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Director's delight Paraplegic filmmaker Paddy is thrilled with IFTA nomination for hit Netflix movie Broken Law

"We were keeping our fingers crossed, seeing my name mentioned was a bit surreal"

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Paddy Slattery found his new calling after a car accident.

Paddy Slattery found his new calling after a car accident.

Paddy Slattery found his new calling after a car accident.

A man who dreamed of a filmmaking career as he recovered from a life-changing car crash has told of his delight that his first movie has become a Netflix hit.

Paddy Slattery spent his days watching movies as he recovered from a car accident that left him confined to a wheelchair — and set a goal to make a film of his own.

That movie, gritty thriller Broken Law, has landed five nominations for next week’s IFTAs. The movie has won fans worldwide since it launched on the giant streaming platform. It’s also put the Co Offaly man firmly on the radar of producers and financiers as he plans his second feature film.

“We were anticipating the announcements all week and keeping our fingers crossed,” said the filmmaker. “A nomination would be almost an award for me. So seeing my name mentioned was a bit surreal. As I said to the lads [his cast and crew], the Best Film nomination is all of our nomination, we wouldn’t have it otherwise.”

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John Connors in Broken Law

John Connors in Broken Law

John Connors in Broken Law

 

Made on a tiny budget, Broken Law is the first movie from Slattery, who already has several music videos and award-winning shorts under his belt. Shot in Dublin’s north city, it tells the story of two estranged brothers on opposite sides of the law. Dave Connolly (Tristan Heanue) is a respected Garda whose loyalties are tested when his ex-convict brother Joe (Graham Earley) becomes involved in a violent robbery.

The movie has become one of the leading contenders at this year’s IFTAs, having been nominated for Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Lead Actor (Heanue) and Supporting Actress (Ally Ni Chiarain).

“I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction,” said Slattery. “I’ve planted that seed in the subconscious of the universe so there is hope and expectation, but when it happens, you’re like: maybe I didn’t expect it to bear that much fruit. It’s what you’ve been working toward and that was our goal. The same with the cinema release, and Netflix and all that stuff. I mean, if I didn’t go in with that belief at the very beginning, I don’t think I would have instilled enough faith in our financers. You have to set your sights as high as possible. And that’s what we did.”

Already a movie-making achievement, Broken Law is all the more exceptional when you learn that Slattery only first dreamed of a filmmaking career following a serious car accident more than two decades ago.

Making the film was a huge physical as well as creative challenge because the director and writer is quadriplegic and a wheelchair user after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in the accident.

While he found it hard to come to terms with not walking again, he never felt depressed or angry about the accident, instead looking at it as what he has described as “second chance syndrome”.

And as he faced into a lengthy recovery, he turned to the movies. “I was in Dun Laoghaire [in the national Rehab centre] for a year and then maybe two years after that, all my life consisted of really was physiotherapy, eating, sleeping, and watching movies and listening to music.

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Graham Earley in Broken Law

Graham Earley in Broken Law

Graham Earley in Broken Law

 

“That was it. I got lost down an imaginary hole of adventure and misadventure and drama. I loved the fact that I could get lost in these movies. It was around that time of the DVD phenomenon with special features and making-of documentaries.

“I started to become consumed by what goes into making a film because sort of simultaneously at that time, I was given a typewriter to write and then eventually a laptop. And I did start to write and pique my curiosity.”

It took him years to get Broken Law made and the film was released in Irish cinemas last summer, though Covid restrictions undoubtedly had an impact.

As was the case for many filmmakers, it was a setback.

“Our distributors Breakout Pictures, they were extremely enthusiastic about our film, looking at the metrics of films like, say, Cardboard Gangsters or The Young Offenders, there was an appetite for our film out there. Covid and the lockdown put the kibosh on that plan. It still went on and managed to gross over €100,000 and be the highest Irish box office film that year.”

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Graham Earley and Tristan Heanue in Broken Law

Graham Earley and Tristan Heanue in Broken Law

Graham Earley and Tristan Heanue in Broken Law

But once the movie received a Netflix release deal, audiences flocked to watch the gritty Irish thriller.

“Although a lot of people were buzzing about the cinema release, and the premiere in Dublin [the film had its world premiere at Dublin International Film Festival], it was really when it hit Netflix that I suddenly sat up and thought: ‘OK, now this is what it’s like to get an audience’. My emails, my texts, my social media...it was an avalanche of messages coming in to me after Netflix on a scale that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced.”

Now Slattery has started work on his next feature, a drama called Reverse, and has been contacted by numerous producers and financiers enquiring about what he’s developing next.

“The next one is essentially the one that I’ve got to nail. My ambition for the next one is really high and I’ve got to dig even deeper now. In my own journey, I’ve realised that it’s not about what you want. It’s about what you have, and how you feel about what you have and appreciate what you have.”

Normal People, Line of Duty and RTE drama series Smother are among the high-profile nominees for the IFTA Film and Drama Awards, which will take place virtually on July 4 , broadcast on Virgin Media One. In the film categories, joining Broken Law with multiple nominations are Dating Amber, Herself and Wildfire. You can view the full list of nominees on ifta.ie

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