LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
By James Whittington, Wednesday 15th November 2017
As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.
To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?
JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we didn't have any pro sound equipment), maximum of two characters (we had to pay professional actors) maximum 12 hours filming time split over two days (it was January), exterior locations only. The film worked out great and the model inspired the motivation for a feature to be made in the same way. I teamed up with David Shillitoe who was a trainee on the scheme at the time, and we decided to experiment and see if we could find a feature to work up. The actual story inspiration arrived swiftly afterwards in the form of a dream. Alone on a plane at night with a laptop computer and sinister shapes moving in the shadows, I was agonising over whether to click send an email. When I finally did - I was devastated, realising it was going viral and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. The repercussions were going to be catastrophic. I told David, and he instantly agreed that there was indeed something very sinister about the world of Facebook, and the writing began from there!
How do you look back on the experience of the writing and the making of the film? With hindsight, do you remember the experience differently than you recall the experience at the time?
JS: We found that when in doubt - sticking to the rules always led to a creative solution. We also realised quite quickly that real-world social media horror stories were far more twisted and deprived than anything we could cook up between us, so we started taking inspiration from news stories in the media at the time. We found that we were working on an intense pot-boiler of a storyline and we had great fun working hard to keep bubbling along. We locked in on a treatment, and Frazer Lee came on board to write the first few drafts of the screenplay. David and I wrote more, and when director Chris Crow came on board, he too had his pass on the story, adding several new elements and drafts. Production was intense but largely pleasurable from my perspective as it was such an exciting and ambitious thing to try and pull off. I remember investor's faces upon telling them that we were going to build a private jet inside a church in Cardiff Bay. That concept alone was enough to get people going, and when they could see that we were deadly serious, they began to get more heavily involved. Once momentum finally kicked-in, there was no stopping us. The production took off and the excitement was palpable.
Is Panic Button an example of cinema's foresight or anticipatory ability?
JS: I loved that the concept for Panic Button was an inspired and timely one, that's what attracted people to the project and ultimately is the reason why it's back on the shelves now. It was a gift that felt almost too good to be true, like all we had to do was hold up a mirror to all of our current online behaviour and take a step back - surely it had been done before, we thought. But finding few similarities in the indie film world, we really felt like we were at the forefront of something very exciting. It was pretty clear that social media and social networking was on the rise, but obviously none of us had any real idea of just how big it would become. We just took what we could see in plain sight and pushed it as hard and far as we could. So I really think it was just a case of right time, right place with the concept, I'm not claiming great foresight - I just think we got lucky!
An interesting aspect of the film is the claustrophobic nightmare of the characters when you consider that social media is about connecting people, and opening up the world. It's a strange contradiction that could be seen as a reflection of the invasive and oppressive force on our way of life that social media has proven itself to be. Your thoughts on this reading of the film?
JS: Some early feedback on the script suggested that we should take the film away from the interior of a jet plane. To us, that was the joy of it - the characters were being confronted with their online behaviour with nowhere to run and no avatar (or emoji) to hide behind. It was claustrophobic and horrible and a real uncomfortable seat squirmer, and this had to be the point - in stark contrast to the unaccountability of the world wide web.
From then to now, how do you think the film plays for the contemporary audience compared to the audience on its release?
JS: I haven't had the pleasure of seeing the film with a cinema audience since 2011, so I've no real idea of how it plays out. The film is not without its flaws and criticisms but I'd like to think that its core ideas and strengths are still just as poignant today as they were then.
From writing Panic Button to now, do you feel a different writer-producer than you did back then?
JS: To this day I'm still very proud of the accomplishment that is Panic Button. Capturing that zeitgeisty lightening-in-a-bottle idea and seeing it all the way through to the big screen and beyond, remains one of the best things I have ever done. We all improve with experience, but I'd like to think I could still replicate that passion and energy for a great movie concept, the next time such timely inspiration strikes!
Following on from the previous question, filmmakers often see the imperfections in their films. If you were to remake Panic Button, would you change anything, or would any changes be a product of the person you are today?
JS: It's not a personal story by any stretch, but I think I would probably work harder at certain elements of the script and I'm fairly confident I could make it a much tighter thrill-ride now that I'm a more experienced writer and filmmaker. There's definitely scope for a modern retelling of this story, which could be a lot of fun to do!
What does this remastered edition of the film offer the audience and in regards to DVD, do you see it as an interactive format where you can communicate and share the film in different ways through the special features?
JS: There's a whole bunch of new extras including a commentary with David Shillitoe, Frazer Lee and myself which might be quite illuminating to some... there's also more interviews and featurette type materials in there, walking through our journey of how we made the film. Hopefully it's a great educational resource for budding filmmakers, keen to make the leap into their features.
MORE ARTICLES Dario Argento's Tenebrae gets definitive vinyl release
Posted in News, Thursday 15th March 2018
Waxwork Records is thrilled to present the complete soundtrack vinyl release of Dario Argento's Tenebrae. Scored by three former members of Goblin in 1982 (Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, and Massimo Morante), the synth driven score makes it's definitive and expanded vinyl debut. Waxwork is excited to offer the most comprehensive version of the soundtrack album on vinyl to one of the most important Giallo films ever made.
Unlike the soundtracks that Goblin had previously contributed to the films by Dario Argento, the music of Tenebrae incorporates heavy electronica and dance music blended with rock and disco elements for a unique hybrid of genre and composition style.
Extensive usage of early an...SHARE: READ MORE Exclusive stills revealed as supernatural horror Quail Hollow enters post-production
Posted in News, Monday 12th March 2018
Quail Hollow, starring Marcia Do Vales (Ibiza Undead, Heretiks), Peyton Wich (Stranger Things, The Darkest Minds) and Thomas Francis Murphy (The Walking Dead, Mindhunter) recently wrapped a haunting shoot in Louisiana.
