‘My Brothers’ Director Paul Fraser Talks to Film Ireland

My Brothers is released in cinemas on Friday August 17th 2012. Amanda Spencer talked to Paul Fraser about his feature directorial debut before its Irish premiere at the 2010 Galway Film Fleadh.  This article originally appeared in Film Ireland 133 Summer 2010.

 

Fraser’s first big screen collaboration, 24/7, saw a lifelong friendship and creative collaboration with Shane Meadows reach a wider audience. Since then, continued collaborations show the writer/director display a love of, and contribution to, cinema that is character-led, choice-driven and hinged on small scale adventures that are still somehow epic.

 

Fraser deals in heart. His writing credits include, A Room for Romeo Brass, Somers Town, Dead Man’s Shoes, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and Damien O’Donnell’s Heartlands. Films that get right into their characters, characters whose lives are lived in unspectacular surrounds, with few outlets. The themes are rich and universal and Fraser’s tales travel. This time around, and for his feature directorial debut, they’ve come to Ireland.

 

My Brothers is a road trip embarked on by three brothers to replace their ailing father’s treasured broken watch. Filmed in Cork in November/December 2009, it was penned by young Irish writer, Will Collins [read Will Collins’ Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild article also from Film Ireland issue 133 here]. Fraser loves to write. For that reason, he had always assumed his first feature would be self-penned. However, in meeting Will, he found a script that fitted his style, a young writer he wanted to champion and a feature he wanted to direct.

 

Amanda Spencer: How did things go at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival?

Paul Fraser: Well, we premiered in Tribeca. We finished the film the week before and with the volcanic ash in the mix, Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole, the producers, had to go the scenic route to NYC to deliver the film. We got some good reviews and great feedback. Yeah, it went down really well and we all eventually got out there, so that was great. It’ll go on a journey of its own now, around to different festivals. I’d love to see it released around autumn.

 

What started you on the road to writing and directing?

Shane Meadows and I saw Mean Streets one weekend and then we went to a petrol station where you could hire these old cameras that had the vhs cassettes in them. It was the first time I’d ever picked up a camera and we just did silly little sketches and watched them back and laughed our heads off.

 

Did you have an educational background in film?

I spent two years in bed with a back problem when I was a little boy, but I had really good home tuition. My English teacher just made me write stories. He’d send me a brief, I’d write the story and that was my English education for about a year and a half. When I finished school, I went to business school for four weeks. I then quit that, because it was awful. I got a call from a friend who was doing a performing arts course. They needed help lighting a show. So I went in to help out, and I was watching everyone pretending to be trees, thinking, ‘what a load of nonsense.’ But actually, that’s where I started to write. Then I went on and did a contemporary art degree, and I was writing one-man shows and monologues that I could improvise around because I performed them myself.

 

When was your big break, and did you see it coming?

At the same time, I was writing little shorts with Shane and we got interest from Palace Pictures/Scala Productions (Stephen Woolley, Nik Powell, Imogen West). They’d seen a short film we’d made called Where’s the Money, Ronnie? and offered us money to make a proper short. We said ‘no,’ though. We wanted to make a feature. The idea we had at that time was for 24/7. So, they paid for us to go and write in a cottage in Wales. After five days, we sent them 200 pages and thought, ‘That was easy.’ They sent us back a list of notes and that’s where my proper education began, I guess. It allowed me to train to be a screenwriter on the job.

 

Did you go on the job with directors on the screenplays you’ve written?

I’ve always been lucky with people I’ve worked with. They’ve been very inclusive and collaborative in their approach. I’d be on set, in castings, involved with all the rehearsals. We tried to create jobs where I could be on set. I’d do the epk’s [Electronic Press Kits, e.g. ‘making-of’ films], be around to choreograph something or be magic advisor. I found the more projects I did, I started to think of things I would have done, but because I wasn’t directing I didn’t have that opportunity.

 

 When did you make the decision to try your hand at directing?

A few years ago, I was doing a few shorts but I’ve never been on a ladder where the top is to direct. It’s not been a massive intention. I’d withdrawn from ideas a couple of times before. My Brothers, though, had such a momentum to it, you know. I read it and I spoke to Andrew Meehan from the Irish Film Board and said I was interested in directing it. It kind of snowballed then, so I didn’t have the opportunity to change my mind and I think that’s what needed to happen, really.

 

 Do you intentionally work with non-actors?

No, I’m very open to working with both. The X Factor-style auditions we did in Cork were wide open. I was casting for the characters, the stuff I do is character-led. When you work that way you’re looking for the person. I did meet actors who were very, very good, but not quite the character I was looking for.

 

 Did you ever worry that might add further complications to the already daunting task of a first feature?

