“When I first read the pitch document for this film, it said, ‘I want this to be a cinematic kick in the teeth,” Australian actor Ryan Corr (Hacksaw Ridge) recalls, speaking to director Stephen McCallum’s crime drama 1%, bowing here at TIFF. “I remember that standing out so strong—it’s pulling no punches.”

This is certainly an apt description for McCallum’s directorial debut of Shakespearean proportions, which explores a seedy Australian underbelly of motorcycle gangs, with violence aplenty. Written by Matt Nable, who also stars as “Knuck,” the film sees Corr’s Paddo thrown into a dangerous and desperately inescapable situation, with brutally violent ends. “I first got the script from the producer, Michael Pontin, and I was just immediately drawn to Paddo and Knuck’s story. A man has to choose between his brother and his father, and the Shakespearean elements that come out of that,” McCallum explains. “It’s set within a biking club, so what drew me to it initially was that it was a real, character-driven film. I thought that was really important, and something I really wanted to explore.”

Unrecognizable in studio without his array of tattoos and the 20 pounds of muscle he put on for the picture, Nable’s ambition with the film was to demonstrate the human side of the criminal element. “The idea for me always, from a screenwriting point of view, is to explore these people in this very, very hardcore sort of environment, but they still have the same capacity to love, and to hope,” he says. “They’re normal people, they’re just in a very different sort of environment.”

“That’s absolutely what drew me to the story as well, was seeing the humanity behind these characters, strong male characters but even stronger female characters, as well, and setting them in this really visceral, violent and mysterious world, and exploring that, bringing that on screen,” McCallum adds.

Approaching the subject of gang violence, Nable didn’t dive too deep into research, preferring to rely on several sources familiar with the subject within his own crew, as well as the imagination. “I don’t know too many of these people myself, so as an actor, you make assumptions,” he explains.

For Corr, having the feature’s scribe on set as an actor was invaluable in shepherding him into the film’s world. “Having the writer on set and being able to come up and workshop ideas actively in the moment while you’re shooting is pretty incredible. The rehearsal process beforehand with Steve was really valuable,” Corr says. “We meet these characters at a certain stage in their history, and we had to really fill in the backstory behind that so when you meet them, it was rich and it was textured.”

To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with the 1% team, click above.

Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii LoveWatford GroupPhilosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Joking.