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In addition to his work in the music and events promotions businesses, Los Angeles native John Atterberry, who died Dec. 12 after suffering injuries during a gunman’s rampage in Hollywood, also had a burgeoning career in the movie business.
At the time of his death, Atterberry, 40, was working on completing the independent film God’s Country, which he co-wrote and produced. The film tells the story of an ambitious real estate executive who is neglectful of her mother but goes through a spiritual transformation while trying to close a lucrative deal.
The film’s star, Jenn Gotzon, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that God’s Country tells a story that was important to Atterberry.
“The movie is about stopping and recognizing how important family is and how we can take family for granted,” a tearful Gotzon said. She first met Atterberry in November 2010 to discuss the role she’d later get. “I could see the passion that fueled him to create this movie. I just remember how jubilant and joyful he was.”
Atterberry was shot on Dec. 9 by 26-year-old Tyler Brehm, who indiscriminately fired as many as 20 rounds at motorists at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. Atterberry, chief financial officer and senior partner of GridLock Group, an events promotion firm based in Los Angeles, was driving a silver Mercedes-Benz SL coupe and was struck three times, sustaining injuries to the chest and jaw. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after Brehm was killed by police officers during the incident, which began at about 10:15 a.m. and lasted just minutes.
God’s Country, which was directed by Gotzon’s husband, Chris Armstrong, was Atterberry’s first feature writing credit (his co-writers were Delvin Molden and Cecil Chambers). Previously, Atterberry executive produced the independent drama The Craving Heart (2006) and he was also producing the Haylie Duff-starring thriller Spin, which is in postproduction.
God’s Country is the story of Meghan Doherty, a real estate broker who is close to completing a $100 million deal in the Mojave Desert. However, she first needs a Christian landowner, who oversees a youth group, to turn over his land. He agrees, but only if the real estate broker commits to spending time with the youth group in the desert. The experience leads to Doherty’s spiritual transformation.
Armstrong, who spoke with Atterberry just days before the shooting to discuss postproduction of God’s Country, said that Atterberry was interested in making more “feel-good, uplifting stories like this.”
“He was very friendly – a warm, big-hearted type of person,” Armstrong said. “Once I got on board and learned where the story was coming from, it was really neat. It was really his baby.”
Atterberry also headed film production company Triumphant Pictures. Previously, he had worked for Tabu Records and served as vice president of Death Row Records, the hip-hop label founded by Marion “Suge” Knight that released records by Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, among others.
An incomplete version of God’s Country was screened at the Gig Harbor Film Festival in Gig Harbor, Wash., in October and won the first place director’s choice award. Gotzon said that the filmmakers are seeking distribution for the movie. “With John’s passing, the commitment of excellence is so strong to be able to make it something that John would be proud of,” she said.
(Actress Jenn Gotzon pictured below in a still from God’s Country)
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