So, you’ve probably read the title of this interview for Kickstarter-ed horror The Book Club, and that is a hell of a pitch, isn’t it?
From the creators of webseries I Am Tim Helsing and short film The Final Girl, horror comedy The Book Club is currently fundraising at Kickstarter (you can visit their page here) and we talked to writer director Jamie McKeller about what we can expect, why crowdfunding was the way to go, and what advice he has for anyone looking to get their first horror project off the ground…
So, what is The Book Club?
The Book Club is the first feature length film from my little independent company RedShirt Films. It follows six months in the lives of a community of serial killers lead by the rather splendid Chester Mapleforth, who has seceded his village from the country and for some reason made murder legal. Dark, grisly special effects and a LOT of gore but all shot in this delicious Great British Bake Off style. Pastels and light brown costume to help make the red stuff stand out.
How did this project come about? It’s something you’ve been working on for a while, right?
Yeah, I actually made a pilot episode for a web series a couple of years back and it won the Raindance Film Festival web pilot award, but we decided that we wanted to tell the story as a feature film rather than in short episodes produced for the web. The film has mutated from six proposed episodes into a ninety minute feature.
What made crowdfunding the right way to go?
We’ve run a couple of smaller ones in the past, never anything this scale. Our audience is online, we grew as a company online and it just felt right to turn to the internet to help us raise the funds. There’s an amazing sense of collaboration and community to it all. Anyone who donates to the project becomes a part of it, and that’s very cool. Also, it’s dark as hell and has some really messed up moments in it. If we went down more standard avenues for funding the film could lose what makes it so funny and horrifying.
From the looks of it, we can expect plenty of practical gore effects…
Absolutely. I grew up watching Evil Dead, The Thing and Bad Taste. The effects will be as realistic as possible as that’s where a lot of the comedy is coming from. Some of the shorts I’ve produced over the years have featured Black Knight levels of blood sprays, but this will be a little more grounded. Anything we can achieve in camera will be done that way.
And there’s Andrew Lee Potts, who’s a familiar face to genre fans. How did he get involved?
I met Andrew at MCM London a few years back. We were both promoting our own web series there and we just got chatting during the set up. Since then I’ve bumped into him at several other conventions and we’ve always ended up talking about projects to each other. I pitched him the film at SciFi Scarborough early this year, and we sorted it out a few weeks later. He’s an amazing actor, and I can’t wait to murder him (in the film, of course).
Have you always been a fan of horror comedy?
Always have, always will be. Every now and again somebody tries to say that horror comedy is dying out, but every time it’s still there. I love pure horror, but there’s something about doing it all with a tongue in a cheek that appeals to me. It’s more masochistic somehow. Make the audience laugh, and then genuinely scare the hell out of them. Shaun Of The Dead stands out as a remarkable example of the genre as it makes you feel so many emotions in a couple of hours. One minute you’re howling with laughter, the next you’re weeping your eyes out, then your heart is in your throat from the tension.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the shorts and webseries for making a feature?
Food. Hot, glorious food. Paperwork. Timing and scheduling. Patience and dedication. Webseries production is a slog, as you’re not making a three minute short, you’re making a feature length film broken into tiny, digestible pieces. As long as you’re organised, know what the hell is going on and where to point the cast and crew to the hot food it will all work out just fine.
It must be great to be working with the Redshirts team that you’ve had so much experience with…
I love them all. We’ve had a few people come and go over the years, but the core team is still with me after seven years of variously scaled projects so that must say something. Lloyd and Simon started work on I Am Tim Helsing with me in 2010, and they’ll both be with me for The Book Club in 2017, joined by a few other amazing people who are hardcore RedShirts to the end.
What was the most important horror movie to you growing up?
The one that really stuck with me is Motel Hell. I think I was about ten years old when I saw it, and I was absolutely transfixed. It was horrible, and I loved it. The Thing is one I still go back to once a year when Winter starts creeping in. Early John Carpenter and Wes Craven probably shaped my brain into the weird shape it is today.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to a filmmaker trying to get their first horror project together?
Just go for it. If you’ve got an idea or a story, first figure out what the right platform is for it. Short, web series, feature? Then find some like minded people, get them excited about it and attack. Our Kickstarter is a huge amount of money for us, and we knew going in that it would be tough but we decided as a team to go for death or glory. Having a great team around you to help make decisions, screen edits to or just use as bouncing boards is essential for anyone trying to make something creative happen. Collaboration is so important, and way more satisfying than trying to go it alone.
Visit The Book Club’s Kickstarter page here. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.