You've written Somers Town and Once Upon A Time In The Midlands for Shane Meadows, was it hard to shoot someone else's script for your directorial debut?
It wasn't what I had planned to do initially, kind of assumed that I would direct my own project, but then again I didn't imagine making an Irish film as I first feature either. Initially I took on the job of advising Will on the script, trying to find a story with him in 200 pages of meandering memories. Over time, and as the story got stronger and stronger, it began to feel like something I would have done myself - his voice felt so similar to mine, like I was writing it myself but not having to do the hard work - which made real sense as I could always remain slightly detached from the material. Will's working methods were similar too, he was never precious, always open to exploring tangents and not afraid to let the actors work around the dialogue.
Will Collins' script deals with similar issues to ones you've tackled - familial situations, provincial settings - is this what attracted you?
Not really, for me the film was less about settings and more about the relationships between the boys. I was intrigued by the unfolding of the story, and making a film that lets the characters dictate the narrative, as opposed to shoehorning them into a prescribed structure. As kids you are freer than any other time in your life, I wanted to explore this, and explore what happens when that freedom is trodden on with issues in the adult world. I think audiences are so much better nowadays at understanding film and get pleasure from feeling emotion rather than being told what to feel, and when I first read the script and spoke to the Irish Film Board about it this is what resonated most.
Unearthing Paul Courtney was a real find - did you know from the start he was going to be special?
The casting was a long process, we spend weeks in Cork holding open auditions and traveling around schools looking for the three brothers. Paul came into the workshops as an excuse to get out of school - this for me was the character straight away. The casting workshop were all improvised, as I wanted this option in the shoot, and his timing, for comedy, was remarkable (more so considering he had never done any sort of acting before). But what you want as well is range, his characters journey within the film is pretty extensive and brutal at points, so we tested him out with some more challenging improvisations and he nailed them. I hope he will focus and do something with his natural talent.
How did you attract Gary Lightbody to write the theme song?
Andrew Meehan at the film board, who championed this script and me from the get go, had a relationship with Gary and sent him the script. A few days later I got an email off him with the song 'My Brothers' attached. Previously I had been using all sorts of songs (mostly far to expensive for our budget), I sent him a cut of the film and asked if he would consider replacing all the songs and music cues. He worked with Jacknife in LA and as I slept he worked, so every morning when we arrived in the edit suite we were getting sent treats - new songs, ideas and musical scores that just sat perfectly with our story.
Is directing your own material next on your agenda?
I assumed so, but now I have taken on a second directing job (it took this long to recover from the first!!) and again it is not my script. I'm slowly getting there though as this time I will be doing rewrites too.
My Brothers is in select cinemas this Friday