Square Cherry Productions is a film & TV production company based in Manchester.
We have teamed up with exciting BAFTA award winning filmmaker Mike Ogden to raise finance and produce his bold script 'Arena', a story inspired by the narrative similarities of two events 75 years apart. One in our home city of Manchester, the other in 1943 Poland.
In 1943, German housewife Erna Petri discovers six Jewish children by the side of a remote road in occupied Poland. Erna drives them back to her country villa, feeds them a meal, then drives them back out to the forest where she murders them in cold blood to impress her husband Horst, an SS officer.
In 2017 Salman Abedi takes his last walk across Manchester city centre. Encountering the ordinary lives of diverse locals, he anonymously continues his journey through the city finally into Victoria train station and Manchester Arena. Salman murders 23 people coming out of a pop concert with a suicide bomb, losing his own young life in the process and injuring many others.
The film sees both stories inter cut each other, leading with a sense of the mundane normality of life with rising foreboding as each character moves toward their terrible conclusions.
Each event is born of different times, two different characters whose opposing extremist ideologies lead to the same end result. Our short film asks difficult questions, promoting debate about the sources of extremism in society. Ultimately "what do we need to learn from our history and the present to stop it happening again?"
Writer/Director: Mike Ogden
Mike Ogden is a BAFTA award winning film maker, having produced many short films with other writers and directors. He’s also enjoyed a career as a cameraman, having worked across all genres for many international broadcasters such as The BBC, ITV, Channel Four, NBC. He was also a consultant on ‘The Sharp Project’, a multi-million pound Film and TV studio complex in Manchester. Mike works freelance as a line producer in television and film drama. He’s also currently attached to direct his first self written feature film ‘The Victors’, a UK and Italy set world war two spy drama starring actor Edmund Kingsley.
Mike Ogden on ARENA:
‘Arena’ was born from the true story of Erna Petri. Erna was a German housewife whom in 1943 murdered six Jewish children in occupied Poland (now Ukraine). She claimed to have committed this act to prove her loyalty to her husband and their shared Nazi ideology. It’s a little known and shocking true story I wasn’t aware of.
After reading Erna’s story, two weeks later on the 22nd May 2017, the Manchester Arena bomb occurred. Another seemingly ordinary person committing a murderous act under the guise of extremist ideology. This time 23 lives lost, including the perpetrator, Salman Abedi. We’ll never know why Abedi committed this act other than he was the follower of an Islamic extremist ideology allowing him to murder innocent people. Seventy three years later, it feels like we’ve learned nothing about how extremist ideology operates, how it can manipulate ordinary people to commit horrific acts.
During my career I was fortunate to be involved in recording the testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust for the Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg. I’m not Jewish, yet sitting down as a cameraman and recording their testimonies left a deep impression on me. As a film maker, I wanted to make Erna’s story a standalone short film. It’s difficult to finance a short film about an event that happened almost 75 years ago, to make it relevant and concurrent to modern audiences. Making the decision to incorporate the Manchester Arena event was one I wrestled with for many months until I realised I had two characters decades apart committing the same extremist acts. It was inherently cinematic and a powerful idea led story. If I can show that, despite history and civilisation moving on, we can be still trapped by extremist ideology that allows us to see others as less than ourselves.
It’s also a statement from a group of Manchester based film makers concerning a recent event that affects us all. We cannot allow this to pass without forming a reply. Mancunians always have something to say so this is also us saying something back. That we have to go forward and learn from this terrible event, to see through the hate, pain and learn from this. We're not going to be showing anything horrific from the Arena bombing, just Abedi's journey in tandem with Erna's. We wouldn't dream of upsetting survivors yet we hope our film will promote debate and discussion as any good film should. I've been encouraged by the cast and crew we're assembling and their passion for this close to our hearts story.
