SHORT CIRCUIT: The Atoning – Follow the Red(box) Brick Road

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Dan Goforth talks with Writer-Director-Producer Michael Williams on how he got THE ATONING, his followup to OZLAND, into Redbox distribution.Following critical acclaim for his award-winning film, OzLand, Writer-Director-Producer Michael Williams‘ new feature film, The Atoning, lands an out-of-this-world distribution deal with Redbox.

With almost 2,000 discs rented out per minute, and over half the market share of the physical DVD rental market, Redbox has become the premiere avenue for people to view new films. This has made it incredibly attractive to filmmakers looking to distribute their films, and consequently, incredibly difficult to gain access to its distribution channel.

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Script magazine talks with Michael Williams, whose film starring Virginia NewcombMichael LaCour, and Cannon Bosarge, has been garnering award after award on the festival circuit and is out at Redbox locations on September 5, 2017.

ScriptMag: Tell us about how the journey to Redbox came about.

Michael Williams

As an indie filmmaker, you’re always wishing for a deal with some outlet like Redbox. You hear the success stories of filmmakers who get a title in Redbox. However, you also hear about how competitive it is to get into the kiosks. During our distributor search, we asked many of them what they thought they could do for the film in terms of deals like Redbox. They all said that they would pitch the film to Redbox, but that it wasn’t likely they’d take the film.

Ultimately, we went with Gravitas Ventures for our domestic distribution. They pitched the film to Redbox and secured us the deal. It was a great surprise and gives us high hopes for the film leading up to the official release September 5th. Getting into Redbox automatically makes the film feel like it has hit a new level and its a great milestone for everyone involved.

ScriptMag: What was it about The Atoning, do you think, that made it such a good fit for Redbox?

When I was preparing OzLand for distribution, I read a lot about what makes companies like Redbox interested in a film. This research also went into what distributors look for and what piques interest in audiences. I loved the marketing we had for OzLand, however, the film itself is a hard sell in the market. For my next film, I knew I wanted to make something that was more marketable while still something that fulfilled my desire to tell complex stories artistically.

Doing a horror film was an obvious choice. Those do well for independent filmmakers and are always in demand. However, I wanted to make sure it was a multi purpose horror film that was unique and could appeal to fans of any sub-genre of horror/thriller.

As for Redbox, I can’t know for sure why they choose a film, however, distributors and buyers such as Redbox are mostly interested in a marketable genre and really strong key art, aka the film’s poster. For The Atoning, we have several poster options. The family portrait really tells a story and gives a lot of hints at the story, however, you have to look at it long enough to fully appreciate it. Early on, we decided that our main poster needed to be the more striking, eye catching, and easily comprehendible poster of Vera with the demon hand covering her face.

Since we are an independent film, we needed to standout to companies like Redbox with a strong poster that would catch interest and a really solid film to back it up.

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ScriptMag: How did the story for The Atoning come about?

In 2016, Michael LaCour, producer of The Atoning, and I were developing another film. During the development of that film, we decided we would rather first tackle a smaller horror film. I pitched this idea I’ve had for a while. It was a simple but unique premise. In a month, I wrote the script and we were heavy into pre-production. It was an extremely swift process. I finished the script in June, further tweaked it in July while we worked on casting, and then we began production in August of 2016. It was a marathon, however, everything seemed to line up. We were able to produce a film that I think the entire team is proud to see released in just over a year since production.

Dan Goforth talks with Writer-Director-Producer Michael Williams on how he got THE ATONING, his followup to OZLAND, into Redbox distribution.

Featured Cast – Michael LaCour, Cannon Bosarge, and Virginia Newcomb

ScriptMag: What were the new challenges you faced in shooting this film?

In some ways, The Atoning was much easier than OzLand, but in others, it was a lot more difficult. The Atoning was much simpler logistically. It was one location versus the countless ones used in OzLand. We also had more crew and resources this time around. This made production more straightforward and easier to tackle. However, with the film’s development being so swift leading up to production, I didn’t have as much time to obsess over the details and fully prepare for everything. We had to go with our gut and have faith that we were making the most of every opportunity in the film.

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Our post-production was quite swift as well. The timeframe was by far the most challenging aspect for many of us working on the film. Additionally, the film has expanded distribution opportunities compared to OzLand. This resulted in a delivery process that was much more difficult to tackle. However, we are excited about what that extra effort will afford us as the film continues to find more and more distribution opportunities worldwide.

ScriptMag: What’s next for you and Shendopen?

I’m anxious to start another film. However, I am trying to decide what project I want to tackle next. Currently, I am wrapping up production on a music video for Mersaidee Soules, and I hope to do more music videos in between my feature films.

Follow Michael Williams at Shendopen Films website and on Facebook. For more about the film, The Atoning, visit the film’s site, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or access it on iTunes.

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