- Made his first short film at 18 about his maternal grandfather Mendel Walzman's upbringing in Poland.
- Started a longtime collaboration with Element Pictures cofounder Ed Guiney when they were both students at Trinity College in Dublin.
- With no formal training, he went on to direct 3 Joes, which won awards at the Cork Film Festival and the Oberhausen Short Film Festival in Germany.
- Accepted the chance to study for a PhD in philosophy at Stanford University in California, but in less than a year's time realized the move was a mistake and returned to Ireland to pursue filmmaking.
- Directed a popular series of commercials for Carlsberg.
- Met his wife Monika, a film-studies academic, when in 2005 she sought him out after seeing his first feature film Adam & Paul at the Warsaw Film Festival.
- Received the CICAE Art and Essai Cinema Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his second feature film Garage.
- Persuaded Room author (and fellow Dubliner) Emma Donoghue to let him adapt her best-selling novel for the big screen by writing her a 10-page letter about his passion for the book.