Q&A: Writer/director LazRael Lison has your “PRIVATE NUMBER”


When you get a phone call in the middle of the night, it could be a wrong number, a prank or…something else. That last one is the case for author Michael Lane (Hal Ozsan) in the new PRIVATE NUMBER, whose writer/director LazRael Lison talked to FANGORIA about the film.

Coming to theaters and VOD tomorrow from ARC Entertainment, the movie has Michael already struggling with writer’s block (and past alcoholism) when the strange calls from a “private number” begin a series of frightening events that threaten his sanity. Nicholle Tom, Judd Nelson and Tom Sizemore also star in the flick, Lison’s second horror feature (he also made the 2012 release RIFT) in a diverse media résumé.

FANGORIA: Your career has been across the board for quite some time, directing not only a few films, but also commercials, music videos and documentaries. What inspired you to take on PRIVATE NUMBER?

LAZRAEL LISON: I’ve been doing this for a number of years now, and around seven years ago, I started working pretty regularly, which allowed me to polish a lot of skills. So now, I have more knowledge of how to do effects and CGI and that kind of thing. PRIVATE NUMBER was like a lot of ideas I have: I was just working out and thought of it. This weird concept hit me, and like most of every idea I have, I instantly had to run it by my partner, Tatiana Chekhova, to see what she thought of it. With any project in the entertainment industry, though, it all comes down to money; you need to make sure there are more people excited about your project than just you [laughs]. When I knew I had Tatiana behind it, I knew there was some momentum to get it made.

PRIVATENUMBERLISONI spent the next seven days after that doing research and writing a solid outline. With psychological thrillers, you have to think of things that way; you can’t just jump into a project without really researching and coming up with a solid foundation for it.

FANG: PRIVATE NUMBER is reminiscent of the horror-thrillers of the early ’90s, where the audience has to follow the characters and figure out what’s really going on, without it all being spoon-fed to them. Were there any particular movies that inspired you when making PRIVATE NUMBER?

LISON: I’m always inspired by different things. We could talk about THE RING, THE SHINING, SINISTER or even MAMA. All of those are more character-driven than your typical film of this type. One thing I really relied on was making the audience go on this journey with Michael Lane. I wanted them to follow him and fall in love with the character, so there’s a connection with him, and I wanted to make sure the acting was on point so they could go on that journey—similar to the way you follow Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING or Ethan Hawke in SINISTER.

FANG: Speaking of needing a good cast, it’s interesting to see someone like Tom Sizemore playing against type in the movie; everybody brought their A-game. Did you have any of your actors in mind when writing the film, or were the choices more along the lines of happy accidents?

LISON: Tom Sizemore was one of the main people I was thinking of the whole time. I felt that with all of his struggles, it would be nice to see him go against that type. With everybody else, it was different. When I worked with the casting director and brought in Hal Ozsan, I had previously seen him on TV, but even with all the research I did on him, it just didn’t do justice to how great it was to work with him; he was just great. I mean, he showed up and worked on every single day of the shoot.

FANG: That shows a true passion for the project.

LISON: Yes. He brought so much emotion and dedication. He went on that journey, and that’s the thing; every single person involved was so dedicated to make sure it was a great film.

FANG: You also shot a making-of documentary on the movie yourself. Will that be available on the DVD release, and if so, is it feature-length?

LISON: Yes, it will be on the DVD. It’s not feature-length; it runs about 15 minutes or so. There will be tons of deleted scenes as well; some of those were really good and added to the story, we just had to cut them out for time reasons. I’ve been very lucky lately to be able to work on projects I’m very passionate about, and PRIVATE NUMBER was one of those passion projects. I’m very happy with it.

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About the author
Jerry Smith
A lifelong genre fanatic, Smith loves all things Carpenter and plays a mean game of hide and seek. Currently the Editor In Chief of Icons of Fright, Jerry hails from the dead center of California and changes diapers on his off time.
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