In Bruges, which opened the Sundance Film Festival last month and opened in the US earlier this month, marks a longed-for arrival in the world of feature-length cinema for the celebrated London-based Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.

'I loved movies from a very early age, about 13 or 14 onwards, so in some ways this is like a dream that I never thought would ever be fulfilled or come to fruition.

Storytelling through books and movies was always my first love and I fell in to the whole playwrighting thing by accident.

But I always tried to uses those elements - cinema on stage if you like - and I think that's why I was able to shake things up a little bit because for a while people in theatre have forgotten about story and image.'

Citing his influences as Orson Welles, Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kurosawa and Powell and Pressburger, McDonagh first made a short, Six Shooter, starring Brendan Gleeson, which won the Oscar for live-action short in 2006. Then he took a break from theatre to focus on making the feature, a hit-man drama set in the Belgian city of the title.

'I said a couple of years ago that I wasn't going to write a play for a while because I knew that this was going to take up so much of my time,' he explains.

'Thankfully there were a few film companies which wanted to do it as a script and the script was ready to go long before I made the short film. They had seen the short and weren't averse to me directing it, but I always wrote it with myself in mind to direct.'

Focus Features stepped in to back the production and McDonagh attracted a top-notch cast led by Colin Farrell, Gleeson again and Ralph Fiennes. 'I came to realise that I did know more about the process of working with actors than I thought I knew,' McDonagh says. 'I knew how to explain why a character was doing what he was doing.

'I didn't especially have a cinematic sense, so I had to kind of go away and learn that. I storyboarded the entire thing pretty much on my own and then brought it to the DoP (Eigil Bryld) and we discussed all the visual side of it because I didn't want it to be a playwright's film. I didn't want it to be two guys chatting for two-and-a-half hours.'

Now that the film is in theatres, however, McDonagh is not rushing to make his follow-up. 'Over the last four or five years, I've written about three film scripts and they're all ready to go at any time I can or want them to, I guess,' he says. 'This year I'm going to write a play and take a long break from the whole film thing for a couple of years just to go away and grow up and live.

'I never liked the whole career path thing,' McDonagh continues. 'I never thought you should make a film to get a foot in the door. You should just make a piece and not care who it pisses off or who it pleases, and step away.'