York Shackleton on the Educated Compromises of 'Disturbing the Peace'

We chat with the director about accepting compromise but never losing vision on set.

Disturbing The Peace
Saban Films

Making movies is an exercise in confidence. It’s a flex. To tell a story that requires hundreds of crazed bikers, a townful of terrified citizens, a handful of horses, a boatload of firearms, and…um…an actual town to do with as you see fit is a tremendous declaration. You dare say, “I can do this!?” Jeez, buddy, are you mad? No way you can make this work for the tiny pile of cash you have on hand.

York Shackleton is a confident dude. At the very least, he can put on the costume of confidence to get the job done even as the doubt is seeping through the cracks. He can transform a town into a battlefield because he’s done it before and he’ll probably do it again. Directing is simply a combination of math and magic. Two great tastes that will work together if you just bash ’em into reality.

Disturbing the Peace is a bold bet of a movie. At the center is a town held hostage by a biker gang. They’re looking to pull off a heist that a bunch of county yokels couldn’t possibly prevent. The thorn in their side is the town Marshall (Guy Pearce). He hasn’t picked up a gun since he fled the Texas Rangers in disgrace. The time has come for the pathetic slump of a cop to stand up and prove his worth in the face of leather-clad tyranny.

When we last spoke to Shackleton, we discussed the IV drip of action movie violence that’s constantly jabbed into his veins. Not much has changed over the last year. He’s still thriving on the same batch of films, but budget and time don’t offer him the opportunity to lavishly pay homage. He’s got a damn movie to make.

“I’m inspired by ’80s action films, and we were looking at movies like Road House and stuff like that,” says Shackleton. “But like any project, once you start making it, it really takes on its own life, and no matter how much you try to emulate something else or be in the vein of something else, every project is going to be its own entity in the end.”

The producers went to Shackleton because he loves the films that he does, and he pumps his work full of all that glorious ’80s energy. He won’t deny that the flavor he loved in his youth seems absent from the buffet of current cinema. A part of his goal is to bring a little bit of that back, but an even larger part revolves around making his days and delivering a kickass film for the audience.

“If you’ve got unlimited funding and you’ve got unlimited shooting days,” he adds, “then you can hold true to your shot list. When you’re on a tighter schedule like this one, you have to stay limber a little bit. I call it ‘making educated compromises.’ If the script is calling for 45 Harley Davidsons to come barreling down this road one at a time, and you’re in the middle of Kentucky, and there aren’t 45 Harley Davidsons, what do you do? Are you going to cry about it, or are you going to make your day and get your shots?”

The 45 Harley Davidsons are out; 23 will have to do. Shackleton duplicates a couple in the back. Done. No big deal. He got the point across.

Making 23 Harley Davidsons look like 45 is one thing. How the hell did he bend a town to his will? That’s no backlot. “Kentucky was the answer,” says Shackleton. “Cave City was a very small town, and there was not a lot of activity. Not all of the businesses were open at the time, but we had the support of the local community and the small little film commission that was there. All the local people got behind us.”

The reality of the situation was that Disturbing the Peace did just the opposite. They didn’t lock down Cave City, they just sanctioned off a piece here and a piece there. “We couldn’t block certain roads or businesses,” he explains. “Yet the community was incredible, and even business owners were saying, ‘Look, we have to keep this road open, but we’re going to let you shut it because we want you to get these shots.’ And they wanted to watch and hang out by craft service. The love of filmmaking pushed through.”

For all the pre-production and planning Shackleton accomplished, he also knew that they needed the ability to improvise. Since so much of the process revolved around the whims of the town, if plan A wasn’t available, they had to go to plan B or fabricate a plan C right there on the spot.

“You have to be organic in the moment,” he says. “You’ve got these actors; they’re in character, they’re bringing the emotions. The set must be an organic being. Sometimes you just want to be open because you realize what I had in my head, and what I’m now seeing on the day are two different things.”

You don’t have to kill your darlings; they’re dead already. Shackleton is swimming like a shark, always moving forward with no possibility of reverse. He takes big bites, but he’ll choke it down and let his stomach (I think that’s the editor in this metaphor) deal with it later. Shackleton gets the job done because that’s the job. On to the next movie to conquer.


Disturbing the Peace is now available on Digital HD and VOD. 

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.