“The Reef”

For men who have once been boys, for mothers who have feared for their child, for girls who have wanted to save a boy and for boys who would have preferred to play pirates.


The Genre

A magic realism/ mystery drama

The Story

To escape family turmoil teenage brothers Mitya (13) and Aleksi (16) are spirited away by their Mother to a remote seaside park on the Baltic Coast. Adventurous Mitya immediately sets about exploring the strange coastal resort and soon meets an enigmatic local Girl (15), a mysterious blonde teenager living in a once grand but now dilapidated hotel. He starts to hang out with a band of young beach boys called the Wrecks who seem to be without supervision. Mitya immerses himself in his new playgrounds and friends and withdraws from camp and family life. The unique connection that develops between Mitya and the Girl becomes central to unfolding events and to the lives of everyone around them. But she is drawn to Aleksi. A jealousy trap develops not just between the brothers but which also involves some of the Wrecks. Furthermore, aspects of this holiday park are not quite what they seem. Jealousy fuelled tensions come to a head, propelling the brothers to confront their past troubles which changes their lives forever.

Horizon – illustration by Jani Ikonen

THE REEF is a linear story about accepting death and letting go, incorporating several twists and turns. THE REEF will be a timeless film with a mysticism that will enchant audiences the world over. There is also a sense of mystery about the fate of the children who have left the world and been lost too early in life. The audience is hooked until the final moments when they discover what lies beyond that last cliff.

The Book


First published in 2013


First published in 2014


First published in 2015


First published in 2016

Winner of torchbearer award 2013

Winner of the first Nordic council literature prize for children and young adults 2013


The Author

Seita Vuorela´s (formerly Parkkola) books blast the conscious mind. Linguistically, she has written intense and ambitious prose and her work takes readers into the vivid battle between good and evil.  Her novel “The School of Possibilities” was awarded the Best European Young Adult Prize (Prix Pépites) in France in 2011 (Une Dernière chance, actes Sud Junior).

Seita Vuorela  was a rising star in the Scandinavian literary scene and lived in Finland before her untimely passing in April 2015 aged 44.  She studied Literature and Cultural Studies, Philosophy and Women’s Studies and worked as a journalist, photographer, giving courses and lectures in creative writing.  Her books are characterised by a singular voice and they have received several awards and have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and the Hungarian and Serbian languages.

For further information please see her Wiki page.

Fence by the beach – illustration by Jani Ikonen

The Director – Phillip Donnellon

IMDB Information

Phillip’s Showreel

Phillip Donnellon was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia where he studied screen craft at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Richard Franklin, an Award winning Director and understudy to Alfred Hitchcock lectured Phillip and soon became his mentor citing him as the most talented student he’d ever taught. Before long Phillip became a regular fixture on Richard’s film sets. Through the guidance of another mentor, the Academy Award nominated screenwriter Jan Sardi, Phillip was later formally introduced into the Film Industry as a credible emerging talent with his first two short films. It was within the surrounds of various production companies where Phillip went on to develop creatively as a film director. Due in part to the international recognition of his short films Phillip has had the good fortune to spend a number of years studying and working overseas in a variety of countries including the USA, UK and Germany.

Phillip’s films are about characters who can find the beauty in ugly situations. His personal mission through film is to give a voice to the voiceless and uplift the human spirit in times where it is sorely wanting. Part artist, humanitarian and political activist, Phillip has and will continue to fight with compassion, kindness, wisdom, courage, innovation, perseverance and passion on a scale and consistency which he believes the subjects of his films deserve. Phillip lives and works in Buchholz (between Bremen and Hamburg), Germany.




