Thirteen years and thousands of Vimeo Staff Picks later, there are still some unforgettable characters and gripping stories that linger with us long after their short running times. While we’ve been lucky to follow a number into feature film and TV adaptations, the majority live on in our memories through the imprints they’ve left behind. With this week’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Iniquity” directed by Oliver Goodrum, we have the rare opportunity to revisit one of these iconic characters, and follow-up with an award-winning story ten years after it garnered over 14 million views online.

Taking inspiration from a real-life story, the 2012 film “This is Vanity” explores the wrenching story of a mother driven to an unthinkable act as the result of relentless bullying of her young disabled daughter and dismissive authorities. With “Iniquity,” Goodrum and writer Alexander Craig pick up the story ten years later from the perspective of Michael, the young bully now grown up and desperately trying to distance himself from the past. When the angry mob and media come knocking, Michael and we are forced to reckon with the moral question of crime and punishment. 

“Iniquity” does not simply revisit the same story from a new perspective. With new information and the wisdom gained with time, it asks us to interrogate the past and challenge the present narrative. Anchored by Richard Crehan’s astonishing performance as Michael, this second installment examines ideas of justice and accountability with a level of complexity and nuance worthy of the ten-year wait. 

Ahead of the release, we reached out to director Oliver Goodrum to learn about returning to this story and finding inspiration in new perspectives. Read on to learn more:

On returning to the story:

“Back in 2012, we originally imagined this as a trilogy of shorts — following three different characters’ experience of one story. It felt that to do the story justice and be balanced it needed multiple perspectives. However, it wasn’t always our intention. For a long time, neither of us were interested in it and were working on other projects.

Fast forward to 2019 and writer Alexander Craig suggested giving it another go. I was skeptical of it initially, but once we started working out Michael’s (the bully) character it felt like the intervening years had given us the experience and perspective we needed to create this story.”

On examining notions of good and evil:

We worried the first film was saying Michael was bad and it was his fault, but it’s not that simple. We don’t believe that simplistic view — good and evil, being born bad — everything he did was because of the life he was randomly born into, the programming, conditioning, and the experiences he lived. 

We quickly became hooked on how the events of the first film would have an immense effect on him over the years and how they could bubble up many years later and this was very intriguing idea to work with.

On the shift in perspective:

“I’m really hooked on nature and nurture and have been for years, so picking Michael apart, working out how he got to where he did those things was intriguing. We felt to be balanced we needed to see and hear multiple sides of the story. He did some seriously awful things but he was not born bad, he did not chose the things that lead him to that point, that time, that person he was.”

On the film’s themes and the writing process:

“I started by returning to the real story and rereading all the articles. And then we spent a huge amount of time talking and throwing ideas about. It was always centered around understanding and forgiving Michael. Pretty quickly we were talking about how haunted he must be, and how the media could upend his life, a life that had taken a long time to rebuild after it had terrorized him all those years earlier.

We did a hugely amount of blocking and beating out scenes and sequences on cards. That evolved into a very long and detailed treatment, which went through several versions. Then we moved onto a script. The first draft was 56 pages and then that was refined into the shooting draft. Every rehearsal and walk through with the actors brought changes to dialogue and a little bit of the actual scenes themselves. And then of course, it evolved mainly in the edit.

On working with Richard Crehan:  

“He’s the bomb. He gave everything. We spoke and zoomed for months, he lived with me for a few weeks, and he tried things that were out of his comfort zone. (Like going on a date with Mariona/Macu in character before the shoot).

He had a colorful childhood, and so knew something about this world and these types of people. We spoke about a lot of that on ‘This is Vanity‘ in 2012 and he lived that role then, so he could draw on that too, he “did” the things Michael did. He thought about what it was like afterwards — especially when people saw ‘This is Vanity’ and told him they didn’t know whether to hit him or hug him.

On hopes for the film:

“I don’t really hope for anything like this, maybe just the idea of questioning what we’re fed, things you think are facts, which maybe aren’t quite how you think they are. Maybe there’s more to it, another perspective.

On plans for a third installment:

“Ummmmmm, not anytime soon. But never say never!”

On the challenges of making the film:

“All of them! Money, time, things not turning out as well as I’d hoped, some things were disasters! Working out to pivot and adapt is a big part of it.”

On what’s next:

I’d like to move on to a feature, so I’m in the writing development stage, trying to find something that derives to consume so much of my life.

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