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Indie Feature Film Inspired By 2008 'Honeytrap Murder' Case Secures Funding, Starts Production

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by Tambay A. Obenson
September 4, 2013 1:38 PM
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Malachi Kirby, Simona Zivkovska, John Boyega In BBC3's MY MURDER

John Boyega (Attack The BlockDa Brick) starred in a BBC3 docu-drama production based on the on the 2008 murder of teenager Shakilus Townsend titled My Murder.

And now, an independent film production based on that real-life story began what will be a 4-week shoot, today, in London. And unlike the BBC3 docu-drama (mixed documentary and scripted elements), this new project is entirely scripted, and will be based on the story, but, as the filmmakers state, will tell it from a different POV.

First, a quick recap...

Also known as the "Honeytrap murder," the true story tells of how then 16-year-old Shakilus Townsend was lured to his death by a girl he really liked (Samantha Joseph, also 16), and whom he apparently thought felt the same way about him, but clearly didn't.

The disturbing act by Samantha Joseph was all in an attempt to get back with her older ex boyfriend, Danny McLean

She was dating both Townsend and McLean simultaneously; McLean eventually found out and dumped her. She wanted him back, and essentially made a pact with McLean that she'd bring Townsend to him for what was to be a thrashing.

Joseph led Townsend to McLean, who was with his brothers and friends (members of a South London gang), where Joseph was beaten with a baseball bat, and stabbed in the chest five times; he later died from huge amounts of blood loss.

The group responsible for his death, including the young lady who willingly lead him to it, were all convicted of murder in 2009.

In the BBC3 project, John Boyega played Shakilus Townsend, Simona Zivkovska was Samantha Joseph, and Malachi Kirby as the older Danny McLean; it aired in the spring of 2012.

In the indie film project that started production today, the story will unfold via the POV of the girl, Samantha Joseph. 

Here's their description of it:

Yearning for love and status, fifteen-year-old Layla is swept into a whirlwind romance with self-styled gang leader/rapper Troy - and then spat out the other side. Desperate to win Troy back, Layla offers to set up the boy who's in love with her to be killed… When the forces she sets in motion start to collide, Layla must choose: between two boys, between desire and friendship, between power and connection to another human being. We have not seen a character like Layla take centre stage before and it is time her story was told.

So it sounds like it might be more of an "inspired by" production than a direct translation.

Previously titled Honeytrap: Layla's Story, the film is written and directed by Rebecca Johnson, a 10-year filmmaking veteran, who has directed several short films that have played the international film festival circuit, winning acclaim and awards along the way.

Her "trademark style" includes utilizing drama workshops with talents from the communities in which her films are set, to generate material and pull out incredibly naturalistic performances from usually young, untrained actors.

And it looks like she and her production team are planning to make Honeytrap in very much the same way, adding the following:

We know HONEYTRAP is a contentious story. It not only tackles difficult issues without easy solutions but it is very different from other recent UK films set in gang culture. HONEYTRAP will feel more like independent US films such as Sin Nombre, Monster or Boys Don’t Cry. It will be cinematic and beautiful, capturing the yearning and obsessive fantasies that drive the story. We want to make it now. HONEYTRAP is a story with contemporary resonance that needs to be made and seen NOW! After three years of writing, we now have a story that is tight, heart-wrenching and extremely powerful. We are ready and we don’t want to wait!

Jessica Sula

An IndieGoGo campaign with a $75,000 goal, was launched to help fund the film much earlier this year. The campaign now long-ended, raised just over $40,000 - not the entire $75,000, but it looks like the project got the rest of the funding needed from elsewhere - specifically, grant funding from the Walcot Foundation and Trusthouse Charitable Foundation; as well as an Anchor Bay pre-sale.

Walking Dead star Laurie Holden jump onboard the project as an executive producer.

The film stars Skins actress Jessica Sula, alongside Lucien Leon Laviscount, Ntonga Mwanza and Naomi Ryan (Doctor Who).

Sarah Sulick of Bright Pictures is producing the low-budget drama, which was developed with the BFI/UKFC and has been financed through a combination of crowdfunding via Indiegogo; 

Nothing to see yet obviously, since filming started today; but here's the sales pitch used for the project's Indiegogo campaign:

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