Writer/Producer/Director LazRael Lison directed his first feature (Kontrast) in 2009, and hasn’t looked back since! Since then, he’s written, produced & directed two more features and a number of well received short films. His production company, Summer House Films, is currently in pre production on a number of new features. His latest film, Private Number has just been released on DVD, and he tookj a few minutes out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with me about how he got into the film business, and working with actors like Judd Nelson and Tom Sizemore for the first time.
Horrornews.net: Thanks for taking some time to speak with us. Congratulations on your new movie, I just finished watching it a short while ago and thought it was entertaining.
LazRael Lison: Well thank you! I appreciate you saying that.
HNN: But as much as I liked the movie, I’m really interested in talking about you & your story. Of course, we will talk about your new film, Private Number in a few minutes, but I was reading your bio and found it pretty interesting. It says here that you started your first company when you were 21 – is that correct?
LL: Yes, I started a company at age 21. I started writing at the age of 6, I think I came out of the womb writing stuff! At the age of 12, I started writing music, plays and doing all kinds of stuff. I recorded my first studio album when I was 15, and I was kind of unique in that sense because there wasn’t anyone else down South doing what I was doing at that age. I came to LA when I turned 21, and I didn’t have a clue about doing business, but I knew I wanted to do something. I wanted to get stuff done. By the time I turned 24, I told myself that I had to take charge, so I financed my first short film all by myself. Then I developed relationships with people who firmly believed in my talent, and the real journey began. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but it got me to the point where I am now.
HNN: That’s pretty amazing…
LL: I know you’ve heard stories that begin “I came here with $30 in my pocket”, right? Well, I came here with $15 in my pocket! But I knew I wanted something more. The passion inside of me was a lot stronger than the obstacles I was about to face. And along the way, you meet people who try to hold you back, or take advantage of you. So to avoid that, I always strived to be a self starter – someone who’s 100% motivated. My philosophy is if you work for me, I guarantee you aren’t going to work harder than me.
HNN: Those are pretty heady words. Especially considering you’re fairly young, and despite having a few films under your belt, is essentially pretty new to the business. How long was it before you started working on a film after you arrived in LA?
LL: When I first got to LA, I was like a lot of people in that I was kind of scattered. I was trying to do multiple things, whatever would get me in the door [Laughs]! Whether it was writing, acting or modeling, whichever got me in through the door quickest. So I came out here in August of 2001, in 2004 I had an idea for a story, and I was working at a gym at the time, so I took all of the money I had saved up and shot my first film. Once I had actually had the experience of working on a set, and made my film – I was gone! I knew right there and then that this was what I wanted to do. All I cared about was writing & directing, from that point I was very centered and I realized that being scattered wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I had to focus on that one thing, because people who try to do too much, end up doing absolutely nothing.
HNN: I was looking at the casts you worked with on some of your previous films as opposed to who you’re working with on Private Number, and I think it’s fair to say that you worked with some fairly big names here. Tom Sizemore and Judd Nelson are the biggest names you’ve worked with so far. Did you feel any pressure working with them?
LL: There is definite growth from the last feature I made to this one in regards to the actors I’ve worked with. Tom and Judd are definitely the biggest names I’ve worked with up to this point in my career, and it was amazing working with the both of them, and Hal Ozsan, who’s done a lot of TV work, is another big name for me as well. Working with actors of this stature just spoils you to be honest! They’re professionals in their craft, and watching them perform…listening to their input was amazing for me. I imagined up the characters in Private Number, but they embodied them!. And they very much understood these characters, sometimes more than me. They breathed life into their characters. There are times when actors can go off on tangents, deviate too far from the script, that’s when I have to pull them back. But working with these guys really kind of spoils you!
HNN: What was your inspiration for writing this particular film?
LL: Private Number was an idea I had while working out at the gym one day! I liked it enough to run it past my partner (Tatiana Chekhova), and she really thought it could work as a film. Once I finished writing it, the cast really just flocked to the script. It turned out to be a whole lot bigger than I initially conceived it to be!
HNN: So what can we expect from you next?
LL: We go into production on an edgy comedy called Halloweed on June 1st. I’ll be working with Tom Sizemore again, and I’m excited to announce that Danny Trejo will also be a part of this production as well! We’re heavy in pre production on that right now.
HNN: Congratulations! I hope it turns out to be a big success. I hope Private Number turns out to be a big success for you as well!
LL: Thank you. I’m very excited about the response the film has been getting so far. I think Private Number is one of those films that’s all out there on the table, if you’re into the genre, then you’re gonna like it. If you’re not into the genre, then you probably won’t like it, and that’s OK as well. But I’m very happy with what we put out there.