Film Focus: BBC Proms Multi-Camera Director Peter Maniura speaks with Emily Cook

Film Focus’ Emily Cook speaks with highly accomplished multi-camera director and live events producer Peter Maniura. They met up at the BBC in London to talk about the art of directing multi-cameras for live TV, the media landscape of today and Peter’s top tips for anyone wanting to break into the industry.

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Emily Cook and Peter Maniura

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This blog was written by Emily Cook

Film Focus on: The Dogme 95 Film Movement with Ash Singh & Emily Cook

In this exclusive video Emily‘s joined by Film Focus‘ Resident Cultural Commentator Ash Singh to talk about the controversial avant-garde film movement, Dogme, where the director doesn’t get credited and sexual acts are depicted for real. In this filmed segment, Ash speaks about this exciting and often misused Danish school of filmmaking.

*Warning- trailers contain nudity and sexual references.*

Ash Singh
Ash Singh is a social and cultural commentator and broadcaster who has written for the Guardian,  Spectator, Scotsmen and appears regularly on national and international television. He has a book coming out later this year.

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Dogma 95 Emily Cookand Ash Singh Film Focus

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On Location: 5 Forests of Fear

In order to create the most believable ‘on screen’ worlds, films utilise a number of key elements, including computer generated imagery (CGI), set design and studio builds but perhaps most important, is the effective use of location. Films that rely heavily on a few key natural locations are able to keep costs down as they reduce the need for set dressing and costly studio rental fees.

Watch the Video Clip of Emily and Sarah Talking about the Films and Trailers

A natural location we see appearing time and time again in lower budget films is that of the forest. Low and medium budget thriller and horror films in particular make use of woodland in their on-screen worlds. The innate characteristics and physical benefits offered by the forest are a real gift to the film-maker. As far back as Shakespeare’s day, literature has presented the ‘woods’ as a place of mystery, trickery, evil and supernatural events, we see it again in the 19th century with the German fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm (e.g. in Hansel and Gretel), and the references continue right up to the present day with the likes of the 2014 film, ‘Into the Woods’ and aptly titled ‘The Forest’ (2016).

Physically, once under the canopy of the trees, our protagonists find themselves trapped,  disorientated, and confused within a repetitive landscape of untamed and unruly wilderness.  In the most basic sense, the trees and their darkness offer places for nefarious characters to hide and shelter so that their deeds can be concealed.

So now we invite you to follow us, breadcrumbs at the ready, into the deep dark forest as we explore our top 5 examples of when forests have been utilised effectively to generate a sense of fear and tension within a film.

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Our Top 5 Forests of Fear

1.‘Severance’ (2006) Directed by Christopher Smith
Chosen by Emily


A still from the film

What’s it all about ? Severance, directed by Christopher Smith is a British comedy Horror thriller that tells the story of a group of sales representatives who, when on a team building weekend in a remote cabin in the forests of eastern europe, become the victims of a group of crazed killers who will stop at nothing to see them dead. The film boasts an all star cast including, Toby Stephens, Danny Dyer, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, Tim McInnerny, Laura Harris and David Gilliam.

Why we selected this film?
Emily: With a relatively low budget of an estimated at £5 million, the film made great use of the dramatic and atmospheric forests of the Isle of Man, which is where most of the on screen  action takes place. Arguably the film is rather formulaic and not everyone’s cup of tea, no doubt Danny Dyer’s involvement might put some audiences off, but I found the film’s depiction of location presented an effective sense of impending doom, as an innocent situation very quickly became something rather more sinister. The chase scenes through the trees were particularly well shot.

Trivia: Hilariously Danny Dyer spent 10 weeks toning up in the gym prior to shooting. His efforts aren’t noticable in the film. 

Severance’s Trailer:


2.Evil Dead (1981)  Directed by Sam Raimi
Chosen by Sarah


Behind the scenes on set

What’s it all about?  The Evil Dead is a 1981 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi and executive produced by Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who also stars alongside Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker. The film focuses on five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area. After they find an audiotape that releases a legion of demons and spirits, members of the group suffer from demonic possession, leading to increasingly gory mayhem.

