success, Titus exec produced a feature by a friend, first-time director Jed Weintrob. The project became ON_LINE, a look at six strangers in New York trying to connect over the Net via surveillance and adult fantasy sites.

"It was really cool," Titus says. "No one was making a movie then [early 2000] about Web cam culture."

ON_LINE is currently making waves on the international festival circuit for its innovative use of digital video. Featuring split screens, pans, shots off computer monitors and Web cams, it's a showcase of DV firsts. Two sets were shot on simultaneously to simulate Web cam sessions. A thousand feet of cable was used as three to eight cameras shot at once.

While completing ON_LINE, Titus was approached by the Sci-Fi Channel to produce a short film for the EXPOSURE series, which highlights upcoming filmmakers. She was introduced to writer-director Tim Cox and inspired by his "amazing, infectious energy."

Vanessa Ferlito as Jordan Nash in ON_LINE, directed by Jed Weintrob.

The project, "The Man With No Eyes," is about alien gunslingers in the Old West. It was shot on the same camera used by George Lucas on STAR WARS: EPISODE II - 24p High Definition Video, specially modified by Panavision.

After an intense three-week prep period, the short was shot in four sweltering days. It aired in November on the Sci-Fi Channel. Many industry insiders thought it was shot on film, a big achievement for its ultra-lean budget. A series based on it is currently being explored.

Overlapping with "The Man With No Eyes," Tavin exec produced a comedy short starring John Cleese, "Taking the Wheel," written and directed by another friend, David Ackerman. Using Cleese's trademark slapstick in several stunts, the film centers on his efforts to get his elderly mother to stop driving. It's playing to festival raves.

Genre fans can look forward to more from Titus.

"We are one of them," she points out. "I don't do what I do for the fans - I do it because I am one."

"A Fate Foretold" is at www.afateforetold.com
ON_LINE info is at www.onlinethemovie.com
For more info on "The Man With No Eyes airings on the Sci-Fi Channel's EXPOSURE series: www.scifi.com/exposure/onair/
"Taking the Wheel" is at www.takingthewheel-themovie.com, and will next be at the San Francisco Film Festival.


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