It’s a matter of loyalty.
As an IRA man is driven into the woods where his executioners await, he reveals some secrets that spur a crisis of conscience in his captor.
Writer/Director Matthew Browne’s short film, The Order, is finally complete. Online. Going out to festivals...
Winner for Best Screenplay at the Largo Film Awards 2016
Set in the fag end days of The Troubles, The Order tells the story of Sean, a member of the IRA, who has betrayed a fellow IRA gunman to the British Army, the worst of all sins. As the film opens we see Sean being driven through some woods by IRA member, Maureen, to meet his executioners. Driver and passenger are old friends and it’s a stomach turning job for Maureen to be tasked with driving Sean – literally – to his death.
Not far away, IRA men, Tom and Mulligan, wait for Maureen to arrive, chatting desultorily about Sean’s betrayal, and the order they’ve been given to execute him for his transgression. Having had their morning coffee, they break camp and head off to dig a grave deep in the woods…
Nic Penrake, Producer/Development Producer: “What intrigued me most about this story was the acceptance Sean feels as he prepares for his execution at the hands of the two IRA men, Tom and Mulligan. Matt did so well capturing the bleak fatalism of the ‘the code’ followed by many in the IRA.
“In spite of having saved Maureen’s sister from her wife-beating husband by betraying him to the British Army, Sean makes no attempt to challenge the sentence imposed on him. He has lived the life of a wanted man for so long he has no faith in his chances of life on the run. He knows the rules. He has broken them. He must pay…
Sean (Trevor Murphy) reveals his secret to Maureen (Pamela Flanagan)
Hidden Christian Allegory?
"I don't think Matthew ever intended for this story to be a Christian allegory, but curiously enough it could be seen as one. Something that didn't strike me until some time after we had a locked edit: Sean's journey invokes the journey of Christ on his way to his crucifiction. Whereas Jesus sacrificed himself for 'mankind', Sean has done so for Maureen's sister, the woman he loves. Whereas Jesus carried a cross up a hill, Sean push-starts the vehicle taking him to his execution. Both men show grace before death.
"We tend to think of 'acceptance' as being a Bhuddist state of mind, but of course it can be seen in so many religious stories. The Order is hardly a religious story, and yet the background to the struggle - Catholic versus Protestant - clearly is about religion."
Picture: Sean (Trevor Murphy) see his executioners waiting for him.
Development and Pre-production
Nic: “Almost a year ago now I responded to an ad Matt put out on Shooting People when he was searching for a 1st AD for his film project, then entitled The Drive. I thought his script had a lot of promise – good dialogue, well-drawn characters, high stakes. But in its original form, it looked and felt very much like a sequence from a larger film, or even TV series.
“I asked him if he’d be willing to work with me in developing it, and so we started to simplify and tighten… One of the first things to go was the opening sequence that showed Maureen picking up Sean in her car. It wasn’t essential to the story and these extra scenes would have meant at least an extra day’s filming and would have took the film to over 15 minutes, which on this occasion I really wanted to avoid. Besides, having all the action take place in one location would help us create a more hermetically sealed story with a stronger sense of watching a story unfold in real time.
We must have gone 8 or 9 drafts before we were both happy. Matt had already cast his actors prior to my reading the script, so our next task was to crew up.
I brought in my DOP from The Stray, Jack Reynolds, who loved the script, while Matt brought in a sound recordist he knew from the Met School of Film. By mid summer we were penciling in a 3-day shoot for early September.
Jack got us a great deal on an Alexa, but with the budget was soon pushing through the ceiling Matt had set for his first serious short, I stepped in to cover some of the hidden costs and throw Matt a credit line. If we'd cut any more corners I doubt we would have had the film we have now.
The shoot… and one pick-up day
Like most low budget productions, this one had its trials and scary moments – like when we were threatened with being locked in – or out – of our location and had to drive around the forest looking for someone who had a spare key... and within a day of wrapping, we lost some rushes through human error that led to our having to schedule a pick-up day. What can I say, we were all overstretched.
“Shiona began an assembly just days after we wrapped. I then joined her on the edit and we had a rough cut two weeks prior to our date for pick-ups, which enabled us to plan for a few extra shots and extend our coverage.
“Matt then came to view what we’d got and was meticulous in combing through it, frame by frame. (He is a Virgo;) But to his credit, he left nothing unchallenged.
“Finally locked off, we booked ourselves in at The Mill with colourist Oisin O’Driscoll. He produced a grade which we very happy with. As we approached Christmas, an American composer I’d got to know through LinkedIn came in to work on the score and by late January we had a pre-mix.
“Early March, we were nearly done, and by now fiddling with the foley for breaking twigs and gun shots, when I realized there was something wrong with the last few seconds of the edit: the breaking twig sound was in the wrong place. We’d dropped it in over the wide, the last shot, when the three men turn their heads, but in doing so, we’d diluted the impact of this crucial interruption.
“The interruption had to come over the strongest image we had showing Sean in imminent danger, not over the wide when we’re looking at the backs of three men. So we shifted the breaking twig to come in earlier and suddenly the whole final 10 seconds fit together.
“It’s gratifying when you choose to take a second look at something you thought was locked off and find that with a tiny shift you’ve managed to fix something, make it sweeter. It’s so easy, when you get to month five in post, as we had, to be tired of the whole job and merely surrender to the desire to have it done and dusted. Just goes to shows,it always pays to keep thinking, even till the very last few frames of your project.“
This post wouldn't be complete without mention of the film's successful entry to the Belfast Film Festival 2017.