Why we selected this film:
This is a bit of an obvious one to choose but it had to be done!  Even though much of the action takes place inside the cabin, the forest plays an integral part of the storyline (the thick expanse of trees hem the cabin in, adding to the secluded atmosphere, and, as anyone who has seen the original movie will know, there is an unforgettable and harrowing scene that takes place in the woods when one of the friends leaves the cabin)

Trivia:  Filming began in 1979 with a cast and crew of 37 people. Initial shooting finished in six weeks, but it took 1.5 years to edit the picture (Joel Coen was actually an Assistant Editor on the movie).

The Evil Dead Trailer:  


3.Take Down (2016) by Director Jim Gillespie
Chosen by Emily

Take Down narrow

Official promo image

What?  TAKE DOWN from Director Jim Gillespie, focuses on the reckless sons and daughters of international billionaires, who have been sent by their frustrated parents to an exclusive, tough-love boot camp on a remote island, where they will be taught basic survival skills in the hope it will teach them to take responsibility for their lives. When they are taken hostage and held for a billion dollar ransom by a group of sophisticated kidnappers, the young captives suddenly need every ounce of their brief training to survive.

The film stars a bevy of gorgeous talented young cast including Ed Westwick, Jeremy Sumpter, Phoebe Tonkin, Ashley Walters and Dominic Sherwood.
The film’s trailer has just surfaced, please watch out online for the film’s UK release date later this year..

Why we selected this film:  
Emily: I had the pleasure of working on Take Down when it was shot in 2014, so had first hand experience of being on location for the shoots. The majority of the lighthouse scenes were shot in Wales where as the quarry, cliff face, beach and of course Forest scenes were all shot in the Isle of Man. Over the fortnight of shooting, she film shot in several different Manx woodland areas including Ballaugh and Sulby Glen. The steep plantation floors made for a physically strenuous experience for both the cast and crew which reflect well on screen. The nature of the forest provides several perfect opportunities for ‘ambush’ scenarios. The woodland in Take Down houses the action sequences rather than the horror of Severance.

Trivia: In line with last month’s celebration of Female Filmmakers, the Film was Produced by accomplished producer Sarah Black.

Take Down’s Trailer:


4. Battle Royale (2000)  Directed by  Kinji Fukasaku

Chosen by Sarah

It's a pain in the neck

A still from the film

What’s it all about?  Battle Royale is a Japanese film directed by Kinji Fukasaku using a screenplay written by his son Kenta and stars, among others, Takeshi Kitano (probably best known for the TV show Takeshi’s Castle). The film tells the story of a junior high-school student who is struggling with the suicide of his father and who is forced by the government to compete in a deadly game where the students in his class must fight to the death, with only the sole survivor being allowed to live.

Why we selected this film:
This is very similar to films like Take Down or The Hunger Games franchise but pre-dates all of them (the novel the film was based on was published in 1999 and was seen as very controversial at the time).  The forest setting is used both as a sanctuary for the characters and a place where surprise attacks can be staged and traps can be constructed; the environment is much more functional than atmospheric in other words.  I’d say Battle Royale is a beautiful blend of action, horror and thriller and I urge everyone to check it out – it’s brilliant!

Trivia:  Director Kinji Fukasaku celebrated his 70th birthday during the production. He passed away two years later during the production of the sequel “Battle Royale II” (2003), ending a 40 year career in the director’s chair.

Battle Royale’s Trailer:  


  1. Camera Trap (2015) Written and Directed Alex Verner
    Chosen by Emily


    Official promo image

What’s it all about? Camera Trap from Writer Director Alex Verner is a natural history documentary style horror-thriller about a British wildlife film unit, set in the depths of central Asia. Using the latest in camera trap technology, four film-makers go out in search of the rare Amur Snow Leopard. What they discover is something far more terrifying than they expected.

Why we selected this film:
I worked on this film in 2013 creating all of the DVD extras or EPK, this is the third film we’re focussing on which was shot on the Isle of Man. The film has the same producer as Severance, Jason Newmark. Unlike Severance and Take Down, however, Camera Trap makes use of the forests at night time, displaying it a variety of erie ways. The USP of the film is how it makes use of various camera technologies, state of the art infrared cameras, handheld diary cameras, head cameras, body cameras, gopros, camera traps and starlight camera. The use of darkness in conjunction with camera footage that excluded great deal of information from the frame, plays on the audience’s fear of the unknown. It’s in Camera Trap that the location of the forest at night really shines. Who knows what’s lurking behind the trees…

Camera Trap is available to download on iTunes with this link:

Trivia:  The film seamlessly joins forest shot in the Isle of Man with that of Nepal.

