Erie International Film Festival - Occupants

Occupants Footage Stills (1).jpg


Embarking on a 30-day “Clean Living” documentary by setting up cameras all over their house, Annie and Neil Curtis encounter a parallel version of themselves, with horrific results.

Interview with Director Russ Emanuel


Congratulations! Why did you make your film?

I was approached by my longtime producer Howard Nash to direct this film after he had optioned the script from writer Julia Camara.  This is our fourth feature film together.

Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?

If you like films that think outside the box and gives you twists and scares, I think this is the film for you.

How do personal and universal themes work in your film?

The film deals with parallel dimensions and the issue of duality is something I like to include in all my films.  The main reason for this is that I am of two different nationalities, I am both American and Japanese, both Caucasian and Asian.  And I have grown up in both countries, which I tell you after very different from each other.  So there is a dichotomy that exists within me and something that intrigues me when it comes to filmmaking.

I also like to include the word ‘Peterson’ in all my films dating back to “Girl With Gun” which I made in 2005.  In the case of “Occupants”, it is ‘Dr. Alan Peterson’ played by ‘Star Trek’ veteran Robert Picardo of the Peterson Research Institute.



How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?

When we first got Julia’s script, it actually had a role for a female doctor (the role played by Robert Picardo).  However, because her husband Tim was a big ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ and Picardo fan, she agreed to make the change.  And agreed to use the ‘Peterson’ name which I mentioned before was a staple of mine.  Once we locked the location, again the script changed to accommodate the actual space we were shooting in (so originally it had more rooms in the script versus the film).

Also, our actors made slight changes to the script based on their nuances and ways of saying certain words.  I told Julia about this and she understood that to get the most realistic performance, I like the actors to be able to say the dialogue naturally, so they aren’t ‘acting’.

Furthermore, after filming concluded, we created testimonial videos seen in the film based on a line of dialogue Dr. Peterson says – ‘There’s even some video’.  To that end, we had people all over the world record videos of their purported sightings of parallel dimensions.  You can actually see those videos on our created Peterson Research Institute site at:

What type of feedback have you received so far?

Mostly positive especially the writing, editing and acting.  We’ve won 33 awards and 28 nominations including one of the top prizes at Shriekfest (Best Sci-Fi Feature), which I am eternally grateful for.  Some people were turned off by the found footage aspect of it which I understand.  One of the reasons we shot the way we did was because of budget and had to find creative ways to make it work.

Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?

For the negative comments, not really.  This was my fourth feature film I had directed so I pretty much knew what the responses would be.  As for the positive comments, I was very surprised by the amount of festival acceptances (70) and wins we got since I’ve never had a film this popular before.

What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on

Publicity and word-of-mouth really helps to get the film out there especially since we have investors who want to make their money back and then some.  So, I really appreciate the time you are taking with me with this interview.  Thank you so much.  We are also available on Amazon Prime for those who have it:

Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?

As mentioned in the question above, we need word-of-mouth to spread the message that is our film.  Again, thank you for helping us with that.



What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?

I hope that people who have watched the film has come away feeling entertained and at least for 81 minutes which is the length of our film to forget their stresses and troubles.  That is my sincerest hope.

What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?

Do parallel universes exist?

Would you like to add anything else?

We also have a comic book tie-in to the film itself drawn by DC/Marvel Comics artist Dave Beaty and produced by Eric Kask (who is an associate producer on the film) which is a story about Lee Mitchell (played by Timothy Lee Conley) of Case 285 and the investigation by the Peterson Research Institute (he is seen and heard in the film itself too).

Our writer Julia Camara is also almost finished with a first draft of the sequel to the film.  That is one of the feedbacks that really made me happy to hear – they want to see where the “Occupants” story goes from here.

What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?

My future projects include “The Assassin’s Apprentice”, an action short film starring Tarah Paige, Robert Picardo, and Marina Sirtis, which is a film about an apprentice assassin who must go on one final mission, but decides to do things her way.  It involves lots of parkour and stunts and will be completed early 2018.

My other project is “Wisper” which is my fifth feature film I just directed in July 2017 in New Jersey and Harlem.  It is written and produced by my longtime producer Howard Nash and is a crime thriller about a man whose family was murdered and the aftermath of it all.  This film will be completed around the summer of 2018.


Interview: December 2017


We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us?  More info: Carmela



Embarking on a 30-day “Clean Living” documentary by setting up cameras all over their house, Annie and Neil Curtis encounter a parallel version of themselves, with horrific results.

Length: 80 minutes 35 seconds

Director: Russ Emanuel

Producer: Howard Nash, Robert Kwartler

Writer: Julia Camara

About the writer, director and producer:

Julia Camara is a member of the Writers Guild of America and has written three feature films: Area Q (2011), Open Road (2013), Occupants (2015).

Russ Emanuel directed five feature films: P.J. (2007), Chasing the Green (2009), The Legends of Nethiah (2012), Occupants (2015), and Wisper (2018).

Howard Nash produced 16 feature films including: Feliciano - The Legend (1997), P.J. (2007), Occupants (2015), Tiger (2018), and Wisper (2018).

Key cast:

Briana White as Annie Curtis

Michael Pugliese as Neil Curtis

Robert Picardo as Dr. Alan Peterson

Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):

Film Festival Directors


Social media handles:






Official Website:

Russem Productions (My Production Company) Website:


Via IndieGoGo with private backers too.

Made in association with:

A Russ Emanuel film, Starrunner, LLC & Running Tiger Films. SAG-AFTRA and WGA Signatory. Domestic and International Distribution by ITN Distribution.

Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?

You can watch right now on Amazon Prime at:

And our next festival screening is at the Flagler Film Festival on January 14, 2018 at 3pm in Palm Coast, Florida.

Occupants Trailer Download via YouTube: