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Frazer Lee – Part II

Panic Button

In part two of our interview with Frazer Lee (part one Frazer Lee Interview) Frazer talks on Simone, Panic Button and future projects.

Simone saw you hand over the directorial baton to Joops Fragale.  How close did the two of you work to bring the final film to fruition?  Did you hand over the script, and give Joops a free run at it, or did you work together?

FL: Simone is a truly 21st century animal. Joops and Mike (his producer) found my script through an online service and optioned it. I gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. I made myself available if they needed anything, but also respected that they just wanted to go make their movie.

SimoneHow do you feel about the final film, would you have done anything differently?

FL: I love the film – it’s atmospheric, has a great saturated look and strong performances, and punches above its weight for a horror short, definitely. My original script was an 8-minute piece called Hair of the Dog and was more of a blackly comic take on the terrible hangover where you can’t remember what you did the night before. Joops’ film is closer to 17 minutes and is more of a tortured romance, so you couldn’t get two more different takes on one thing. The final film is Joops’ film, it’s what he built and envisioned from the raw materials of my script.

Again the film was met with critical acclaim, do you become more diva-ish with each passing film?

FL: Ask my agent darling! Now if you’ll excuse me I have to return to my trailer, the champagne is getting warm and the caviar will spoil!

Last year saw the release of Panic Button, your biggest film to date, how well has the film been received?

FL: The reception has been awesome. This is a low budget, £300k British indie film production we’re talking about here and it shot to #31 on the IMDb the week it came out on DVD and Blu in the UK. It was the #2 horror movie on the IMDb, ranked above some of the big studio franchises. I don’t think anyone expected that! I was at the World Premiere at FrightFest and the auditorium was packed and the atmosphere was electric. Loads of prominent websites and magazines have raved about the film, so all-in-all it’s gone down really well. The film has its detractors too, mostly on message boards, but you can’t please everyone and it would be insane to try to do so.

Can you tell us what the film is about for those who haven’t seen it?

FL: It’s about a group of strangers who win an all expenses paid trip to New York on a private jet courtesy of their favourite social networking site ( Aboard the flight, they are invited to participate in a new online gaming experience and quickly discover the stakes are higher than they could have imagined.

Does the film have a message, and how well do you think you got the message across?

FL: The main message is to be wary of what we share with the world at large online, and how our online actions can actually have consequences in the real world. A lot of people have been Tweeting that the film has given them sleepless nights and they are considering closing their social networking accounts. Job done!

The majority of the film takes place at 30,000 feet.  How hard was it to keep the tension and suspense up with such a confining location?

FL: I think the “bottle show” nature of Panic Button is actually its major strength. Up there there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The confines of the location enabled a natural build-up of tension and suspicion among the characters until, steered by their unseen tormentor, something has to go ‘pop’. And it’s not just their eardrums!

The film has gained some great reviews, how much do reviews affect you?  And how do you deal with negative reviews?

FL: The really negative reviews can be a bit of a choker, especially when you’ve worked really hard on something for long periods of time. But thankfully the really vitriolic ones have been few and far between and usually take the form of message board rants rather than reviews on respected websites for instance. Constructive criticism is more interesting, and potentially useful food for thought when moving onto new projects.

Panic Button by Frazer LeeYou have also written a novelisation of the film.  Is this a straight port over, or have you tweaked some of the story, that you couldn’t do in the film for budgetary reasons?

FL: The novelisation is intended to be a companion piece to the film. There are a few scenes in there that had to be dropped from the shoot due to time constraints and of course a ton of interior character stuff that isn’t in the film. Along with more backstory and a peek into the mind of the Alligator Killer, the book explores some areas the film couldn’t go to. A coda to the movie version was shot but not used in the final edit, and that has also been put back in for the book. I wanted it to be a fun, fast-paced and thrilling read, much like the vibe of the movie and I hope people check it out and let us know what they think of it.

The book has a completely different cover to that of the DVD, is there a reason for this?

FL: The film’s producers put the book out themselves and wanted the book to have a separate identity from the DVD version. The designer cooked up some wonderful concepts and I think the one they settled on, the masked, almost introspective killer, is very striking. Panic Button has had a range of cool posters as the project came to fruition, the latest is on IMDb and was the poster used for sales purposes at the American Film Market 2011.

So what does the future hold for you?  Are there any projects you can tell us about?

FL: I have to do my damnedest to avoid the Law Of Sod, in which the more I talk things up, then the less likely they are to happen. So I’ll just say that right now I’m working on a new screenplay commission, a new novel, and I’m attached to direct a couple of really cool projects. Hopefully some, or all, of them will happen! Keep watching the skies!


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Frazer Lee (UK)
Frazer Lee (US)

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