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Writer and Director Dan Gilroy, centre, is photographed with his Executive Producer brother Tony, right, and Editor brother John in a Toronto hotel room as he promotes the movie "Nightcrawler" during the 2014 Toronto Film Festival on Friday September 5, 2014.CHRIS YOUNG/The Globe and Mail

No first-time movie director gets final cut privilege – but if you've got your older brother acting as a producer at least you know artistic control will stay in the family.

That was one big advantage Hollywood veteran Tony Gilroy could bring to brother Dan Gilroy, as the long-time screenwriter slid into the director's chair for Nightcrawler, his dark L.A. thriller about the stringers who gather crime-scene footage for local TV news. The other thing Tony offered? Day-to-day advice.

"He brought his stature in the industry to the project," says Dan during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival where Nightcrawler made its debut last Friday. "There were things we were allowed to do because he was the producer."

"The most practical function was to hang on to final cut," Tony explains but adds, "my biggest contribution was I had walked this path before. … I could say, 'Don't do this; try not to do this; never do this.'"

The brothers had worked together before, co-writing the script for The Bourne Legacy, which Tony directed while Dan's twin brother, John, another industry veteran, did the editing.

All three brothers, now in their fifties, followed their father into the movie business: Frank Gilroy is a screenwriter and dramatist who won the Pulitzer Prize for 1964's The Subject Was Roses. Working together comes naturally to the trio."It's great working with family," John says. "There's not an ego thing with any of us, we are team players."

But this time, the project was Dan's baby. He had long had the idea he wanted to write a script about Weegee, the famed New York crime photographer of the 1930s and 1940s. In L.A., he found a contemporary equivalent in the so-called nightcrawlers, the freelancer ambulance chasers who provide the city's fiercely competitive TV newscasts with gruesome images of crime and accidents. And so, the unscrupulous Lou Bloom was born and brought chillingly to life by actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

"Jake and I were on the same page in terms of what his psychological makeup was," Dan says. "Sociopath is one word you could use. We were always trying to find the higher instinct or better side of the character, to try and make him more human and keep the connection with the audience."

What higher instinct?

"He's an earnest, hard-working, respectful, polite young man. In this world that goes a long way," he adds.

Tony and John contribute some dark laughter at this point, but Dan insists the movie is realistic about the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of TV news.

"I believe it is an accurate portrayal of television news in Los Angeles," he says of the film, in which yet another family member, his wife, actress Rene Russo, is cast as a hardened, ratings-driven news director. She's ready to buy the worst images the stringer has to offer and the increasingly bold Lou proves immune to ethics.

"I don't know if that character exists in real life but I wouldn't want to say he doesn't," Dan says "... I encountered a few people who were doing this job who could qualify."

TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey compares the film to classic investigations of voyeurism such as Michael Powell's 1960 cult movie Peeping Tom and sees in Lou's rearranging of crime scenes a dark metaphor for the filmmaker's art. Still, the Gilroys are down-to-earth guys who have made their careers making mainstream movies; Dan insists on the film's realism and is more comfortable placing it in the long-standing movie tradition of criticizing television.

Nightcrawler has already been labelled the new Network, in reference to that cynical classic of 1976 and, unlike standard Hollywood fare, there is no redemption in it. With John in the editing suite and Tony as producer, it's a consistently unsentimental vision that brother Dan has been able to bring to the screen.

There is a final screening of Nightcrawler at TIFF Friday at 9 p.m. at Ryerson University.