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Paddy Slattery • Director of Broken Law

“I felt that the beating heart of the story was between two brothers on opposite sides of the law”


- We chatted to the Irish writer-director, whose film set for release on Netflix in the UK and Ireland tomorrow, 13 January

Paddy Slattery  • Director of Broken Law
(© Nina Val)

Cineuropa chatted to Paddy Slattery, the writer-director of Broken Law [+see also:
film review
interview: Paddy Slattery
film profile
, which world-premiered at last year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. The story centres on two estranged brothers on opposite sides of the law: Joe (Graham Earley), an ex-convict, and David Connolly (Tristan Heanue), a highly respected police officer. Broken Law will be released on Netflix in the UK and Ireland tomorrow, 13 January.

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Cineuropa: When did you start working on Broken Law?
Paddy Slattery:
The first draft was written at the end of 2009. It was vastly different from what we see today. I basically wrote a draft of the script that was very much like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. It was an ensemble piece about intertwined existences and how fear played a role in our lives. Over the years, I learnt how to make films by shooting some shorts, and in 2017, I decided to look at the script again. For budget reasons, we couldn’t raise the amount required to stick to the original concept. So I felt that the beating heart of the story was between two brothers on opposite sides of the law.

The movie was made on a very tight budget: how much did you spend?
We started by raising money through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and that was just enough to kick off the project. Then we raised an additional budget through private financiers, and Screen Ireland came in for completion funds. Our overall budget was €150,000, which is extraordinary, considering that the real production value is roughly €1 million. By that I mean that if our cast and crew had charged us their own standard rates, that would have been the real budget. We couldn’t have made it without their generosity.

How did you get in touch – and start working – with Narayan Van Maele, the film’s DoP?
Narayan has made some shorts with Failsafe Films, and he’s also shot some films with Tristan Heanue. Tristan is not just our lead actor in this film, but he’s also a director and a writer in his own right, and he’s worked with Narayan in the past. So we kind of knew each other through certain circles. I met with Narayan, and we shared the same cinematic vision, so when I knew we had our budget in place, I asked if he’d be interested, and thankfully he was. I was really lucky to have him available when the time came – he’s relatively young, but he’s one of the finest cinematographers here in Ireland.

How long did filming take?
We had a 16-day shoot, spread over four weeks, because physically – I’m quadriplegic – I wouldn’t have been able to sustain very intense, consecutive days of shooting. So we had four days of work and then three days off. And that was in autumn 2018... After our edits in January 2019, we realised that there were certain elements that didn’t work, so we had to add two or three more days of shooting. So all in all, it took 18-19 days.

How did you cast the two leads?
Tristan was cast right from the early-development stage. I always compare him to a young Henry Fonda; I love his sort of “classical Hollywood” looks, but he can also appear as a morally ambiguous character. With Graham, we decided to shoot a three-minute promo of the film, and then I cast him just as a standing actor for that video. However, I was secretly auditioning him. Besides, he knew that it was an opportunity for him to be chosen. So we shot the promo over the course of a day, and at the end of it, Tristan and I knew there was a brilliant creative camaraderie. That night, before we shook hands and said goodbye, I told Tristan: “I think we’ve found our Joe, so let’s make our movie.”

What were the project’s main challenges?
Money and health. I don’t have the physical stamina of someone completely able, so it has been tough. We had two previous incarnations of the project that fell apart at the 11th hour before filming. On the third attempt, I was preparing myself physically and mentally. We eventually made it happen. During the two previous attempts, I almost fell apart emotionally. There were times when I thought: “I don’t think I’ll ever get this done.” It was tough trying to get through that. Financially, we were really hindered in every respect.

Congratulations on your upcoming Netflix release. Did you expect this to happen?
I’ll be honest – and I don’t mean this in an arrogant way – we didn’t expect it, but we knew it was likely to happen because from the earliest stages, we had pitched this film to a distributor and sales agent at the market organised by the Galway Film Fleadh. Break Out Pictures loved the project and our ambition. We knew that if we could get it distributed, we’d get a theatrical release and be in with a good chance of having Netflix come along further down the line.

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