Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with... Frazer Lee

I've interviewed some cool people since starting this blog, but I didn't realise how cool someone would be until I had a chance to interview horror writer/director Frazer Lee.

I've long been an admirer of Frazer's work, and so when I interviewed him I kind of slipped in a request for an autograph. Not only did he send me an autograph, he sent me his written work, Urbane And Other Horror Stories (see the image below).
WOW! So to that I say thank you Frazer.

And I'll thank you if you comment after reading this very cool interview.

1. What was your first paid movie work?

My very first paying job in movies (and I'm showing my age now) was as a film extra in a musical rom-com called "Bert Rigby You're A Fool" starring Robert Lindsay. I worked for three days, as a "football hooligan", "coal miner strike supporter" and (excitingly) "bus passenger". It gave me valuable insight into how a movie crew works and taught me that on set there is zero glamour and a lot of waiting around freezing your ass off! From there I worked a lot of different crew jobs, runner, production assistant, best boy, gaffer - anything that kept me on set and learning.

2. How did you go from being a writer to being a director?

I'd done a little bit of writing and directing (theatre) at college, so i always did both really. When I adapted Christopher Fowler's short story 'On Edge' for the screen, I was in no doubt I would direct the movie too, as the subject matter just sang to my perversions and obsessions. Luckily I found production partners who were willing to risk their money on my vision for the film as writer/director. Nowadays I have projects that are pure writing projects including screenplay assignments, short fiction and novels - some that are writing/directing projects - and others which are purely directing projects (from other writers). Each one has its own kind of character and I know instantly if it feels like something I'll want to direct. A few movies got made that I worked on as writer only: 'Palazzo Massacre' is a Norwegian/Italian giallo short I script-doctored, and 'Simone' is a horror short based on my script 'Hair of the Dog' made by the talented folks at 386 Films USA (unrated DVD available now from 'Panic Button' is a feature-length horror/thriller I was hired to write by Movie Mogul Films that just wrapped in Cardiff, Wales. It has been a weird and strangely liberating experience to do the intense writing work and then kick back and get onto the next thing while someone else has all the fun on the actual movie shoot!

3. Please tell us about the short films you’ve directed.

'On Edge' was my first short film as writer/director. I aimed high with the film because I really wanted it to make an impression. It was shot 35mm Anamorphic with top-of-the-range Panavision kit - I was like a kid in a candy store! Author (of the original short story) Christopher Fowler kindly allowed me to adapt and shoot it, and was hugely supportive during the process, helping us to get the editing done at his facility The Creative Partnership - and he even made a cameo appearance in the movie, look out for him in the dentist's waiting room! We had some amazing talent to work with, not least cinematographer Alan Stewart, FX guru Bob Keen and actors Doug Bradley, Charley Boorman and Beth Murray. Everyone put a real shoulder behind it during a difficult shoot in a cramped dental studio, I couldn't praise the cast and crew enough really. The film premiered at Rotterdam Film Festival and since then has played dozens more festivals, Web screenings, TV - even winning some awards along the way. It also received theatrical distribution from Columbia TriStar, playing with a feature film in London cinemas. I was very proud of that achievement as you don't see many short films in theatres these days.

'Red Lines' was an entirely different approach. The film was my reply to a challenge set by some producers who were setting up a horror anthology show for Internet and TV and who specified the maximum running time could only be 5 minutes... oh and they needed a finished film within 6 weeks! I woke up from an intense nightmare one evening and scribbled notes for the screenplay on the back of an envelope in red ink. Next day, I sat down and wrote the script, circulated it and got great feedback. A few days later, cast and crew were in place and 'Red Lines' was born. We shot it digitally as it was only really ever meant for TV and the Web, but the anthology show folded, so the film started playing festivals. The shoot was manic, we covered everything in 12 hours, just crazy. Doug Bradley shot his scenes on his only day off in between shooting 'Hellraiser: Deader' and 'Hellraiser: Hellworld'. I remember it was Bonfire Night (5th November in the UK) and fireworks were going off outside during the shoot, which made things difficult. Doug announced a special anniversary while we were filming - it was Bonfire Night 20 years previously that marked his first shoot as Pinhead in the original 'Hellraiser'! Another proud moment came when the film opened for 'The Toolbox Murders' at its San Francisco premiere (at Fearless Tales Genre Festival). Director Tobe Hooper was there and he came up to me and congratulated me on "creeping him out" - I couldn't believe it! He was a real gentleman in person and continues to be a real inspiration of mine. 'Red Lines' won Best Short at that festival too, so I flew home a very happy man.

Here's the book Frazer signed for me. You should check it out for yourself and give it a read (just not in the middle of the night when you're home alone).

4. What is the appeal of working in the horror genre?

I always say horror is the King of all genres because you can have your love story, your action sequences, your favourite character types and what have you - everything any other drama has. But on top of all that you get to play with this amazing box of tricks - special FX, atmosphere, allegory (and of course just "gory"!). I have worked in other genres, but I can't help but work in horror because that's how I'm hardwired. I might be writing a "cutie fluffy bunny family picnic" scene and I know - I just know - that people are going to start bleeding. I just can't help it.

5. What would be a dream film to direct?

Honestly, anything that's on my slate currently would be a dream to direct. And it is a big dream, because for every film that gets made there are hundreds, thousands, that sit on the shelf gathering dust. "Persistence is all" in this game.

6. What’s coming up next?

More fiction, more scripts and hopefully more films! I guess I've learned my lesson the hard way, by talking about movie projects prematurely and then feeling like an idiot when they don't go into production. So I'll just say I have a couple of things that might, if the movie gods decree, happen. And if they do my friends, they will scare the living crap out of you!

I encourage you to check out Frazer's website at
and I hope you enjoyed this very interesting interview.
Until next time!

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