Exclusive Interview: Director David Brooks Talks ATM and More
In ATM we follow three co-workers who, after leaving a company party together and making a quick stop for some cash, end up in a desperate struggle for survival when an unknown man appears outside an ATM vestibule in the middle of nowhere, threatening their very lives.
Directed by David Brooks, ATM stars Brian Geraghty, Josh Peck and Alice Eve and marks Brooks' first time in the director's chair on a feature film. In anticipation of the movie's release in theaters this Friday, April 6th (ATM is currently available on VOD platforms), Dread Central had the chance to chat with the up-and-coming filmmaker about coming on board the project, the challenges of creating a thriller inside a 10-foot long space for 90 minutes and whether or not there are plans for an ATM 2 yet.
Dread Central: Let's start off at the beginning: How did you get attached to ATM and were the real-life fears that people experience when taking out money play into your decision to come on board?
David Brooks: That's definitely part of what drew me to it; I liked that this story took place somewhere unexpected like an ATM because that's one of those moments we all go through when we're at the machine taking money out and you begin to wonder- who's around you when you're taking money out of your account, is someone waiting outside to rob you, things like that.
But I knew Peter Brooks (no relation), the producer, for years before this and he knew my style from my short film Gone so he pitched me on this idea and I thought the concept was pretty cool and different than what's going on in the genre right now. Then I collaborated together with Chris (writer Sparling) on fleshing out some of the finer points of ATM, which was a total organic experience, working together like that, and I saw what you could accomplish when you've got two sets of eyes on something.
Dread Central: I'd love to hear more about your casting process because you definitely have a lot of great up-and-coming talent in front of the camera for this.
David Brooks: Thanks so much! Yeah, we got very lucky with the whole casting process and also just the timing because we were ready to send the script out in town the same week that Buried (also written by Sparling) got picked up by Lionsgate at Sundance. So we had some momentum there because of Chris, and then, luckily, everyone really responded to the script and because of that I got to meet a lot of really talented and interesting young actors.
Brian (Geraghty), who plays David, was just coming off of The Hurt Locker at the time, and the great thing about Brian is that he's such a sweet, nice guy, but he's also got this quiet intensity to him that I thought was great for where the character of David needed to go and what he needed to become in order to survive.
Then we found out Josh was attracted to the role of Corey, which was awesome because I was such a huge fan of his work in The Wackness; the thing about Josh is he's so funny, but in movies like ATM and The Wackness, he's been able to show that he's got this incredible range that can go from comedy to drama just like that. I probably didn't realize until I met with Josh how important the comedy aspect would end up being; Corey had to be annoying and maybe kind of a dick in a way, but you still had to like him and root for him, and I think that's what Josh was able to really do.
And Alice was our missing puzzle piece; I was just a fan of her work and I just thought that she was going to bring the sort of depth that this character needed in an otherwise very male-focused cast. It can be a tough situation for an actress to be thrown into - shooting for days on end with only men around - and I needed someone who was tough and could handle it. Thankfully, Alice really stepped up and everything was great.
Dread Central: Speaking of confined spaces- how challenging was it for you as a storyteller to keep the tension high when you've only got this tiny little space to work with? How do you keep the intensity up for the viewers?
David Brooks: Well, simplicity was my biggest challenge on ATM; because this was a one-location setting and a very intimate setting at that, the issue was always- how do we keep the scares fresh and new when you're dealing with just 10 feet inside an ATM vestibule? How do we keep the viewers on their toes and stay true to the concept and setting?
So what we did on ATM is that we shot in sequence because it made the most sense in terms of blocking, pacing and working with the actors; it kept everyone elevated and really within the context of that 'moment' so I'm glad we took that approach. Going that route made everything on ATM much more manageable for me, especially being a first-time filmmaker on this.
Dread Central: Not that we'd give away the ending, but since things about the killer and this 'world' are left pretty wide open at the end of ATM, have you guys thought about a sequel at all yet?
David Brooks: You know, we didn't really go with an 'open ending' on ATM more so than just an ending that made sense and served the story best. I really never thought about it in terms of leaving things open for a sequel so there are no real plans for an ATM 2 right now, but you never know.
Dread Central: So what's up next for you then? Do you feel like the world of genre films is where you'd like to continue working in your career?
David Brooks: Oh definitely. I do want to still continue working within the genre because I've always been drawn to intense material so that's the world I'm most comfortable continuing in. I'm not attached to anything specifically yet, but there are a few things I'm considering and I do want to make sure my next movie has a much 'bigger' feel than ATM; I'm ready to take that next step.
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