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The Bond girl, a horror film and the film lecturer from Cumbria

Clive Tonge

Sleep paralysis, a Bond girl, a university lecturer from Carlisle and a $2.5million film deal may seem to have little in common but the latest new U.S. horror release has a clear link to Cumbria.

Clive Tonge admits to being fascinated with horror; from Hammer to Hitchcock, he has long enjoyed watching films as much to study the way they are shot as the story line within them. But the University of Cumbria film and TV lecturer’s love of the genre has been severely tested when he began to harbour ambitions to direct his own film.

“The film industry tends to take you to the limit – the rock bottom – and then another morsal comes in; I liken it to a pendulum that keeps swinging towards you which you go to grab only for it to swing away again,” Clive says.

Seven years ago a germ of an idea to write a script formed and Clive and writing partner Jonathan Frank began work on what proved to be a long-running challenge.

The pair researched sleep paralysis, a temporary inability to move when either waking up or falling asleep. They drew on the expert opinion of a north east based sleep expert and in time drafted a script which twice failed to go into production.

Seven years on, and third time lucky, the film was commissioned and Clive found himself giving up his role at the University of Cumbria to embark on his directing debut.

“I felt euphoric – but then another level of stress hits and you think, ‘I’ve got to do this now!’ Clive said.

A year in the making, Mara was released this weekend in the U.S. to favourable reviews. The title is the Swedish name for a demon that is said to sit on the chest of a sleeping person prompting bad dreams.

Starring Olga Kurylenko who plays a criminal psychologist, the former Quantum of Solace Bond girl investigates the murder of a man and is subsequently followed by an ancient demon who kills people in their sleep. The film also stars Craig Conway and Rosie Fellner and was shot in Savannah, Georgia as well as Hollywood with post-production in London.

“It’s an extraordinary achievement,” Michael Mitchell, principal lecturer in media arts at the University of Cumbria, said. “To be working full-time and then spend spare time drafting and rewriting a film for this length of time takes real commitment and we’re delighted at Clive’s success. His experience will undoubtedly benefit our students who are taught by people who have recent, real life experience of working within a competitive creative industry.”

One of Clive’s former students is Sam Fountayne whose film Zombies Have Fallen was picked up by online giant Amazon Prime.

Looking back Clive says keeping faith in a project he admits was a labour of love may sometimes have been a challenge but it has ignited a passion and built his confidence to do more.

“After a lifetime of rejection when you finally get a ‘yes’ it becomes daunting in itself,” Clive said. ”But all that experience and all the new things I learned on the set and in post-production will certainly come into the classroom.”

And with another project already at an early stage, the chance to direct a second film may well be coming Clive’s way.

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