Camera Trap’s Trailer:

Which films would you include in your top 5 forests of fear?


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Unwrapping the Magic of Christmas Movie Nostalgia

Welcome to our winter wonderland of Christmas movie nostalgia…firstly, let’s look at what makes a Christmas movie, well… a ‘Christmas movie’?

An obvious answer might be the film’s setting. Film such as ‘Love Actually’ (2003)  and ‘The Grinch’ (2000) clearly sit within the Christmas category, however there are several films that you might consider as Christmas films (some of them are within our top 5 below) which either don’t have Christmas as a feature within the film, or merely have the festive season as a passing moment or irrelevant backdrop to the story such as in ‘Die Hard’.

BFI’s Head of Distribution Margaret Deriaz also questions whether  ‘setting is absolutely essential’,  instead she highlights ‘The notion of a ‘feel-good movie’ as being key to it’s categorisation as a Christmas film.

Christmas is a time of year for the family/friends/loved ones and, it feels like anything is possible (perhaps given its closeness to the new year; giving everyone an opportunity to change, forgive and grow). Christmas films often maintain a positive plot message along these lines.


Bill Nighy with his backing dancers in ‘Love Actually’ (2003)

Christmas films are there to entertain and delight in a light-hearted manner, normally with a key Christmas moral message of good overcoming evil and in many cases love and giving outshining self centred behaviours.

The sensation of nostalgia is linked to when the films were viewed. For us, our top nostalgic Christmas films are movies we watched as children and therefore ones that induce the sense of excitement and wonder which seems to sadly diminish in adulthood. The magic of Christmas movies is the opportunity to relive this experience.

Grab your sherry, mittens and mince pies and jump in our one-horse-open-sleigh as we take you on a journey  through our top five Christmas nostalgia films…

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Our Top Five

Scrooged (1998) – Director Richard Donner

Selected by Sarah Moore


Bill Murray in Scrooged

For me, Scrooged is a perfect film!  From the adverts showing at the start of the film, which reminded me of the satirical side of Robocop or Starship Troopers, to the incredible effects and opportunity for audience participation at the end of the film, the tale is funny, poignant, intelligent, silly, sad and uplifting, all at the same time.

As the film is a modern day re-imagining of A Christmas Carol, it gives Richard Donner a good excuse to get creative with the three ghosts and how they interact with Bill Murray’s character (some of the sequences when Frank meets the third ghost are pretty mind-bending!) and to bring the tale up to date, using the world of Media as the canvas.

All of the actors are great in their own right but Bill Murray really steals the show; his blend of charm, excellent comic timing and sarcasm is something to be treasured.   It’s worth mentioning that all of Bill Murray’s actor brothers – John Murray, Joel Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray – make appearances in this film.

Scrooged is a romantic comedy which is full of slapstick humour and themes which every one of us can relate to and is definitely a film I would watch all year round.


Trivia Fact: 

When Bill Murray crashes onto the stage after seeing frozen Herman, director Brice calls him joker, in reference to Bill Murray’s consideration to be the villain in 1989’s Batman.


Hook  (1991) Director Steven Spielberg

 Selected by Emily Cook


Hook, starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell has to be not only one of my favourite Christmas films, but also one of my favourite films of all time.

The film is a remake of the classical Peter Pan story, but this time with a twist. Peter Pan, who left Neverland years ago, has now grown up and become a self-centred workaholic with kids of his own. He must return to Never Neverland, rediscover his inner child and with a touch of fairy dust,  fight the pirates in order  to retrieve his children who have been captured by Peter’s arch nemesis Captain James Hook.

With pirates, faries, good conquering evil, not to mention the ability to fly…  Hook has it all to stimulate a child’s imagination. What more could you want from a Christmas film?

Some people have said Hook’s not a Christmas film, well I have to disagree, as not only is it set at Christmas time ( I counted several Christmas trees), but for me the fact I watched it at Christmas time growing up firmly awards it with that title.

