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 INTERVIEWS Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.
HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?
GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?
CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020
On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.
HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?
SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.
Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!
HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?
SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020
A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.
HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?
SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.
HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?
RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?
DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.
HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?
FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.
HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Charlie Steeds, writer and director of Death Ranch
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Horror movies and controversy always go hand in hand but when they tackle serious issues by using extreme violence to hammer home a point they can be very worthy. Death Ranch from Charlie Steeds is having its world premiere at Grimmfest so we chatted to him about this very strong movie.
HC: What inspired you to write Death Ranch?
CS: I'd always wanted to try making a movie with a 70s Grindhouse/Exploitation style and was watching old Grindhouse trailers for inspiration. I came across the movie Brotherhood of Death, where black characters fight back against the KKK for some of the film (the tagline is 'Watch these brothers stick it to the Klan!') and that conce...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Nicholas Santos, writer and director of It Cuts Deep
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
At Grimmfest we're used to comedy horror but none as well written as It Cuts Deep from writer/director Nicholas Santos. Here he chats about this true dissection of a romance going terribly wrong.
HC: Have you always been a big horror fan?
NS: I've been a big horror fan since I was a little kid. Some of my favourite childhood memories are seeing Event Horizon with my dad when I was in second grade, being absolutely terrified by Chucky from Child's Play at every waking moment and watching Psycho for the first time on VHS when I was 7 years old.
HC: Where did the idea for It Cuts Deep come from and did it take long to write?
NS: It Cuts Deep is a hor...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Robert Woods, director of An Ideal Host
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Ever had the dinner party from Hell with people you don't really relate to and seem alien? Well this is the premise of the the hilarious horror comedy An Ideal Host from director Robert Woods. Here he tells Horror about this cracking movie.
HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it and what made you decide that this would be your first project as a director?
RW: Tyler and I had been writing theatre together for a decade, but movies are our first love and we wanted to give it a crack as well. Tyler came up with the initial idea but we worked on the story together and it evolved a great deal from the initial pitch. As it was my first time directing, I think we were j...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chad Ferrin, writer and director of The Deep Ones
Posted on Friday 9th October 2020
H.P. Lovecraft's influence on horror cinema is immeasurable and continues to this very day. In fact, today at Grimmfest a movie called The Deep Ones is showing so we asked its writer and director Chad Ferrin and how the great man himself has influenced his work.
HC: When was the first time you heard or read anything by or about HP Lovecraft?
CF: My parents worked nights, so the television was my babysitter. I must have been around six years old when I saw an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "Pickman's Model". Seeing that monster carrying off Louise Sorel terrified me beyond belief and seared the name H.P. Lovecraft into my...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Thursday 11th March
Wednesday 10th March
Saturday 13th March