‘Occupants’: Russ Emanuel is on his way to becoming Hollywood’s breakout director

Park City, UTAH

"Occupants" Director Russ Emanuel Photo Credit: Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC
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"Occupants" Director Russ Emanuel Photo Credit: Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

“Occupants” Director Russ Emanuel Photo Credit: Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

Meet indie director and USC Film School Alum Russ Emanuel as he navigates the Hollywood filmmaking Labyrinth.

By Clinton H. Wallace @clintonhwallace   February 03, 2016|10:32 AM

Filmmaker Russ Emanuel is one of my top pics in the indie director scene for 2016.   After watching his film “P.J.” starring John Heard, Glynnis O’Connor, Robert Picardo & Vincent Pastore, I had to meet this guy. “P.J.” put Emanuel in the game and he has not looked back since. What came to mind when I saw his film was the fact I found Emanuel’s directing style to be very Hitchcockian. He could become another Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock. I say this having taken keen notice of Emanuel’s love affair with shadows, “On the face shadows shows the dichotomy of a persona, the conflict within, that psychological aspect of lighting builds the mood” says Emanuel. Like Hitchcock everyone of Emanuel’s films are not of the same genre in “Chasing The Green” a biopic in the same vane as “The Wolf Of Wall Street” he directed William Devane who was ultimately directed by Hitchcock in “Family Plot” in 1976. His next film “P.J.” was a drama and “The Legend of Nethiah” was a fantasy and that brings me to his current film “Occupants” a horror/thriller.

Occupants Publicity Still ©Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Occupants Publicity Still ©Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

I caught up with Emanuel at this years Sundance film festival and I finally had the chance to sit down and chat with this amazing director to get the lowdown on his highly anticipated thriller “Occupants.”

Occupants Publicity Poster, image subject to change © Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

Occupants Publicity Poster, image subject to change © Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

Q: How did you get started in filmmaking and eventually Hollywood.

I Went to USC and studied Cinema, at USC I directed my first documentary called OSHOUGATSU… it means New Year in Japanese. Being of Japanese ancestry I wanted to pay homage to my culture, so this film was about the time I spent in Japan. The film was well received; this made me want to fine-tune my skills in Cinematography and directing even more so I teamed up with a brilliant film student named Emil Harris who was a dp/editor. Their collaboration led to a breakthrough short film titled “Girl With Gun” which made its debut at San Diego Comic-Con where it caught the attention of a Hollywood Producer named Howard Nash (Tiger – Mickey Rourke). The movie, which also stars Tracy O’Connor and Michelle Lee, is about a female assassin who tries to assimilate in contemporary society. Howard Nash loved “Girl With Gun” and immediately decided to take us under his wing leading to a very wonderful partnership that has spawned many projects that we are very proud of.

Briana White (Annie Curtis) and Michael Pugliese (Neil Curtis) on set of Russ Emanuel's "Occupants" Photo Courtesy of Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Briana White (Annie Curtis) and Michael Pugliese (Neil Curtis) on set of Russ Emanuel’s “Occupants” Photo Courtesy of Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Q: Your New Film “Occupants” What is this movie about?

“Occupants” is about a young couple named Annie and Neil Curtis who plans and produces a 30-day “Clean Living” documentary. In an effort to document their newly created lifestyle, Annie and Neil make the bold decision to have cameras set up in various locations throughout their house. These very cameras ultimately capture a “parallel” version of themselves from another dimension. At first Annie and Neil can only “see” their parallel selves via the footage they captured. But soon their “doubles” begin threatening the unsuspecting couple, who must find a way to close the dimensional portal they inadvertently created. By consulting Dr. Alan Peterson (played by Robert Picardo) of the Peterson Research Institute, they devise a plan to do just that.

Director Russ Emanuel With lead actor on set of "Occupants" Photo Credit: Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

Director Russ Emanuel With lead actors Michael Pugliese (Neil Curtis) and Briana White (Annie Curtis) on set of “Occupants” Photo Credit: Running Tiger Films/Starrunner LLC

Q: What Are Your strategies for promoting the Film

Our promotion strategy started before the completion of “Occupants” we began with the standard social media process,  afterward we sent our teaser trailer to various film festivals. So far, “Occupants” has been accepted in seven film festivals, and has won four awards, garnered two nominations, including the Academy Award qualifying Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival coming up on February 19 at 4pm. I am incredibly grateful that people have liked it so far.

Actor Robert Picardo on set of Russ Emanuel's "Occupants" Photo Courtesy of Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Actor Robert Picardo on set of Russ Emanuel’s “Occupants” Photo Courtesy of Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Robert Picardo of Star Trek Voyager Fame is our lead actor and because of his popularity, our promotion team decided that we had the right product to match the many comic book conventions here in America and Europe. So we decided to target the major conventions. This strategy bore fruit because even before the film’s release, we were invited to the Comic & Media Expo in Mesa, Arizona and the Cleveland Comic Con in Cleveland, Ohio to promote our film at a panel and booth. I am invited to Baltimore, Maryland to attend the “Star Trek” themed Farpoint Convention that is in its 23rd year. I will also be in Athens, Ohio during May 6-8 to attend the Ratha Con. Next on my schedule Miami, Florida in July 1-4 to attend the Florida Supercon; I am so excited and thrilled to have our film involved with the conventions.

"Occupants" Publicity Still ©Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

“Occupants” Publicity Still ©Running Tiger Films/Starrunner, LLC

Not only this, we have a comic book tie-in to the film itself.

 Q: What Is The Comic Book tie-in about?

 It’s about one of the cases that the Peterson Research Institute looked into (Case 285, whereas the feature film is about Case 831). The actors from the film cameo but it isn’t about them – hence the tie-in. We hired DC/Marvel Comics artist Dave Beaty to create it and already have a cover and 2 pages done. We will be having a release party in Tempe, Arizona at the Critical Threat Comics store on February 20 at 5pm, for anyone who wants to join us.

Q: Thank You for Joining Us?

Thank you for having me.

Links:

  1. Official Website:
  2. Award-winning Teaser Trailer:
  3. Comic Book Tie-In Campaign Video:
  4. Facebook:
  5. R.I. Peterson Research Institute Viral Website (can see Case 285 which the comic book is based on):
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Clinton H. Wallace
About Clinton H. Wallace
Acclaimed celebrity photographer, journalist and film producer, Clinton H. Wallace has over two decades experience working in the entertainment industry. In addition to being a staple at Hollywood A- list red carpet events, this German and Scottish-Jamaican, is a world traveler to the top International Films Festivals, has written and produced numerous award-winning independent feature films, is a published author of three books and is the founder of the Caribbean Web festival and the web series Hollywood Star Blitz.  He resides in Los Angeles.

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