I went purely by the person. Casting someone to play the character, obviously, but I wanted them to be themselves as much as possible. In this particular story, that’s achievable. If it were some medieval romp, then you’d have to look at extracting more performance rather than just try to cast who you think is the character, in a sense. We had five sessions of casting and found the two younger brothers quickly. The older brother, Noel, was more difficult to cast because he’s not pro-active as a lead role, he’s quite reactionary and he doesn’t have a lot to say. So it’s a tough character to cast. I didn’t want there to be too much weight to what he said, I wanted there to be a flippancy to him. At the same time, I wanted his face to express the burden and responsibility that he had. It was as much a visual thing as a performance to me. Then, before filming, I had a bit of time with the three boys. We improvised around the script and I gave them history and memories so when they’re looking at each other in the van there’s much more than just a line on a page in their eyes. It gives them the ability too, to recount stuff, when you do an improvisation. That kept the script fresh.

 

 So, with working with Will, was he as present as you had been on your screenplays’ shoots?

Will hadn’t done anything before, so I was brought on initially to advise him. I read the script, and fell for it. I think our voices are strangely similar. I felt like I could have written the script myself, in a funny sort of way. The original intention had been to write and direct my first feature, but there was no need for me to do it, because Will was writing this film that I really went for. I was lucky to find a guy that was kind of similar and he was completely included in the whole process. I cast him in the film and he was at all the workshops. I kept throwing Will in to do improvisations and he was really, really good. He plays the arcade manager in the film.

 

You say you and Will share a similar voice. Are there particular subjects you want to address in your films?

This is what resonated on My Brothers – it’s the dynamic of three brothers, three boys. Any kind of father/son dynamic interests me in my work. The imminent death of their father was also a way into how people handle grief. It’s not something I’ve had too much experience with, so it intrigues me. My Brothers was material I would have written myself – boys, their dads and how they battle to be the head honcho. Contemporary man is an issue that I’m looking at a lot at the minute. So it is quite male-orientated, but I’m open. I don’t think I’m going to have a career where I just keep repeating myself, even though of late it might seem that way.

 

Did anything strike you about the experience of working in the Irish industry as opposed to across the pond?

No. I was a complete stranger to everyone and had no problems whatsoever. In terms of the filmmaking process, it was kind of a little bit different to what people would be used to doing. They needed to be loose on set, not to be over precious about minor details that are irrelevant. Sometimes there can be a lot of faffing on set.

 

 So, the Irish faff less?

No, you don’t faff less, but the point is, I came onboard with my own approach, not knowing anyone, and everyone was amazing straight away.

 

Have you ever been particularly struck by a quote, that you might occasionally draw on in your work?

Once, on the set of Heartlands, there was this actor going around handing out sweets. He just said ‘random acts of kindness,’ and that really resonated with me on My Brothers. That idea that people can come into your life and there’s no agenda, no weirdness.

 

Through this experience of directing your first feature, has there been a high point?

We were very lucky to have Snow Patrol do the music. I think the music is absolutely beautiful and it was such a random surprise. We sent the script through a friend to Gary Lightbody [Snow Patrol’s front man]. He sent us the songs and in terms of what the songs are and how they relate to the film – it was a real surprise, and a real high.

 

Was there a low point?

Filming in November with torrential rain, floods and daylight hours from about 10am to 11:30am. And the funny thing was that at one point we actually had to hire a rain machine – in Cork in November. We knew every day was pretty much an impossible schedule. So we worked our asses off to make sure we got as much out of the days as possible. We had twenty days. We were very conscious of that. In discussion with PJ Dillon, the dop, we talked about how minimal we could be with the lighting, how raw and simple we could make it. We tried to get into the project as simply as possible but to maintain the sense of beauty that we wanted from the film.

 

Finally, can you offer advice to anyone on how to get started?

Grow up with Shane Meadows, would be my advice… No, really though. We’ve made close on a hundred little shorts, just for fun. We don’t screen them or put them into festivals. I think that’s one of the things that separates us, me and Shane: we will just make something anyway. When we make a film we say to people, ‘we’re making a film, would you like to put some money in?’, rather than, ‘we want to make a film, can you give us some money?’ We really enjoy doing it. Get a little camera and have a go, don’t wait around for budgets. Just make it yourself, don’t make excuses.

 

Preview screening tickets on sale for Light House Cinema, Smithfield. Cast and crew in attendance to celebrate. 

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland magazine Summer 2010, published July 2nd 2010.

 

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‘My Brothers’ Competition: Win a weekend away to Fota Island Resort

 

The makers of My Brothers, which is released in cinemas nationwide on 17th August, have an incredible prize to give away!!

 

First Prize: Take a weekend stay away in the gorgeous Fota Island Resort, home to all their cast and crew during the filming. Plus 4 tickets (2 x pairs) to a My Brothers screening near you.

