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July 17, 2014

Syfy’s ‘Ascension’ Departs From Jason Blum’s Microbudget Film Formula


Anthony D’Alessandro /Deadline

Syfy‘s miniseries Ascension continues Jason Blum‘s development of intriguing TV projects, and unlike the low budget horror thriller films he’s made his mark with, i.e. The Purge and Insidious,he admitted “The budget for this series wasn’t as low as some of my movies. I’m new to TV. My long-term goal is (creating) lower budget TV series.”

Chalk it up to the demands of the sci-fi genre.  Originally Blum was looking to have the all the action for the 600-person deep-space travel story to take place in one location, just like his haunted house pics.

“We thought this was going to be a low budget show, but it grew to be the size of The Queen Mary. The scope of the show is enormous and the only way 600 people (in deep space) can live is if you have crops, and different living quarters,” explained Blum.

“The reason why I advocate lower budgets is so the filmmaker can have more creative control.  And luckily with Ascension, Phil had creative control with more money,” added the producer.

Ascension, which debuts on November 24 for six episodes, tells the story about a spaceship of 600 people that’s launched on a covert mission by the Kennedy Administration in 1963, in hopes of reaching a new world. The miniseries begins 50 years into their journey, and there’s a been a murder on the ship.

Like HBO’s AIDs drama The Normal Heart, which Blum also executive produced,Ascension is also outside his horror wheelhouse. What piqued Blum’s interest was the originality of EP Philip Levens‘ story idea, which was inspired by the Orion military project under JFK.  Levens pointed out that Kennedy squashed the development of Orion soon after Bay of Pigs as the military began equipping the spaceship with weapons. “He was terrified that they were turning it into a Death Star,” said Levens.  The initial idea of Orion was a spaceship fueled by nuclear propulsion.

Added Blum about his feature and TV development p.o.v., “When filmmakers pitch me, I don’t tell them that I”m looking for something scary.  We do things that are different.  Jem and the Holograms, one of our next projects, is far from scary.  I responded to the originality and Phil’s notion with Ascension was something I have never heard.”