Back to IndieWire

Tribeca ’10 | Director Paul Fraser’s Homegrown “My Brothers”

Tribeca '10 | Director Paul Fraser's Homegrown "My Brothers"

Tribeca will play host to the world premiere of Irish director Paul Fraser’s feature directorial debut “My Brothers,” competing in the World Narrative Feature Competition.

From the producers of last year’s award-winning “The Eclipse,” “My Brothers” is a beautiful and heartwarming road movie set during the Halloween weekend of 1987. The eldest of three boys, 17-year-old Noel has always been the reserved, serious, and responsible one. When he accidentally breaks his dying father’s wristwatch that he won from an arcade in the town of Ballybunion, he “borrows” his boss’ bread van with his two younger brothers—11-year-old Paudie and seven-year-old Scwally—in tow. Paudie is a bit cocky and not so bright but dreams of playing for the Liverpool soccer team. Scwally has never seen Star Wars but is obsessed with it. On the trip, brotherly differences—and similarities—turn the journey into more than what they expected.

Director Paul Fraser, who wrote the award-wining “Somers Town” (TFF ’08) makes an assured directorial debut that skillfully maneuvers the nuances of William Collins’ script and balances the offbeat humor with the emotional richness of the story. Fraser also perfectly assembles a stunning cast of newcomers—Timmy Creed (Noel), Paul Courtney (Paudie), and TJ Griffin (Scwally)—who have a natural rapport with each other and carry the film firmly on their young shoulders. “My Brothers” is a simple story full of the unexpected complexities that go along with being a family. [Synopsis courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]

“My Brothers”
World Narrative Feature Competition
Director: Paul Fraser
Primary Cast: Timmy Creed, Paul Courtney, TJ Griffin, Kate Ashfield, Don Wycherley, Kate Ashfield
Screenwriter: William Collins
Producers: Rebecca O’Flanagan, Rob Walpole
Editor: Emer Reynolds
Director of Photography: PJ Dillon
Production Designer: Mark Geraghty
84 min., Ireland

[Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.]

Director Paul Fraser on what lead his to become a filmmaker and how he came to direct “My Brothers”…

A misspent childhood, running across fields getting shot at in the day and then watching films at night that were too old for us would be the unfortunate beginnings. I grew up in a small town that offered little creative incentives, so with Shane Meadows (a childhood pal) we sourced our own inventions; making comedy sketches for the old men in the pubs and forcing mates to take part in homemade short films/sketches on rented video cameras. A delve into theater and performance led to my writing career, which in turn led to music videos, shorts and, rather randomly, into this debut.

Originally I advised the writer (Will Collins) on “My Brothers.” His talent and ability came to the fore and I felt an urge to see the script through to completion. It struck me how close Will’s script was to my own voice (as though I had written it myself), and his instincts throughout the redrafting process were always spot on. My intention had always been to write the first script I directed, but Will’s subtle, gentle and charming little story was too good to ignore.

Will’s script was inspired by his upbringing and particularly the period in his childhood when his Dad was ill (fortunately he recovered). He wanted the story to capture the dynamics he had with his two brothers throughout that period; how, despite his illness, they continued their bickering ways despite being deeply affected. His script, at its heart, was always a simple story from the gut, with honest characters and a raw emotion that resonate from the page.

I love writing; directing had always been an option but I had never really had a strong desire until this script came along. I made noises to the Irish film board about directing it and then the momentum took hold and we were shooting before I had chance to have second thoughts.

Rob Warpole and Rebecca O’flanagan (producers) met Will and were as excited and as taken by the script as myself. They pushed hard to get the film funded, a new writer, first time director and a cast of unknowns, not the easiest of sells.

Fraser on how he approached the task of directing his first feature…

I wanted to follow the approach I had been developing in my shorts, and was fortunate enough to collaborate with people who would allow this. I wanted to embellish on my casting and performance workshopping to bring out the inherent realism, humour and truth within the script. This led us through an exhaustive search for the right three boys to play the brothers; open auditions were reminiscent of Britain’s X Factor.

I wanted to have looseness to the process, to allow collaboration and input from everyone involved. I wanted the boys to feel confident (being the first time for all three) and to feel inclusive in defining whom their characters were.

We had an extensive workshop period prior to the shoot. I wanted to ensure that even the slightest of looks between the brothers, on camera, was laced with a history they could recount – we avoided over reading the script to keep the scenes as lose and as improvisational as possible.

The music was a massive part of the process. We were fortunate to have a connection with Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) who read the script and immediately started sending us songs that were inspired by the story. This led to himself and Jacknife Lee creating the original score and tracks.

I always strive for truth, honesty and realism within my screenplays. I took the same approach to directing “My Brothers.” I like to tell and watch films that are driven by the character’s choices, as opposed to a narrative dictating the journey of the character. I worked with the writer on this notion from the onset.

I didn’t take the normal film school route into filmmaking, so what I do is more organic and instinctive. My frames of reference are random, from Wong Kar-Wai and Tarkovsky to “Cannonball Run” and collaborations with Shane Meadows and other directors.

Fraser on the challenges he faced in completing the project and why his film is universal…

We went ahead with the film knowing our budget and shooting days were going to be very tight. A near impossible daily schedule and adverse weather made everyone punch above their weight. Not only was it my directorial debut, it was also the same for many of the cast and the writer. I had never shot a film outside the UK either, another first. An unknown cast and crew, working with an unconventional director, is daunting enough at the best of times, but they were all simply sublime.

While this story is uniquely Irish in setting and tone, it deals with truly universal themes. Centrally the struggle to come to terms with the loss of a parent will affect everyone at some point in his or her lives. The complex relationship between siblings and their need to identify themselves as separate to each other while being profoundly connected is one that most audiences will identify with. And while these are universal and fundamental themes, the film looks at them with humour and warmth. Crucially the hope is that the audience will be entertained.

And on what’s next for him…

I’m always working on a number of projects, at the moment I’m writing a film set around the ongoing building work for London 2012 Olympics – funded in the same way as “Somers Town,” which was in Tribeca 2008. I’m looking forward to picking up my pen and doing some writing again – but this process, the intensity, the slip into madness, the joys, the man-flu… they’re kind of addictive. So I can’t wait to get behind the camera again, perhaps with my own script.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Festivals and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox