A nice cup of tea and a murder

Jamie McKeller on The Book Club, legalising murder, serial killers and cake.

by Jennie Kermode

Getting down to business in The Book Club
Getting down to business in The Book Club Photo: Redshirt Films

What would happen if a quiet little village in Yorkshire managed to secede from the rest of the UK and made murder legal? That's the question behind Jamie McKeller's current project, The Book Club. He's currently crowdfunding for the film but intends to make it no matter what happens, and has star Andrew Lee Potts already attached. We caught up with him to find out more about this tale of cups of tea, buttered scones and homicide.

Pinpointing where ideas come from is tricky, he says; this is one that developed over time. "It actually evolved from an old romantic comedy we'd written which we were thinking of making into a web series. It was originally about a community of swingers where everybody was very free and easy and then we thought, why not make it about a community of serial killers operating legally through a loophole? We had a long conversation about how they could be allowed to get away with this. It's about a very wealthy individual who has seceded his property from the UK and then expanded this community over time."

The obvious problem with the scenario, I note, is that shocking stories get around and people who know there's a community of serial killers probably just won't go there.

"Part of the joke of the whole film is that everybody knows this is happening," he says, explaining that the film follows a local police inspector. "But obviously not everybody knows so there are always new people coming into the area, a new postman who's maybe not been warned, delivery people, that sort of thing. And basically it's a big stress ball, because modern life is very stressful, we have lots of information coming at us constantly, and this whole community is built to be the biggest outlet for stress and anxiety where if someone's wound you up properly you can bring them in and murder them."

There is, it seems, still an element of discretion.

Andrew Lee Potts
Andrew Lee Potts Photo: Redshirt Films

"It's not like they're killing people every half hour. Like Chester, the main character, says, there have to be rules. That's why they meet regularly, every Thursday, at the book club, only they're not discussing Jane Austen, they're saying, say, 'This week I want you to kill a cyclist.'"

Jamie is at pains to stress that he's not a fan of murder himself, but he's intrigued by the idea of it being legal. I mention last year's Population Zero, in which Adam Levins investigated the corner of Yellowstone National Park where that's the case.

"Yes!" says Jamie. "Yellowstone and the Triangle. It overlaps four or five states or something and no-one knows what to do about it. The Book Club is set in that kind of no man's land, but with more cake."

On a small budget production where nobody expects to make much money, cake is important to morale. He's very grateful to the residents of the small Yorkshire village where the film will be shot, who have welcomed his crew warmly. "It's got the local pub, the village pond and everything, and they're very excited to have us there. I had thought when they heard the context of the film they might not like it, but no, they think it's great.

"We shot a lot of it at Andy's property there. He's got a big barn which is ideal to shoot in and we always get lots of bacon when we're there, there's always quiche on the go."

Although fundraising has not as yet been as successful as he'd hoped, Jamie is very grateful to the people who have pledged to support the production, and is reassured by their faith in the film. "We're starting filming in August, no matter what," he says. The question now is whether or not he can raise enough to avoid having to pursue other sources of funding which could compromise his creative control. If you would like to help, you can do so on The Book Club's Indiegogo.

"The plan is that this is being made as a festival film," he says, "so it will go to Screamfest and Frightfest and so on. We hope that way we can reach audiences and distributors and then you never know what might happen. I mean, it might end up selling in Asda for seven pounds but what we're aiming to do is make enough money so we can make a second film without KickStarter."

Jamie's team have been making short films and webseries for six years, in sufficient quantity that he's not daunted by the scale of the production like many first time feature directors are. There's a specific project he'd like to move onto next but he'd need a significantly bigger budget for that. "It's a horror comedy about a guy who has to hunt monsters - vampires, werewolves and that sort of thing - but it's set in the North of England with a lot of cups of tea. It has a very mundane English approach. A bit like Buffy The Vampire Slayer but in Skipton."

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