Shane Meadows’ longtime screenwriter Paul Fraser talks to Jeremy Kay about his feature directorial debut on My Brothers.
Shane Meadows’ longtime screenwriter Paul Fraser makes his feature directorial debut on My Brothers, a road movie set in Ireland about a trio of siblings who head to the seaside in search of a replacement wristwatch for their dying father.
The film stars three newcomers and received its world premiere at Tribeca. Fraser talks about his film-making style and the arduous journey his producers undertook following the Icelandic volcano eruption.
Tell us how the print got to Tribeca.
We finished the editing about two weeks ago [early April] and I flew from Ireland to my home in England when the volcano caused havoc the next day. It didn’t look like any of us were going to be coming and I felt terrible for the kids, because they’d never acted before and were so excited about the festival. Then we realised the film had to be there too, so that’s when my producers Robert [Walpole] and Rebecca [O’Flanagan] embarked on this Wacky Races journey. They took the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, drove to Dover, took the ferry to Calais, drove to Madrid, flew to Bogota in Colombia, then on to a connecting flight in the US and finally to New York. I flew from London after things cleared up, and so did the boys.
Why did you choose newcomers for the three boys?
With Shane we’ve been making films since we were 16 and we’d cast our mates. The first big picture we did was Twenty Four Seven and it was the first time we could pay our friends and from then on we’ve always looked for actors who aren’t professional. With the intimacy of the story I thought it would be wonderful, so we put out ads looking for actors aged eight to 20. The two younger kids [TJ Griffin and Paul Courtney] walked into the room in the first two days but I still had to find the big fella. Eventually Timmy [Creed] walked into the room. At first the character was a bit more downtrodden and I toned it back a bit and when Timmy came in I though it could be him and I asked him to watch Gregory’s Girl and watch Gordon Sinclair. I don’t know why, I just thought it would help. I was interested in him and wanted him to get his head around what he could do and who he could be.
What was the shoot like?
We filmed over four weeks from mid-November to mid-December last year and there was the worst rainfall in Ireland in years. All this leant to the film and gave it a rawness. We were shooting on the road for two and a half weeks. We thought about a back screen projection, but we decided to keep it authentic and we did all the interior van conversations over two days, towing. They snapped from one scene to the next and I think a trained actor might have struggled, but they went for it.
How did you find directing?
I didn’t go to film school. I’m the same as Shane and we have the same background. I made sure Will [Collins] who wrote this was on the side the whole time, which is what Shane does with me. It felt very comfortable. I had been with the kids for a few weeks doing workshops before we started shooting. It’s an amazingly addictive experience and I would love to have another crack at it.
You had a famous helping hand with the songs?
Through a connection with the Irish Film Board we got in touch with the lead singer of Snow Patrol, Gary Lightbody. He asked if we wanted to co-write some songs. Co-write songs with Gary Lightbody! He blew me away. I didn’t want the music to go all retro; I just wanted it to serve this character driven little odyssey.
I’m writing a story called Fuddled, which is going to be a children’s fantasy story that I want to direct.