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The Comedy of Errors

My Brothers - Paul Fraser Interview

10 September 12 words: Harry Wilding
"I made a flippant comment that the Irish Film Board took seriously and then gave me the money before I could go changing my mind"
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You may not instantly recognise the name Paul Fraser but if you’re into film then it’s more than likely that you’ll have seen his work.  He’s been a writer on a number of Shane Meadows’ films including Dead Man’s Shoes, Somers Town and A Room for Romeo Brass, to name but a few, and Heartlands. Stepping away from the script side of things, his directorial debut, My Brothers, is about to be have a one-off screening at Broadway with Paul there to field your questions afterwards.  We got in there first to find out what it’s all about and why he put the pen down and picked the camera up…

Tell us a bit about My Brothers and why you reckon we should go watch it.
It’s an Irish film about three brothers who jump into a knackered bread van to go on a small scale odyssey to get a gift for their dying dad. Not the funniest of premises but it’s full of heart and comedy, and is crammed with loads of stuff about family dynamics, sort of like a home movie with you and two siblings. Why should you go see it? Erm... Broadway has comfy seats. And the weather is meant to be a bit rubbish on the thirteenth September, according to someone who likes googling weather. And Robert Pattinson is going to come along with Su Pollard. OK, I might have made the last bit up…

You shot the film in winter, did that make things harder on the shoot?
It was one of the worst Nov/Dec in Ireland - and that's saying something. Daylight shooting time felt like half an hour and however many layers we had on didn't seem enough to escape the biting cold. Somehow all this doesn't seem to show in the final film, so I thought I would mention it here to convey a sense of this being a hard shoot. Nothing to do with the weather, but I was also the only Brit involved in the whole project so I had to rely on a host of people to help me from basic things like demystifying the Cork accent to understanding some of the nuances of Irish culture. The crew and everyone involved were magnificent, the only complaint was the day some hippies came and did the catering and left the bones in the chicken curry. The producers were on hand to buy pizzas though, so again, not much of a drama.

How hard was it finding three young actors that fitted the parts so well?
The kids were untrained; we held low scale X-factor-style auditions over the course of a few weekends, if someone said they came because they got time off school they automatically got through to ‘boot camp’. The three boys we ended up with transformed the script, the eldest being totally different to the character we had began searching for. I pushed the writer to reduce the script so the kids could then add and improvise around the story. We got them to do improvised workshops, unrelated to the script, to help them get to know each other. I wanted them to feel as comfortable as possible, to feel like they had lived as brothers for years, and to feel like they owned the story.

Has My Brothers been well received at festivals? Are you happy with the final result?
The film has played really well all over the world, and the Irish release a few weeks ago was met with some great reviews. Saying that, I don't think anyone sets out to make a film wondering about how it will go down, you just attempt to do the best you can do. Being the first film it is, in many ways, a learning curve, but one that I hope does everyone involved proud. It's not perfect but that gives it its charm. It's a very low budget road movie and we tried our very best-est (promise) to do a good job.

Considering you have written screenplays previously, how did the decision come about to direct someone else's screenplay for you first feature film?
I work as a script doctor all over the world but not in the UK – I’m not sure how that has happened but I’m open to offers - and was hired to advise the writer on the script. A casual chat led to directing it; a flippant comment that the Irish Film Board took seriously and then gave me the money before I could go changing my mind. In hindsight it was the best thing to do, for me, to be able to focus on the job of directing and let someone else go off and do the tweaks and changes as the story evolved.

You made the film in 2010, have you had trouble getting the film distributed?
It's an Irish film, an Irish production and the producers wanted an Irish release, and more if they could. The film is coming out on DVD later this month.

You’ve co-written with Shane Meadows on a number of films, has he seen the film and what does he think of it?
He’ll be watching on the cosy seating at Broadway.

You shot the short Scummy Man - a film based on the Artic Monkey’s song When The Sun Goes Down - how did that come about?
I do a lot of work with Warp Films - Alex and their label were looking for someone to write and direct a short film inspired by the song. I wrote a draft of the story and sent it in. Simple as that.

Are you planning to direct again anytime soon?
Yep. It’s hard to find scripts that have the shades of grey - probably the wrong term to use nowadays - that I want in a screenplay, so whatever happens next I will definitely be involved in writing it too. But, at the end of the day I am a writer who sometimes directs, writing is my real passion. But I get a bit bored sitting at home on my own so getting out and making things, with mates or with a budget stops me going mad.

Any scripts or film projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I am writing an adaptation of a book called Numbers, by Rachel Ward - it's a teen fiction about a girl with the ability to see the day you are going to die. It’s like a proper Friday night multiplex-type story, so I am countering that with other projects a little closer to home.

Anything else you want to say to the LeftLion readers?
Erm, I went to a pub in town the other day and slipped on a small poo that was by the bar, people looked around, it was a bit embarrassing, so I ordered a drink and quickly sat down. A man came in after us, a big fucker, he walked to the bar and also slipped over on the poo, he got up, looking a bit embarrassed too. He ordered his drink. I told him that I had just done that. He hit me.

My Brothers will be showing at Broadway cinema on Thursday 13 September at 7.45pm, followed by a Q&A with Paul Fraser.  My Brothers will be released on DVD on Monday 1 October.

Broadway event page
Paul Fraser IMDB




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