Directed by Spaniard Javier De Prado (making his feature film debut) and produced by UK's Templeheart Films in association with EnMar Productions, the pulse-racing paranormal thriller centres on twin sisters Sunny and Mila (played by Marcia Do Vales) ...SHARE: READ MORE Hitchcock and Herrmann get special release for Record Store Day 2018
Posted in News, Sunday 11th March 2018
More Record Store Day 2018 news has reached us and fans of the work of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann are in for a treat. Silva Screen Records will release a Double A Side 7 Inch on transparent amber vinyl containing two pieces of Herrmann's most famous work.
Side A contains Prelude/The Nightmare from Vertigo and Side AA has North by Northwest Main Titles, this release is limited to just 1200.
Bernard Herrmann is the undoubted master of the film score and his music for Vertigo and North By Northwest remain as vital a component as the director, actors and script. Vertigo crackles with tension as James Stewart's character Scottie goes through an emotional wringer. Herrm...SHARE: READ MORE Doctor Who adventures to hit vinyl for Record Store Day 2018
Posted in News, Saturday 10th March 2018
Demon Records is to release an eclectic collection of records as part of 2018's Record Store Day. The releases, which will be only be available at independent record shops on Record Store Day on Saturday 21st April, contain two that will interest Doctor Who fans; vinyl editions of Doctor Who - City Of Death and Doctor Who - Tomb Of The Cybermen.
Doctor Who: City Of Death City Of Death is a classic from 1979, starring the fourth Doctor Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and Julian Glover. Featuring linking narration by Lalla Ward and previously unreleased on vinyl, the two hour story is presented on 2LP heavyweight translucent green vinyl, and features newly commissioned gatefold artwork, sleevenote...SHARE: READ MORE A crime to be solved by those pesky Meddling Kids!
Posted in News, Friday 9th March 2018
A nostalgic and wickedly entertaining take on classic pop culture touchstones such as Scooby Doo and the Famous Five shot through with Lovecraftian horror, Meddling Kids subverts the genre to create a modern classic that will delight fans of Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism and cult television programme Stranger Things. A New York Times Bestseller and shortlisted for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Horror, Meddling Kids is a reminder of the fun and adventure we can all find at the heart of our favourite stories, no matter what our age.
Summer 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster - another low-life fortune hunter who would have ...SHARE: READ MORE A brand new comic complete with its own soundtrack from Waxwork Records
Posted in News, Friday 9th March 2018
Waxwork Records and Comics has finally announced the debut issue of Poser.
Long thought to be an urban legend in the underground music scene of Redondo Beach, Poser is back to carve a gory slash through the heart of Los Angeles in this brand new multi-issue horror-comic book series!
Penned by Matt Miner and illustrated by Clay McCormack, Poser is a brand new punk rock horror-comic series that Steve Niles (30 Days Of Night) calls "relentless and brutal" and Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus, Tokyo Ghost, Hellblazer) raves is a "master class in sequential storytelling". Poser features colors by Doug Garbark and Letters by Taylor Esposito.
In continuing with Waxwork's acclaimed combination of origin...SHARE: READ MORE 88 Films offers a trilogy of Far Eastern films
Posted in News, Thursday 8th March 2018
One of the UK's leading labels in cult Oriental awesomeness brings back a pair of classic Hong Kong swordplay shockers in The One Armed Swordsman and The Dragon Missile and introduces British viewers to a contemporary example of the Korean wave in Sea Fog. All three are available from March 26th in tempting special editions!
88 Films seem to have outdone themselves once more with the release of The One Armed Swordsman, the martial arts epic that is widely considered to be one of the most influential and important wuxia movies ever made! Directed by the legendary Chang Cheh (The Brave Archer) and featuring dynamite duels and limb-lopping set pieces galore, this bombastic widescreen mix of arthouse aestheti...SHARE: READ MORE A horror/comedy with a serious message, Kate Herron's Smear.
Posted in News, Thursday 8th March 2018
Described as "One of the best horror shorts to come out of this year's Frightfest" (LoveHorror) and featured as 'One of the Best Shorts at the 61st London Film Festival' ("Gets more and more sensational with every watch... Pure Genius") by Flickering Myth. Smear is a lube-tastic horror-comedy inspired by Gremlins, Tremors and Little Shop of Horrors, about a woman going in for her first pap-smear test starring in the lead, Sophia Di Martino of the BAFTA-nominated Flowers and Nick Mohammed.
It also stars Isabella Laughland (Harry Potter), comedians Ben Target (Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year), Mariam Haque, Briony Redman and Katherine Bennett Fox of The Free Association.
Made by filmmaker Kate He...SHARE: READ MORE Pyewacket will cast a spell on you this April
Posted in News, Thursday 8th March 2018
One of the big hits of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow was the occult chiller Pyewacket. This unnerving and effective movie is from the producers of modern horror classics The Witch and The Void, featuring The Walking Dead's Laurie Holden and Once Upon A Time's Nicole Munoz.
After her father dies, teenager Leah (Munoz) is forced, by her unstable mother (Holden), to leave her friends behind and move to a house in the woods. Feeling isolated and hopeless, Leah turns to Black Magic to release her anger. She naively performs an occult ritual found in a book on her bedroom shelf to invoke the spirit of a witch to kill her mother. Terrified by strange occurrences, and stricken by guilt, Leah desperately tries to ...SHARE: READ MORE PICK OF THE WEEK
Monday 19th March
Friday 23rd March
Wednesday 21st March