Second Prize: A retro Casio watch as featured in the film. This is not the watch worn by their star Don Wycherly but you can tell your mates it is if you fancy. Plus 2 tickets (1 x pair) to a My Brothers screening near you. 

Runner up prizes: Win a pair of tickets to a My Brothers screening near you. The film is playing nationwide so if you’re a lucky winner you can tell them where you want to see the film and they will provide you with a pair of tickets.

 

TO WIN:

 

To enter the competition just answer this simple questions below:

What is Squally’s opinion is “the best thing ever ever ever”?

 

  1. The whale on the beach
  2. Watching a train fly past them.
  3. Being with his brothers.

 

 

Just email your answers to info@treasure.ie with the subject heading  “MY BROTHERS”

Hint: The answer can be found in the trailer below..

 

Prize details:

Pack up the family and escape to your private island with Fota Island Resort, Cork. Win 2 nights’ accommodation for 2 adults and 2 children staying in inter-connecting rooms at Fota Island Resort, with dinner for the family on one evening in Club House.

Fota Island Resort in Cork, is a glorious combination of elegance, natural beauty, serenity and service in one of the most outstanding settings on the Irish coast, where a luxury hotel, renowned golf course, world-class spa and great dining options make it an island that is hard to leave.. I’m sure the cast and crew found it hard for sure!http://www.fotaisland.ie

The film.

Set over Halloween weekend in 1987, My Brothers is the story of the three boys’ journey to replace their dying father’s watch. NOEL (Timmy Creed) is seventeen, serious, weighed down by responsibility. Twelve-year- old PAUDIE (Paul Courtney) is cocky, not so bright and dreams of playing in goals for Liverpool and the youngest is seven year old SCWALLY (T.J Griffin) – daydreamer, naïve and obsessed with Star Wars (despite never actually having seen the films). Using a battered bread van, the brothers embark on a journey across the wild Irish landscape, grappling with grinding gears, dodgy electrics and sibling tensions to get to an arcade machine in a small Irish seaside town.

My Brothers, Written by Cork-born screenwriter Will Collins,  is the directorial debut from award-winning writer Paul Fraser (Heartlands, Somers Town, Dead Man’s Shoes). Original soundtrack composed by Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, and Garret “Jacknife” Lee. The Film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was the opening film at the Galway Film Festival.

 

 Follow my brothers @mybrothersmovie on twitter and http://facebook.com/mybrothersmovie

CLOSING DATE MONDAY 20TH AUGUST @ 5PM

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

 

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Issue 133 Summer 2010 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Will Collins on My Brothers

 

Will Collins, writer of My Brothers, the directorial debut of well-known screenwriter Paul Fraser(A Room for Romeo Brass, Once Upon a Time in the Midland’s), wrote the second piece of our regular Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild article in Film Ireland Summer 2010 issue 133, published 2nd July 2010.

My Brothers is released in cinemas on Friday, 17th August 2012.

Will Collins on using his own family as the material for his debut feature.

 

My Brothers was the first spec script I wrote, but I had written another for my Master’s thesis in Screenwriting at the Huston Film School in NUI Galway. It was a plot monster, filled with cartoonish characters and multiple subplots with satirical aspirations, so I soon grew tired of the juggling act. I wanted to write something simple, with personal truth.

I have two older brothers. We’re opposite in almost every way – so different that you would think we were adopted if it wasn’t for the fact that we look so alike. Like any siblings, we were always hopping off one another for some inane reason – no wonder that the dynamic that we had together became embedded in my head. Looking back now, we really were character gold dust.

 

Subconscious

 

It’s incredible how the human brain can brush the hard times into the subconscious. From the age of about eleven until my mid-teens my father was in and out of hospital (he’s fine now thankfully). I simply had not thought about it in years. That is, until he had to return for several more operations in recent years. A flood of emotions and moments came tumbling back, which I had to deal with.

 

I tend to address all my problems through writing and was compelled to write about that period. I knew I was going to write something about three young brothers – but that was the easy part. I pretty much spent a year mulling over the idea. In that time I figured that they were going to go on a road trip in a bread van to get a watch for their Dad who was dying. Most importantly, I knew the central theme. Having a parent who has been ill for a long period, we build an emotional wall protecting ourselves from the pain of the loss that will happen. It’s a wall that has to come down sooner or later – the later it is, the more damaging it is for the individual.

 

I had done various drafts of a treatment and had taken them into the Galway Writer’s Group I was attending. There, it would be constructively ripped to pieces. Gathering what was left of my pride, I would start from scratch again and again. All in all, counting all the different drafts, those kids went on dozens of different journeys.

 

The pitch

 

Then, harassed by friends, I entered the pitching competition in the Galway Film Fleadh in 2007. I was shortlisted and won, which still ranks as one of the single most terrifying experiences of my life. Although it was worth every bead of sweat and twisted intestine.

