Filmmaker Q&A: Kelly Frazier

Kelly Frazier

Kelly Frazier served as a producer for From Black, a horror thriller starring Anna Camp and John Ales that was shot in Natchez last March. The film will be available to stream on the Shudder and AMC+ streaming services beginning April 28. A local premiere will be held in Natchez this Friday, April 14, at the Natchez Civic Center, and is free and open to the public.

What initially drew you to Mississippi?

The film incentive is what got our attention, and I had some friends that had shot there and had a good experience. And we thought, what the heck, let’s go scout it. So, (director) Thomas (Marchese) and I flew out. We talked with Nina at the Film Office and some other folks that had shot there, and we scouted all over, from Canton to Greenwood and Greenville, and Natchez was our last stop. It just had the look that we wanted. We could really shoot the film anywhere, but there was just something about the atmosphere there, you could just feel it.

When we got to Natchez, Devin (Heath) and Lynsey (Gilbert) with Visit Natchez were so great and they took us to all the locations we sent beforehand. Everything was exactly what we were looking for. We just kind of thought, man, we wouldn’t mind spending a couple of months here and working with nice folks and having everything we need right here.

Shooting in Natchez was like film camp. We all loved it. Most of us stayed right there in town in some of those beautiful old homes and we could walk to set. The town was so supportive and couldn’t have been nicer, or more gracious and welcoming. And then Tate Taylor and John Norris were super helpful at Crooked Letter Picture Company. Everybody just rolled out the red carpet and we’re excited to come back for the premiere.

In what ways did filming here help you tell your story?

For me, it’s all about the experience and the people you work with. I can shoot almost anywhere, but it’s really about if we are able to get a solid crew and if the people there are helpful and gracious and not jaded by our business. It was just lovely to be in a kind of Norman Rockwell town and get to call it work. (laughs) It’s always kind of a boondoggle for us, wherever we end up. We might as well be in a place that we enjoy. Natchez was great and the crew loved it. We all bonded in a way that you don’t often do in L.A. where everybody just goes home to their own house. There, when we did have a few rare hours off, we all spent it together. And I got to be legitimate friends with several people there that I still talk to all the time.

What was the most surprising thing about filming in Mississippi for you?

This is a bit random, but it’s really more about our director of photography that was from New Zealand. We took him to the Sunday buffet at a restaurant in Natchez. And they had fried catfish and he didn’t know what it was. He’d never had it before. He was like, oh, my gosh, what is this? This is the best thing I’ve ever had.

But as far as actual logistics go, I would say that we had a great crew. I didn’t know what to expect in Mississippi. And didn’t know what to expect not being in a hub city in Mississippi, being 2 hours from Jackson and 3 hours from New Orleans. But we never wanted for gear if we needed something. It was not that big of a deal to make the drive to Jackson.

The crew really stepped up. They did a great job. We had a few of our heads of department brought in, but for the most part the crew were Mississippi folks. Especially our art department, they were all Mississippi folks and they just killed it. Our production designer, Julie Toche, did a great job with the like five dollars we gave her to spend on her budget. (laughs) They just worked so hard. I think for me, having been doing this so long, it’s just so nice to see people that work that hard with a great attitude. They’re doing it because they love it and it shows.

Anna Camp on location in From Black

What was your favorite location that you used and why?

On that first scout with Devin and Lynsey, almost every location we saw, we were like, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what we had in mind. This will totally work! It was just kind of one of those magical scouts where everything fell into place.

But we loved the bowling alley. It’s one of those old school, classic bowling alleys that unfortunately have gotten torn down across the country. And I love the main house. I think we looked at every house certainly in that part of Mississippi. Finally we found this one, which is right in the middle of town, which we literally walked to every day. It was wonderful. It had just been sold and it was in the process of being remodeled. We got there at just the right time. It wasn’t in disrepair, but it wasn’t completely remodeled. It was perfect. We just got lucky on that. It’s actually several houses, so the exterior was outside of town, a farmhouse, and then the interior is right in the middle of town.

Natchez is just a great location. I’ve already been thinking of other things I could do there. I’d love to shoot a Christmas movie there. The downtown’s just so cool for a Christmas movie. The Christmas tree was still up when Thomas and I scouted the first time and I was like, oh, my gosh, we have got to come back and do a holiday movie here.

What was the most memorable moment for you working on the film?

We all were in tears for some reason when we shot the bowling alley scene. I think just because it was the third day of shooting and we had just had a sort of difficult shoot at the trailer park. And then we shot that scene, and John and Anna’s performances were just so beautiful that it made us cry. We were like, this is going to be so good because their performances were just stellar. Another thing that was just so sweet is, it was my birthday while we were shooting and Devin and Lynsey and folks from the Visit Natchez office came and brought me a birthday cake. And then other friends that I had met had a dinner party for me. It was really wonderful and cool.

How did working with Natchez’s own Ritchie Montgomery, who plays the kidnapper, come about?

Ritchie’s the best. It’s funny because our other producer, Vincent Cardinale, his wife had worked with him on The Magnificent Seven and they had stayed in touch. And when we were talking about shooting in Natchez, she said, I think that’s where Ritchie Montgomery lives. So, she said, when you get to Natchez, you’ve got to call him. He’s the best. Thomas and I were like, he’s done so many things! You think he would want to play the kidnapper? We just had him over one afternoon when we got to town, and he was like, “Yeah, I’ll do it!” What a joy working with that guy. We’d be glad to work with him on every movie every time because he’s such a great actor, but also just a great human.

The film was picked up to be distributed by Shudder, the no. 1 streaming platform for horror movies. As an independent producer, what does that mean to you?

Well, we shot in March and we made our big domestic sale in May at the Cannes Film Market because we had already cut a sizzle reel together. Every day when we wrapped, Thomas, the director, would go home and he would already start putting a quick edit together of the day’s scenes. By the time we wrapped, he was able to put together a sizzle reel which is basically now our trailer. And we sold it off that alone. I think it speaks to the talents of Thomas and our director of photography Duncan Cole for shooting a beautiful looking film. And it also speaks to the caliber of the actors, who just gave phenomenal performances.

You know, we were a low budget horror film. You never know how those are going to go. This one just clicked on all cylinders. And I’m very proud of it. Just everything worked. It doesn’t always come together like this. Everybody’s team just brought their A game. And honestly, I think shooting in a place like Natchez where you all bond in a different way and everybody was happy and well-fed and able to just enjoy walking around town on their days off, it just shows because the crew was happy and the actors were happy and I think all of that stuff translates to the screen.