For me it’s personally special as it was the go-to VHS brought out every Christmas at my Granny’s house form the age of 3-10. The USA TV would be wheeled out specially in order to play the NTSC copy and the TV would remain wheeled out for the duration of the festive period as inevitably the film would be watched and re-watched  several times over the holidays. I associate the film with a sense of intense childhood joy, love and Christmas cheer.


Trivia Fact:
Because Tinkerbell was often in the air, Julia Roberts had an assistant whose sole responsibility was cleaning her feet.


Gremlins (1984) – Director Joe Dante

Selected by Sarah Moore


Gremlins is, hands down, one of my favourite films from my childhood and is a film that I’ve watched countless times, especially around Christmas.  Directed by Joe Dante (who also brought us the amazing Small Soldiers, Inner Space and The Howling) and starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Corey Feldman, Gremlins has elements of a children’s film but it twists the genre into something much darker and more violent (it was generally credited, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating but not enough for an R rating).

It’s hard to pin down exactly why this film is such a masterpiece but I feel it is a lot to do with the well-developed characters, the massively cute Gizmo, the excellent effects and the memorable one-liners.  The film is set at Christmas and Joe Dante really has fun with transforming what should be a magical time of year into a living hell!

image (2)

When we went to see  the Gremlins with a Q&A from actor Zach Galligan

The fact that I’m a child of the 80s may make me biased but I don’t think the studios make such original films which stand the test of time anymore.  Some of the films of today are incredible (Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation and Illumination especially are producing some memorable and uplifting children’s films) but they don’t blend the genres in the same way as Gremlins (The Hole, also directed by Dante, and Coraline are notable exceptions and are definitely worth a watch).

Gremlins, essentially, is a creature feature, set at Christmas with an over-arching good versus evil message.

It’s interesting to hear that Gremlins 3 is in development (click here for more info) but I have a feeling it won’t be anywhere near as good as the original two.  Chris Columbus, please prove me wrong!


Trivia Fact:
 In Cantonese, mogwai means devil, demon or gremlin.


Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Director Chris Columbus

 Selected by Emily Cook


I’m generally not a fan of sequels but for some reason Home Alone 2 works. As with Hook, Home Alone 2 became a Christmas ‘go-to’ film to keep us occupied during the holiday season, rendering it close to my heart.

The film tells the story of 8 year old Kevin (McCaulay Culkin), who after a mix up at the airport, ends up spending his Christmas vacation alone in New York, whilst his family fly to Florida. When Kevin discovers that the Sticky Bandits (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern from Home Alone 1), are on the loose he pulls every trick in the book to stop them from robbing an elderly man’s toy store just before Christmas. It’s a fast paced and fun film with a Christmassy backdrop. With an 8 year old child as our guide, the film presents the essence of Christmas from an innocent, childish perspective. Home Alone 2 is all about fun, wonder, magic and good overcoming evil, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?


Trivia Fact:
Macaulay Culkin was paid $4.5 million to star in this movie, the biggest paycheck ever to a 12 year-old child.


Die Hard (1988) – Director John Tiernan 

Selected by Sarah Moore


Bruce Willis crying on Santa’s shoulder

It’s true.  Die Hard is an action film and initially doesn’t seem to fit into the Christmas film mold as well as a film like Elf, The Snowman or Trading Place (all superb films).  However, people often watch Die Hard at Christmas because the film is set on Christmas Eve, at a Christmas Party, and it’s about a man trying to save the love of his life (as well as the rest of her colleagues) from an evil man (played by the inimitable Alan Rickman, in his first feature film).

The reason I cited this as one of my favourite Christmas films is that it breaks the rules of what these sorts of films should be about.  Christmas actually runs through the film (Christmas songs play on the radio, carols are hummed and jingle bells can be heard punctuating the action) but this is offset by building tension, a smattering of deaths (although these are violent, there are surprisingly few throughout the movie), a double cross and one of the most unforgettable bad guy deaths in cinema. In essence, though, the film is a story of a man trying build bridges with his estranged wife, healing his broken family and includes an element of someone trying to make amends for mistakes he has made in the past (namely, Al).  The turning point for John is when he faces the possibility that he may die and wants Al to let Holly (a nice Christmas nod!) know he is sorry for all his has done to destroy their family.