Director’s Selected Filmography

Director’s Statement

When I met Seita at the Frankfurt book fair back in October 2014 I was nervous as hell. A vision for how I wanted to translate her book into a film had already burned such a deep impression in my mind. What if she decided not to grant custody for the book that had inspired this vision? Seita had not watched any of my films before the meeting and from what I can discern from our consequent conversations she never did. Her assessment of me, which thankfully was in the positive, was largely based on that initial conversation in Frankfurt. I was eager like a schoolboy. She was running late. Nervous as well as it had turned out. Formalities out the way we sat down and I fished around my bag for a folder full of photos I’d taken over the years. It had been a hobby of mine to sneak into abandoned buildings with a camera as a kid. I also included a bunch of beachscapes. We spoke about characters and characterisation; how old the boys should be; how to portray the Girl. I mentioned similar ideas of my own I’d had over the years about sun burnt beachscapes and the empty chambers of forgotten ruins. But the moment she was convinced was when I shared with her a painting from an Art School lecturer of mine. I still had the invitation from the exhibition opening which I showed her. The painting is called “Merry Go Round” and I’ve never been able to forget its representation of this grand old ballroom and the way he’d rendered an impression of all that had happened in it. Whilst holding up my old tattered invite I described for Seita just one scene I imagined for the film which embraced the surreal and ghosting nature of this painting.

courtesy of the artist

THE REEF is told from a child’s perspective and the story, I believe, serves as a beacon, offering profoundly beautiful images in a broken world.  Peppered with unexpected humour, it casts light through a sea of despair. In the spirit of Guillermo del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”, the child characters are raw and alive and each is on the precipice fighting their respective battles. The death at the centre of this story discombobulates the emotionally distracted adults leaving it up to the children and in particular, one boy and his self-reliance, resilience and imagination to find a way out of the darkness. Simular themed films have been made a million times before but it’s Seita’s dry irreverent humour and lush landscapes that sets it apart.

THE REEF is transcendent in terms of location. The universally understood milieu of the campground and coastline is depicted as an ethereal, liminal space with the power to transport audiences to an understood yet unknowable place.  Through the eyes of a child the reef is a moonscape.  Caravan parks are a domestic pantomime; twisted and gnarled tea tree; a maze of moving shadows and old souls.  Abandoned buildings are Theme Park rides that swoosh through a sea of memories.  The shoreless sea; a frontier between dreams and reality.  THE REEF is an exploration into the wild and untamed terrain of a child’s imagination.

I believe the world needs THE REEF as something of a counterbalance.  Climate change, Hybrid warfare, refugees, domestic flights shot out of the sky, suicide bombers targeting teenagers.  The thin veil of civilization has ruptured across the globe allowing evil to once again stand before us in plain sight.  Innocence is under siege.  Children and childhoods are being destroyed in epic proportions worldwide, particularly through Asia and the Middle East and with them the hope and direction for those they leave behind.  This is a massive threat to our future.  THE REEF, as a cinematic story is by no means a cure to the ills of our times.  But as a form of entertainment; the type that cloaks an emotionally intelligent message with beauty, laughter and edge of your seat tension…  I believe it can serve as respite in this weary world of ours.


Sky – illustration by Jani Ikonen

Mood Boards for the Film

The Silo

Land’s End Camp Site

The Girl

The Beach

Hotel Horizon

The Wrecks

Teaser Mood Footage


Credits; Andrew Ware (Photography), Liz Gooden (Dress)

Video – Mood Piece, click here to view

The Producer – Margaret Milner Schmueck

IMDB Information

Margaret Milner Schmueck grew up in Cork City, Ireland where she studied Computer Science at University College Cork.  Basing herself in the UK she started up an international IT business working across countries such as Germany, SouthKorea and Australia.  This quickly became a spring board to a range of other entrepreneurial activities and it wasn’t before long Margaret turned her attention to film and media production.  Margaret is a graduate of the Film Business School in Ronda, Spain and a participant of the Berlinale Talent Campus.  She produces under the banner of Split Second Films which she co-founded and is based in the East Midlands in the UK where she has successfully forged relationships across regional crew and talent.  She enjoys a busy career as a producer working in film as well as in creative advertising.  A recent project includes delivery of a multi-gaming platform for the BBC.

Producer’s Selected Filmography


Available Downloads

The original Finnish novel “Karikko” –> HERE

The German translation of the novel “Wir Fallen Nicht” –> HERE

“Karikko” book report in German language –> HERE

“Karikko” book report in English language –> HERE

Directors notes for production –> HERE

Directors visionary notes  –> HERE

The English translation of the novel   –> HERE

Thankyou to Jani Ikonen for his kind permission for the use of his beautiful illustrations which are part of the original published book.

Sand dunes – illustration by Jani Ikonen