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Staycation: An Interview with Russell Emanuel

Please tell us about the projects you worked on before making ‘Staycation’. How did you start, and how did you learn to make films?

I began making films in 2002 when I founded my company Russem Productions.  Since then, I’ve directed 6 feature films: P.J. (2007), CHASING THE GREEN (2009), THE LEGENDS OF NETHIAH (2012), OCCUPANTS (2015), WISPER (2020), and now STAYCATION (2024), which is currently in post-production, about a month or two away from completion. I’ve also had the honor of having directed such name actors as John Heard, Robert Picardo, Vincent Pastore, Glynnis O'Connor, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Jeremy London, Ryan Hurst, William Devane, Marina Sirtis, Sean Kenney, Armin Shimerman, and Gary Graham.


Tell us about ‘Staycation’. How do you describe it?

It’s about a pandemic which has gripped the world. Lead virologist Edward Bellows plays tête-a-tête with hard-hitting journalist Grace Baxter as the world collapses under the weight of a global pandemic. She holds nothing back as she fires question after question, seeking answers from the beleaguered professor. Meanwhile, Britt and Marnie, college roommates being forced to live together, must deal with their newfound realities of this global pandemic. And, a couple Matt and Cathy, stuck in lockdown and separated between continents, spend some belated quality time via webcam toasting to foreign brandy and reminiscing on the past.


Please tell us about your favorite filmmakers.

I grew up loving the films of Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock and George Lucas.  I love science fiction, action, and thriller mystery films especially.  Because of directors Spielberg and Lucas, I grew to love their composer John Williams and his wonderful scores including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Superman.


If you were given a good budget, what would be your ideal project?

I have a 93-page script for the sequel to STAYCATION ready to go.  It definitely expands on the first film and given a chance, would love to give it the best vision I can direct for it.


Describe how you would ensure that production is on schedule. What steps would you take?

I’ve been a producer as well as director on my previous feature films and have done many budgets for said films. I have a competent team including cast and crew ready to go and due to my 22 years of experience, I have a schedule already set to go.  Also because we already filmed the first STAYCATION, I plan on using some of the same actors as well as footage from the first film into the second, thereby ensuring the budget is lower and shoot schedule is less.


What was the hardest part of making ‘Staycation’.

We filmed during the Covid pandemic and had to abide by SAG Covid rules.  They were really strict including having a Covid Compliance Officer and separating the key cast and crew based on Covid guidelines (Zones A and B).  That said, we had to film piecemeal from November 2020 to October 2022 over a total of 30 shoot days.


If possible, tell us about your next work. What plans do you have for your future work?

It would be STAYCATION 2 which I’m currently prepping for.


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