Producer: Naomi Ayres
Naomi has worked in production for over 8 years on drama, commercials, short films, documentaries and music videos, being based in Manchester but working with companies all over the world, including line producing the award winning Amazon Prime documentary, ‘Wildlands’. Naomi has worked on a plethora of short films including 'Wild Flower' for Creative England as part of their iShorts programme with Kate Dickie, 'Surf' via the BFI Network/National Lottery scheme and ‘yandass.mov’ with Channel 4 and Tyneside Cinema, which has just been previewed at London Short Film Festival.
Director of Photography: James Oldham
James Oldham is a British cinematographer who made his entrance on a national stage after being awarded the Best Emerging Cinematographer by the British Society of Cinematographers in 2015 for his work on 'The Flying Lesson'. He is currently working on his debut feature film as main unit cinematographer and for high profile brands throughout the UK. James is highly regarded by many in the industry as a gentle giant with a great eye, and a humble approach to his craft, creativity, vision and focus singles him out as an exciting new emerging cinema talent.
James Oldham on ARENA:
As a cinematographer, approaching a story about such a painful time for the people of Manchester was a difficult prospect. Initially, myself and Mike, the director, arranged a meet at the Java Bar at Victoria station where one of the timelines in the film happened. We talked through Arena’s powerful and emotional script and the images we’re creating that audiences will never forget. It was clear to me that this story had to be told. Arena is a story close to Manchester's heart, but it is a wider story that I think affects audiences worldwide.
‘Arena’ feels like part of the process of dealing with the tragic the events of May 2017. There's no telling how this short might impact both the generations to come, and the people of Manchester but it's something we have to reflect on. It’s a tough story to tell and as a film crew, we’ll need to be brave and responsible to tell it. I’m going to be the one looking through the viewfinder as Arena unfolds. I have to remember the reasons why I cannot turn the camera off, to get the message across, and to shine a light on those things that would seek to harm us and our way of life.
Actor Alice Haig as 'ERNA PETRI'
"I can’t wait to start work on this project. The script is both moving as a depiction of an historical atrocity and arresting as a warning to us today. I think it’s important, particularly in the current climate of fear and anger, that we make attempts to understand and investigate what makes people commit acts of terror or violence. For the audience, the story is compelling as well as challenging. For me, as an actor, Arena will be a fascinating study of supreme cruelty and ordinary domesticity. An exciting challenge!"
Alice Haig trained at Central School of Speech And Drama. Alice's most recent work was in ‘How to Disappear Completely’ which was written and directed by Sam O’Mahony, and will be screening in Belfast in January 2019 as part of the Prime Cut Productions ‘RevealeD’ showcase at The Mac Belfast. Alice also played ‘Cheryl’ in Leo Richardson’s ‘Beautality’ a comedy pilot starring Jill Halfpenny and starred in ‘Scottish Killers’ for the BBC. Alice also has a long list of theare credits which include Love From A Stranger (Royal and Derngate & UK Tour), Pride and Prejudice (Nottingham Playhouse & York Theatre Royal) and Richard III (USA Tour).
Actor Philip Correia as 'HORST PETRI'
Phil trained at LAMDA and starred in ‘Bliss!’ By Rita Osei, which won Gold at the 2018 Latitude Film awards and was released VOD in September 2018 via ITunes, Amazon and Google, among others. Phil also played ‘David’ in Chris Briant’s ‘The Hunters’ for Lionsgate alongside Dianna Agron in 2011, was in short film ‘Matchmaker’ and recently completed shooting his first video game. Outside of film, Phil has also appeared in numerous TV series and has a plethora of theatre credits to his name including Othello (ETT), Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe) and The Pitmen Painters (National Theatre/Live!/BKL).
Our fundraising aim:
Our aim is to use the money we raise on crowdfunding for practical, hard to avoid costs. Due to the nature of the project, we've had a lot local film crew interest to help bring Arena into production. Arena is an emotive close to our hearts project yet we still need financial backing to pay for things like transport, location hire and facilities.
We believe this film will go far, have an impact at film festivals and help with education of extremism and the Holocaust.
Please give what you can.