With no state funding to back his dream film project, director Luke Hanlon had to turn thrifty to ensure the success of The Troubles, A Dublin Story
A former windscreen repairman from Dublin has landed his debut film a spot at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival in California.
Apart from replacing car windscreens, Luke Hanlon eventually became the face of Autoglass TV ads, and has now written, directed, and produced his own film set during the Troubles in 1980s Dublin – funded solely by his life savings.
Hanlon (40) wrote and directed The Troubles, A Dublin Story over 18 months, basing the story of two Dublin brothers on true accounts of those involved.
The first-time director grew up in Santry in Dublin and began his career as a technician for Autoglass before landing the role as the face of their ‘Autoglass repair, Autoglass replace’ television advertisements.
Later, Hanlon began work as a film extra and discovered writing as a way of coping with depression.
“I suffered from depression, and I just needed to write. I was drinking too much when I left Autoglass, I was just being stupid. Writing kind of saved my life,” he told Independent.ie.
“I was out of work, no money. I was just at a low point, and someone said, 'you’re good with words. Why don't you try to write something down?’ I always had the idea for this film because I kind of grew up in that world.
“I always found when I would be looking at films about the IRA, that they were lionised. They were either proud freedom fighters with these high morals or they were portrayed as terrorists. But to me, these were just normal guys. These guys go to work nine to five.
“They were just very, very ordinary. They are not moralistic freedom fighters, nor are they evil terrorists.”
Through the film, Hanlon said he wanted to draw a link between seemingly nonviolent acts and eventual terrorist attacks – and how many people who joined “did not understand the implications” of the IRA.
“The film follows how a robbery in Dublin could lead all the way down to a bomb killing innocent children. They were so far removed from it that a lot of them could not see it. They would think, 'We are not doing that. We are only extorting money out of this pub. We are not planting the bombs,’ he said.
“I was warned not to mention these type of things. It was only 30 to 40 years ago, so it is still very raw. A lot of people do not talk about this, but we should because it is a part of our history.”
The director highlighted how recent and fresh these events still are within the public and how many of the movers and shakers of the Troubles are still alive.
“They'd be nearly living on the same road. You could live next door to someone who got their kneecaps blown off by the guy on the other side of your house,” he said.
“I talked to people whose relations were killed by the IRA, people who were criminals up in Northern Ireland and then they were sent down to Dublin.
“Everyone knew somebody. It was just kind of a part of life back then.”
What at first began as a short three-minute teaser, soon grew into an ambitious 93-minute feature film with hundreds of extras and even two armoured tanks, all funded by Hanlon’s own €10,000 savings.
Official, state-backed funding sources turned him down – a fact that Hanlon says pointed to their lack of interest in the story.
“Nobody would listen to us. Nobody would talk to us even after we had made it. They would not even come into a room with us,” he said.
“They are not interested in these type of stories. I do not know why, but they are just not.”
Hanlon clarified that they did eventually meet but only after the film gained attention at its Galway Film Fleadh premiere and official selection for the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival in the US. The film is also showing at the IndieCork Film Festival this week.
The film stars relatively unknown actors Ray Malone, Adam Redmond, Wayne Byrne, William Delaney, Sarah Hayden and Sophia Adli, with Hanlon describing them all as “highly trained, very talented and driven”.
Cinematography was by Colm Mullen, while it was edited by Oleg Rudowski and Jay Javeiri.
Shot across Ireland, the project had no shortage of challenges and expenses including a proposed €6,000 fee to use archive footage of Bobby Sands, the IRA member who died on hunger strike.
“Instead we shot a whole scene that basically replicated Belfast in 1981," he said.
“We shut down the whole street in Dundalk, we got two armoured tanks, we got all the cars, all the weapons, all the soldiers, and 100 extras. We shot that for €950 and it is one of the top scenes in the film, it is the second opening scene in the film.”
Another example of the film’s frugality came in the form of the costumes for all the extras and neighbours who volunteered to be in the scene.
“A trick with the costumes is that we would go into a giant Penneys store and buy €1,000 worth of costumes. Afterwards, we got a tag gun on Amazon for about €10 and when we were finished, we would retag all the clothes, and bring them back,” Hanlon said.
“We would get all our money back, so we saved money on costumes. It was a good trick.”.
“We haggled, bargained, charmed everyone and anyone to help us out with props, cars, locations and 99pc of the people were more than happy to be involved. The people of Ireland are great like that.”
In the end, Hanlon credits the knowledge gleaned during his time as a film extra for helping him finish the movie on a limited budget with few resources.
“I think everyone can write. Everyone has a story to tell, and this is just my perspective of the world. This is not the right perspective or the wrong perspective. It is just my perspective,” he said.