No One Saw A Thing

An image from the docuseries ‘No One Saw a Thing,’ which premieres tonight on SundanceTV.

An upcoming documentary series on Sundance TV starts with a murder and outlines how it started years of violence in a small town.

"No One Saw A Thing" starts with the killing of Ken Rex McElroy, a bully in the town of Skidmore, Missouri, who was shot in his truck with 50 to 60 people surrounding him, and explores how it led to perpetual cycles of violence. The show was directed by Israeli filmmaker Avi Belkin, who also recently directed the documentary “Mike Wallace is Here."

Produced by Blumhouse Television, the TV arm of the popular independent film company, the six-part series premieres at 10 p.m. Aug. 1 on Sundance TV. Before it airs, Belkin took some time to talk with St. Joe Live about the production. Parts of this interview have been condensed for clarity.

For transparency, News-Press NOW Director of News and Content Steve Booher is interviewed throughout the series.

St. Joe Live: How did you come across this? And what was it about it that you decide to turn it into a documentary series?

Belkin: Roughly three years ago, I was still living in Tel Aviv. And I just finished working on my first feature film in Israel ... And I worked on it for like four years, and it was kind of successful in Israel. But when I finished it, I was broke. There was no money in it. And I decided that I got to get a bigger market for my films. And I decided to quit my job and look for ideas to do in America.

And for three months, all I did was get up in the morning and go to the public library and look at all the newspapers, looking for stories. One of those stories was a small bulletin about a Midwestern town in Missouri that had a bully in the town, and one day, they decide they have had enough of him and 60 people get around him and shot him dead. So I was interested in that story. But what really got my fascination with it was that I continued researching that story of Skidmore and I found that they had a lot more violence in the years after that incident.

SJL: When was the first time that you came to Skidmore to start on this?

AB: Sept. 16. I got there with two Israeli friends. We landed in Kansas City and drove to Skidmore. I’m pretty sure it was the first time they’d ever seen an Israeli in that small town.

We kind of drove around, and then it felt like everybody’s kind of watching us from their house. Day after day, we kind of started talking to people and gaining their trust. And people started opening up and letting us interview them. And I got back to L.A. and I edited a lot of it. I approached Blumhouse with it. Blumhouse loved the idea. And then we started working on the series. Since then, I’ve been seven times overall.

SJL: How long did it take for you to earn their trust?

AB: (McElroy’s) kids took a long time. They took almost a year to agree to finally talk to us. But I think (they opened up) because we were not really coming in with the judgmental point of view of the story. We’re really interested in understanding what’s happened there. And I think a lot of them felt like the American public and the press especially kind of judged him severely. And I think a lot them wanting to kind of know present their story through their eyes.

SJL: I think you’ve really captured that well about people’s different perspectives about a small town that you’ll have one person say one thing that they heard, and then this other person heard another thing, and these are just the different myths that have been that have been perpetuating over the over decades.

AB: Like a broken telephone that’s amplified, changing all the time. I mean, that happened in 1981 in a small town, right? There is no way to be basically telling exactly what happened there. There was no document back then. Everything was kind of word to mouth on everything, even on the history of the bully. So for me, you know, it’s only interesting in the element that you actually see those people who have lived it tell their own perspective on it, and everyone has his own totally different perspective, which is fascinating.

— ANDREW GAUG | ST. JOE LIVE

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug