'This has been the dream for a long time'
When Peter Bradshaw, the film critic for the Guardian newspaper, penned his thoughts on 'Broken Law', Offaly director Paddy Slattery's debut feature film, he described it as "a headbutt of a thriller".
"We thought that was a hilarious quote," laughs Paddy. "What is a headbutt of a thriller? Well, watch this and you'll find out! It basically hits you hard from the beginning and it doesn't relent until the end."
Paddy (pictured, top) is speaking ahead of the upcoming cinema release of 'Broken Law' in Ireland. Set in Dublin, the film which stars Tristan Heanue, Graham Earley, and John Connors, revolves around two brothers - one a Garda, the other a criminal.
Its preview screening will take place at the Cork International Film Festival this Thursday, July 30, and it will then begin to open in cinemas across the country.
"It opens in Ireland on Friday, July 31, and will be fully nationwide by August 14," says Paddy. "The question is, will people go out and see it? Please God they will, because this has been a dream for a long time and it would be a shame for Covid to pull the rug out from under us at this late stage."
A native of Clonbullogue, where he still lives and has set up a studio, Paddy has a serious acquired disability. He is quadriplegic and a wheelchair-user following a car accident that occurred in 1996, when he was aged 17.
He hasn't allowed this to prevent him from directing numerous award-winning short films, and then moving on to his feature-length debut, a project that has been in gestation for many years.
"It's been a lifetime in the making, but it's nearly ten years since I finished the first draft of a script on it," he says.
"It was around 2016 that I felt I had the confidence to take on a feature as a director, and that's when we made the moves in terms of trying to take it from the page and into production."
An earlier imagining of the film had been entitled 'The Broken Law of Attraction' and was a large ensemble piece that would have been especially costly to stage, so a decision was taken to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more scaled-down version.
"I went back to revise the script and concentrated on the brotherly story and the test of loyalty between the two brothers," he says. "It had been a film about the theme of fate versus coincidence, but it then became more about loyalty.
"Our main character, Dave Connolly, who's a guard, is going through a crisis of identity and trying to figure out who he is. He discovers that his family were more entwined into a world of crime than he was initially led to believe, so suddenly his loyalty between his family and the law is called into question."
Paddy describes his crime thriller as a "high-octane, fasten-your-seatbelts kind of drama" and the early feedback in response to it have been positive.
In Peter Bradshaw's review for the Guardian, he praises the director's "impressive work" and says it's a film with "loads of energy and belligerent moxie".
How does Paddy feel about the response so far?
"It feels surreal, because once you make a feature film it's obviously different to making short films. You can be forgiven for making a bad short film, because you're essentially learning, but once you make a feature you're out there and critics can get the knives out.
"They call it as it is, so we were prepared for people to be quite honest about what they thought. Thankfully, I haven't read a negative review yet, but I'm prepared for a negative review, because at the end of the day people have different personalities and tastes.
"But in terms of what we've put on the screen technically, performance-wise, and the story, I'm quite proud of what we have there."
The filming of 'Broken Law' took place in East Wall, on the northside of the Liffey. The production had a budget of €150,000 but Paddy explains that it ran out of money during the post-production stage.
"We applied to Screen Ireland, which used to be the Irish Film Board, for completion funding just to finish post-production, and thankfully they got behind us and helped us get over the line," he says.
"If we had the budget I would have shot the film in more of a Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson style, with lots of tracks and cranes and steadycams, but the directional style was more determined by our budget. When you are - what we'd call - runnin' and gunnin', you have to shoot fast.
"It's a very hand-heldy, realistic, visceral kind of style. We would have shot very fly-on-the-wall-ish. You feel like you're in the scene with the characters. We didn't want to show a grim Dublin, because there is lots of life there and it is a sort of a melting pot now, ethnically and culturally, so we wanted to show the diverse colour as well in the city."
Asked about his next project, he says one possibility, if 'Broken Law' does well, is for it to be developed into a TV series.
"I have written 'Broken Law' in a way that it could potentially be developed into a TV series. I don't want to spoil it for any audience, but I think there's more that could be explored with the story and with the characters.
"At the same time, I want to make another original feature, so my plan is to hide out for the winter and come back to the surface in January with a new script, hopefully."
There aren't many directors in the film industry who are wheelchair-users, as Paddy acknowledged.
"It's very rare that you see physical, sensory or other disabilities represented in the industry, but the times are a-changin' and it's an exciting time. What is rare now might, in 20 years' time, be just incidental and not as relevant.
"Thankfully, the technology is coming up to meet that demand because without technology I wouldn't be able to do it - without wireless monitors and that kind of stuff.
"For example, if I'm shooting a scene in an attic of an old Tudor house, there's no way I'd be able to get up there with the cast and crew, but I can talk through that scene and choreograph it somewhere else, and then let them off while I follow it on a monitor.
"So there's no excuse for anyone out there, who may be in a wheelchair or whatnot, and may be considering a career like this," he states.
"There's absolutely no reason why you can't do it, but I also have to be honest and say I'm lucky that the Centre for Independent Living provides me with personal assistance. They can be my arms and legs on set, and I have such an amazing family that are close-knit, my mother, father, brothers and sisters.
"Especially when you're making a film, you don't really have a traditional routine, per se. You've got to rely on a lot of people who can adapt their lives around your schedule and if it wasn't for the help of my PAs and my family I wouldn't have been able to do it," he concludes.
* 'Broken Law', directed by Paddy Slattery, begins its nationwide cinema release from July 31.