 

Then I submitted the treatment to the Irish Film Board for development money and thankfully they decided to fund the writing of the script. Without question this project would have gone nowhere if it were not for the encouragement and support of Andrew Meehan (Development Exec., BSÉ/IFB) who also put me in contact with Paul Fraser.

 

As part of my agreement with BSÉ/IFB, I was encouraged to get notes from an advisor. Andrew mentioned to me that my writing had reminded him of Paul’s (A Room for Romeo BrassHeartlands). My first meeting with Paul didn’t materialize until I had a proper first draft done. I was incredibly nervous; a real writer, someone whose films I had watched and loved was going to read my script. I figured he would politely dismiss it and send me on my way. He didn’t.

 

Paring it down

 

From that point on, it really was a process of paring it back, making the 126-page draft an 80-page draft. Not an easy task. When faced with the challenge of simplifying, it really exposes the elements of the story that are incidental and frivolous. It’s an important skill to work on as a screenwriter.

 

On my second meeting with Paul, he declared his interest in directing the film. I was blessed to work with Paul in more ways than one. He understood the writing process better than anybody and always respected my voice as the writer, making suggestions but allowing me the space to interpret his ideas into the world of my script. More importantly, Paul kept me included right through the filmmaking process, from casting to shooting to the edit.

 

We were lucky enough to have two great producers who went all out to get the film made – Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole. Their passion and enthusiasm was evident from the moment they read the script.

 

It’s strange watching the finished film on the big screen – those are my brothers up there, after all. It’s the simple sincere tale I set out to tell. I see reflections and impressions of my life and family that make me squirm, laugh and cry. It’s wonderful.

 

www.script.ie

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Summer 2010 issue 133, published 2nd July 2010.

 

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ISSUE 133 – My Brothers

My Brothers

With My Brothers getting great responses since its trip to Tribeca, AMANDA SPENCER talks to Paul Fraser about his feature directorial debut.

Fraser’s first big screen collaboration, 24/7saw a lifelong friendship and creative collaboration with Shane Meadows reach a wider audience. Since then, continued collaborations show the writer/director display a love of, and contribution to, cinema that is character-led, choice-driven and hinged on small scale adventures that are still somehow epic.

Fraser deals in heart. His writing credits include, A Room for Romeo Brass, Somers Town, Dead Man’s Shoes Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and Damien O’Donnell’s Heartlands. Films that get right into their characters, characters whose lives are lived in unspectacular surrounds, with few outlets. The themes are rich and universal and Fraser’s tales travel. This time around, and for his feature directorial debut, they’ve come to Ireland.

My Brothers is a road trip embarked on by three brothers to replace their ailing father’s treasured broken watch. Filmed in Cork last November/December, it was penned by young Irish writer, Will Collins. Fraser loves to write. For that reason, he had always assumed his first feature would be self-penned. However, in meeting Will, he found a script that fitted his style, a young writer he wanted to champion and a feature he wanted to direct.

AMANDA SPENCER: How did things go in Tribeca?
Paul Fraser: Well, we premiered in Tribeca. We finished the film the week before and with the volcanic ash in the mix, Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole, the producers, had to go the scenic route to NY to deliver the film. We got some good reviews and great feedback. Yeah, it went down really well and we all eventually got out there, so that was great. It’ll go on a journey of its own now, around to different festivals. I’d love to see it released around autumn.

What started you on the road to writing and directing?
Shane Meadows and I saw Mean Streets one weekend and then we went to a petrol station where you could hire these old cameras that had the VHS cassettes in them. It was the first time I’d ever picked up a camera and we just did silly little sketches and watched them back and laughed our heads off.

Did you have an educational background in film?
I spent two years in bed with a back problem when I was a little boy, but I had really good home tuition. My English teacher just made me write stories. He’d send me a brief, I’d write the story and that was my English education for about a year and a half. When I finished school, I went to business school for four weeks. I then quit that, because it was awful. I got a call from a friend who was doing a performing arts course. They needed help lighting a show. So I went in to help out, and I was watching everyone pretending to be trees, thinking, ‘what a load of nonsense.’ But actually, that’s where I started to write. Then I went on and did a contemporary art degree, and I was writing one-man shows and monologues that I could improvise around because I performed them myself.

When was your big break, and did you see it coming?
At the same time, I was writing little shorts with Shane and we got interest from Palace Pictures/Scala Productions (Stephen Woolley, Nik Powell, Imogen West). They’d seen a short film we’d made called Where’s the Money, Ronnie? and offered us money to make a proper short. We said ‘no,’ though. We wanted to make a feature. The idea we had at that time was for 24/7. So, they paid for us to go and write in a cottage in Wales. After five days, we sent them 200 pages and thought, ‘That was easy.’ They sent us back a list of notes and that’s where my proper education began, I guess. It allowed me to train to be a screenwriter on the job.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133.

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