CinemaScope


Sam Frazier, Jr. sees the world

through his own lens.

by Cindy Riley, Photo by Beau Gustafson

Trying to interview indie filmmaker Sam Frazier, Jr. is a bit like playing Russian roulette. Chances are you’ll survive, but you can’t be certain.
So, Sam, you live in Avondale,  right?
“What, do you want a ride home or something? You know, there are cabs you could call. Damn, you journalists do start early in the day.”
Uh, have you always been funny?
“The police officer who arrested me for challenging him to a thumb war wouldn’t say so. Sore loser, I say.”
And it only goes downhill from there. Actually, Frazier, 37, is an intriguing auteur with a penchant for making people laugh.  A  loan officer for the family business by day, the Indian Springs grad’s true calling is making short films. And the wheels are always turning.
“If I hear a song I like, I immediately start thinking how I would use it in a film, what emotion it brings to the scene. Cinematographers look at the world as something like a series of  sets—often needing better lighting, props, and placement.”        Frazier’s, who detests the treacly offerings Hollywood has to offer, admits his genre of choice isn’t the savvy move.
“I’d probably be a lot more successful if I worked with drama. I could make ‘important’ films where bad things happen to disadvantaged people. Those make a killing at the box office and win tons of awards. But, there’s not enough water in the world to wash that blood off my hands.”
Don’t Make Eye Contact, his first film, asks who is the last person you’d want to run into outside the neighborhood grocery store. It was made in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, because Frazier  didn’t want to record audio on set.
“The film gods have punished me since then by making me the ‘go-to’ free location sound man in town,” Frazier quips.
Programming to Die For, meanwhile, tells  the story of a man plotting to kill himself but who has to wait until the end of a really cool nature program.
“The film was inspired by a discovery my roommates and I made in college. We all loved nature shows and would watch them for hours on end.”
Frazier, who attended  Washington and Lee University, flirted with  living in L.A for awhile, but realized it wasn’t for him. He credits Sidewalk Film Festival for keeping him around.
“I know I wouldn’t be living in Birmingham were it not for Sidewalk, and I seriously doubt the other filmmakers in town would either. Sure, we could all live without  Sidewalk, Artwalk, or the Day of the Dead celebration. Then again, life can exist indefinitely off only water and gruel.”
His 2010 Sidewalk documentary entry, 24 Hours of Madness, explores the celebration  Innisfree Pub puts on every year in Birmingham for St. Patrick’s Day.
“The first time I went I was so blown away by the freaks who come out of the woodwork and try to go the full 24 hours.  I knew I had to share the stories somehow.”
According to close friend Jennifer West, “Sam could possibly be the most passionate filmmaker in Birmingham. He invests himself 100 percent. He also gives of his time, equipment and know–how to other filmmakers. And his comedic timing is something that stands out, because sometimes you’re left guessing as to whether  he’s actually joking.”
Frazier’s pal Arik Sokol, adds, “Sam’s movies point out the wrong, and don’t always push the viewer to what’s right.  Most people would probably find him to be a curmudgeon, with simultaneous self loathing, delusions of grandeur, rampant sexism, and all the charm those traits belie.”
A fan of Ivan Reitman’s movies, Frazier is drawn to those few cinematic treasures  he can savor  again and again.
“Take Driving Miss Daisy. Is it a great film? Yes. Would I want to watch it a second time? Probably not. It’s like, ‘yeah, I get it.”
And don’t even get him started on the  mindless drek he finds on the small screen.
“I can’t watch most TV. Series are written and produced for the sole purpose of staying on the air as long as possible. Not even Dickens had the nerve to try to pull that off. Sure, he rambled a lot, but he always had an ending in mind.”
Frazier, an organizer of Avondale Park’s adult kickball league, enjoys playing tennis and consuming adult beverages—and not necessarily in that order—when he isn’t making films. He’s fuzzy about his long-term goals, but as for his dream career, “I’d say phrenology, but it got a bad rap from World War II, so that’s out. Honestly, I’d love to write for a sketch comedy show of some sort.”
A  lofty goal, but Frazier’s sister, Sarah, says her brother usually gets what he wants.
“When he was young, our mother kept Sam’s white-blond hair in a long English schoolboy haircut, and older folks mistook him for a girl. He could bat those long lashes and say something cute, and pretty much get his way. No different from now. And when he liked something enough, he didn’t care at all about variety. He would eat spaghetti with plain tomato sauce every day for months.”
As for Frazier’s  favorite dish these days?
“Oh, I think my solid food days are behind me.”

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