Independent filmmaker Michael Williams of West Point took another fork in the road for his second feature-length film. The first, 2014’s “OzLand,” was a story laced with jaded resignation and hopeful fantasy in a post-apocalyptic world. Williams’ new venture, “The Atoning,” taps into a darker theme, the world of hauntings and horror.
Preview screenings of “The Atoning” will be held Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Columbus’ Malco Cinema at 2320 Highway 45 North. Cast members will be on hand for Q&A sessions. Williams looks forward to audience feedback.
“After ‘OzLand’ I definitely wanted to make a very different kind of movie,” the filmmaker said. “I was consumed by ‘OzLand’ for so long that I needed to explore something different from a creative standpoint.” Indie horror films also typically have wide appeal when it comes to distribution, he noted.
When Michael LaCour of Jackson, Tennessee, who would later become a lead actor and executive producer on “The Atoning,” approached Williams last summer about working on a project together, development of the film went into overdrive.
The film from concept to completion was around six to seven months, Williams explained. “Compared to most films and especially my last film, that is an insane turnaround.”
Careful not to give away too much, Williams said the film revolves around a seemingly normal family — Vera (Virginia Newcomb of Birmingham, Alabama), Ray (LaCour) and young Sam (Cannon Bosarge of Madison). The trio is haunted by more than mere ghosts.
“Personal demons manifest and tear the family apart from the inside out as they come to terms with their past,” shared the writer and director.
Filming took place in August in West Point. The crew was fortunate to find an empty 140-year-old Victorian home there to shoot in.
“The house itself is a character in the film. The set was a treasure,” Williams said. “After finishing the script, I had an imaginary house in my head. I never expected to find a location that fit it.”
The biggest challenge was making the house look lived in. The set team went to work pulling together furniture and decor from throughout the West Point community to create the desired environment.
“It was an amazing experience to see the location come to life in such a short amount of time,” remarked Williams.
Like the multi-award-winning “OzLand,” “The Atoning” features a musical score by Keatzi Gunmoney.
How to go
Tickets to the screenings are $10, available in advance at http://shendopenfilms.bigcartel.com. Seating is limited. Audiences will have the chance to offer comments filmmakers can use to help prepare for the movie’s festival debut. “The Atoning” is already an official selection at both the Oxford Film Festival Feb 15-19 and the Magnolia Independent Film Festival in Starkville March 2-4.
“I hope the screenings can be a great experience for the audience,” said Williams. The director praised the support the Golden Triangle exhibits for the arts, including filmmaking.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to bring together a great group of artists to make movies here in my hometown. That is a luxury most filmmakers do not have,” he said. It’s his hope the work will also inspire others to get involved in film, further promoting appreciation of independent cinema.
Follow “The Atoning” on Facebook. The official trailer may be viewed on YouTube.
Williams categorizes the film as PG-13, for horror genre elements.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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