Given the adult nature of this movie, it’s good to see some lighter moments on screen; Argyle’s relaxed appeal, the tip for how to get over jetlag and McClain’s insults are just a few instances of when the film is elevated away from the drama engulfing the characters.

All in all, Die Hard reminds us that David can overcome Goliath and good can save the day (even if the person fighting the darkness is a foul-mouthed and intolerant grouch!)

Christmas certainly features in the film but I would say there’s no clear Christmas message, other than supporting the idea that good will save the day and greed isn’t always good!


Trivia fact: The addresses and phone numbers depicted on the LAPD dispatch’s computer for the Nakatomi plaza management are the actual numbers for management of Fox Plaza, where the film was shot.


We’d love to hear from you…. which five films would you put on your Christmas list this  year? #FilmFocusChristmasNostalgia

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Happy Movie Going and a Merry Christmas!



This blog was written by  Sarah Moore and Emily Cook

Film Focus on: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

Emily and Sarah review the final film in The Hunger Games Saga from director Francis Lawrence. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and many more.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Realising the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick for the ultimate mission.

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The Film’s Trailer

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Episode 1: The December Edition – Christmas Movie Magic

Over the past four months, we’ve been busily working away on creating a Film Focus’ brand new film Podcast and we’re delighted to announce the first episode! Each Episode can be found in video format on our Vimeo Channel and an audio version is housed on our Soundcloud channel

Episode 1: The December Edition – Christmas Movie Magic

Episode summary:
We review Black Mass, Spectre, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2, The Lady in the Van and speak about the greatly anticipated Star Wars The Force Awakens. We reveal some awesome and surprising movie trivia, Emily and Sarah discuss what makes the perfect Christmas film and giving a run down of their top 5. We also hear from you, and discuss your favourites.

In our special guest interview Emily speaks to Director Dave Armstong about the Watchmaker’s Apprentice, and Sarah tells us what happened when she meet Zach Galligan, the lead actor from  Gremlins this week.

We also give you the latest installment of Sarah’s exciting 500  Film Challenge – she’s watching 500 films in a year!
Trivia, reviews, interviews and much more from the world of film!

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Exclusive Clip:
Interview with Director Dave Armstrong about the Watchmaker’s apprentice.

Coming soon! – Please check back for clips within the next few days!

For more episodes and exclusive clips, please check out our Vimeo Channel and  Soundcloud channel which will provide a home to all of our future episodes too. Please subscribe to both channels as well as this blog, to make sure you’re the first to hear about our next episodes.

We also have a specially created Christmas themed blog post, check out ‘Unwrapping the Magic of Christmas Movie Nostalgia’ on our blog post section.

image (1)

Sarah and friends meeting Zach Gilliagan (Gremlins )


Thanks to Dam Production Isle of Man for use of their studio for the special guest interview and ident recordings.

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This post was written by Emily Cook

A Reel Vision on Manx Radio

Reel Vision’s Emily Cook speaks to Ben Hartley at Manx Radio.

Throughout this week Emily Cook from Reel Vision Film Solutions will have a five minute interview each evening at 11.30pm


Testing Testing 1,2,3

Monday 5th March 2012 at 23.30

 Emily speaks to Ben Hartley about the origins of both Reel Vision and her passion for Film and moving image.

Listen to Manx Radio Live

Tuesday 6th March 2012 23.00

On tonight’s …Manx Radio’s Late Show, Ben will be chatting to Emily about her how her interest in film making first began. We’ll also hear about Emily’s work in London and what brought her back to the island to set up Reel Vision.

Wednesday 7th March 2012 23.00

Tonight on Manx Radio, Ben will be chatting to Emily about Mannin Shorts, a scheme on the island to give budding film makers real hands on experience. Emily will also be sharing what kind of movies she likes to watch when she’s not behind the camera.

Thursday 8th March 2012 23.00

Tonight on Manx Radio, Ben will be chatting to Emily about Unkept, a short film she made last year which has received huge critical acclaim. We’ll  also hear about her future plans for Reel Vision.