Independent filmmaker Michael Williams of West Point has more stories to tell. A $5,000 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) will help him do it. Williams has begun development of his third feature film, “Rosemary.” The psychological drama about a reclusive woman driven to the brink of insanity by a mysterious abyss that appears in her basement follows Williams’ 2014 feature debut, “OzLand,” and 2017’s “The Atoning.” Each garnered awards at multiple regional independent film festivals, including Best Feature Film honors.
“This will be my largest and most ambitious project to date,” said Williams.
The filmmaker, who has also made dozens of short films, began working professionally in film in 2007 as a camera assistant before transitioning to the role of cinematographer, even as he continued to write and direct his own works.
“In 2015, I made the decision to pursue film full-time as both a cinematographer and writer/director. This wasn’t an easy choice since a majority of the work as a writer/director on the indie level is unpaid,” he said.
Fortunately, MAC artist fellowships can provide much-needed support.
“As a full-time artist, it is difficult to find that time away from paying work to make real progress on the development of a feature film,” Williams remarked. “This MAC fellowship gives me the ability to do just that.”
MAC Executive Director Malcolm White said, “Artists who receive grants represent some of the most gifted individuals in their respective fields. … MAC is proud to support those who enliven and enrich their communities with the creative spirit.”
Williams feels the current project represents growth and maturity in terms of storytelling since his previous feature films.
“This is a project I’m extremely excited to make,” he said. “It is thrilling while also thought-provoking, heartfelt and complex.”
As with “OzLand” and “The Atoning,” the filmmaker plans to shoot “Rosemary” in Mississippi, using as many Mississippi-based cast and crew as possible.
He and a producing team that includes Jeremy Burgess of Birmingham, Alabama, and Mindy Van Kuren of Abilene, Texas, will soon begin the fundraising stage to secure the budget required to properly produce the film.
“We’re aiming for a budget that will give us far more time and resources than I’ve ever had,” Williams remarked. “This will be key to making a project that will really live up to the expectations we have for this script. … Without the MAC fellowship, this early development process would’ve been less focused and taken much longer to accomplish.”
MAC is a state agency providing grants that support programs to enhance communities, assist artists and arts organizations, promote the arts in education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. Established in 1968, the MAC is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources. For more information about MAC, contact Communications Director Anna Ehrgott at 601-359-6546 or [email protected]
For more information about “Rosemary” and this particular fellowship grant, contact Williams at 662-275-3285.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.