Ten years in the past, on a drizzly Thursday night through the much-loved Galway Film Fleadh, Element Pictures’ Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe had been standing outdoors of the Eyre Square Hotel when Guiney obtained an e-mail with the preliminary pre-booking numbers for his or her upcoming title The Guard. The figures had been, fortunately, “through the roof” and it marked a key turning level for the Irish manufacturing, distribution and (quickly to be) exhibition outfit.
The Irish buddy cop comedy, starring Brendan Gleeson and written and directed by John Michael McDonagh took $7.4M within the UK and Ireland (and practically $20M worldwide) making it the largest unbiased Irish movie on the time, an enormous feat particularly contemplating Ireland was going via an financial crash. The movie, which had offered to Sony Pictures Classics within the U.S. after it wowed at Sundance earlier that yr, earned Gleeson a Golden Globe nom and McDonagh a BAFTA nom.
“The Guard was a really important movie for us because we were very close to going bust had that not been a success,” Guiney tells Deadline. “Not only did we have our first proper commercial success both as producers and distributors – primarily distributors in that case – but it helped us make the argument to buy the Light House Cinema in Dublin and gave us an injection of cash and capital that allowed us to push forward and that was incredibly important.”
Indeed, the movie marked the start of what has since seen Element produce a gradual stream of vital and business movie and tv successes starting from Oscar-winning titles reminiscent of Room and The Favourite to final yr’s lockdown must-watch Normal People.
Currently in its twentieth yr, Guiney and Lowe have a popularity for constructing one of the crucial talent-friendly European companies available in the market. Yorgos Lanthimos, Lenny Abrahamson, Joanna Hogg, Sally Rooney and Sebastián Lelio are simply a few of the administrators and writers that proceed to work with them repeatedly and Element has solid robust ties with firms reminiscent of Fox Searchlight, BBC Films and Film4.
It has workplaces in Dublin, London and Belfast, runs an Irish distribution strand in addition to the Light House Cinema in Dublin and Pálás Cinema in Galway. There are practically 40 staff on the firm, a few of whom – producer Emma Norton, improvement producer Chelsea Morgan Hoffman and head of manufacturing Paula Heffernan – have been with the corporate since its infancy and are, say Guiney and Lowe, integral to the corporate’s success and its future.
While the Anglo-Irish outfit has come a good distance within the final decade, the 2 execs insist that remaining true to their roots and constructing an organization that invests in expertise relationships is vital to what makes Element so evergreen.
“We’re ultimately not driven by commercial success,” notes Guiney. “We are driven by the relationships that we have and the relationships that we’d like to have, and this definitely gives us the latitude to explore things that are exciting to us.”
Lowe provides: “Making a film is such a tough thing to do and over time, you do gravitate towards people you know who you’ve had a good relationship with and a good experience with because it just makes everything so much easier and efficient next time.”
Guiney and Lowe first met as youngsters in Dublin earlier than they each attended the Irish capital’s prestigious Trinity College (the identical faculty that Normal People’s lead characters attend) and would incessantly stumble upon one another at events. Guiney had arrange a filmmaking society with Abrahamson at school, producing shorts reminiscent of 3 Joes with a younger Dominic West.
“Even when he was very young, it was clear Lenny was incredibly talented,” Guiney says.
Guiney continued to independently produce initiatives after college via his Temple Films banner whereas Lowe educated as a manufacturing accountant earlier than a stint on the Irish Film Board. Soon, when the 2 discovered themselves each engaged on Gleeson starrer The Tale Of Sweety Barrett, they started to debate becoming a member of forces earlier than finally founding Element Pictures in 2001.
“The idea of teaming up and trying to be more efficient, more expansive and build a company rather than look to just get a job was appealing to both of us,” says Guiney.
The first years of the corporate, like many upstarts, had been powerful and, says Lowe, they had been “promiscuous” with their relationships.
“We did a lot of production services and we chased down a lot of opportunities that were really about generating income and sustaining the company because we didn’t have any backers,” recollects Lowe. “We ended up making a couple of decisions that were, in hindsight, wrong. We produced some projects that we thought the market might want and it was just by difficult and expensive trial and error, that we learned that ultimately we were much better off focusing on talent we really believe in.”
The duo additionally shortly realized that they wanted worldwide ambition and scale in an effort to make the enterprise work and aimed to make English-language initiatives with key European expertise on the helm. Co-productions turned key to the corporate’s early technique.
“Growing up in Ireland, you’re in such a small industry that you’re always very outward-looking in a sense,” says Guiney. “I think quite early on we realized that if we wanted to make a career in film and TV, then we had to look abroad. For us, it was always about finding people who are accessible to us and for whom we could make a difference. There’s no point chasing down a filmmaker who’s incredibly established and who has an amazing infrastructure around them.”
Element has since had a pointy eye for earmarking this expertise, stemming from the faculty days with the Abrahamson. The firm produced the director’s first function Adam and Paul in addition to his 2015 title Room,which earned 4 Oscar nominations, together with Best Picture, and noticed actress Brie Larson go on to win Best Actress. Abrahamson additionally directed half of the episodes for Normal People for Hulu and BBC Three and is about to helm one other collection from Irish writer Rooney, Conversations With Friends.
After seeing Lanthimos’ function Dogtooth in Cannes in 2009, Guiney and Lowe knew the burgeoning Greek helmer can be the right voice to direct their quirky Queen Anne black comedy The Favourite, which that they had in improvement with producers Ceci Dempsey and Lee Magiday.
“He was just interested in doing something very different,” recollects Guiney. “We didn’t want to make a traditional period rendering or a heritage version. We wanted to do something that was more anarchic, punkier.”
Before that undertaking received off the bottom, Lanthimos directed The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, each with Element, the previous being nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award. The Favourite, backed by Fox Searchlight and Film4, then went on to win Olivia Colman the Best Actress Oscar along with incomes 9 extra nominations. The Element-Lanthimos union will proceed with upcoming title Poor Things, starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe, one other collaboration with Fox Searchlight and Film4.
“The Oscars have been such a roller coaster for us,” says Lowe. “The fact that we’ve had three different experiences at three different Academy Awards made us realize that we are part of this world, and we have the permission to be here. It’s not a fluke. It may never happen again, but there’s no reason why we can’t work with filmmakers who will enjoy that kind of success again.”
Last yr, Element noticed enormous success within the tv enviornment with Normal People, an adaptation of Rooney’s novel of the identical identify about two younger lovers in Ireland who weave out and in of one another’s lives. The firm was already creating Rooney’s Conversations With Friends with Rose Garnett on the BBC once they received the galleys for the Irish writer’s subsequent novel. There was intense competitors for the rights, however finally Rooney thought Element and the BBC had been the perfect house for it.
“One of the things Normal People did was it really confirmed our instincts that we should approach television in almost the same way as we approach film,” says Guiney. “It’s creator-driven and it’s about a vision. I think, for us, it was good to recognize that coming to television as film people is actually an advantage.”
In addition to reuniting with Rooney for an upcoming tv adaptation of Conversations With Friends with BBC Three and Hulu, which has Abrahamson on the helm once more, Element is within the works on Nancy Harris’ comedy drama collection The Dry with Britbox and ITV Studios and Shane Meadows’ interval drama debut The Gallows Pole.
There’s additionally Stephen Williams’ historic biopic Chevalier, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. with Fox Searchlight on the horizon together with Lelio’s The Wonder, starring Florence Pugh with Netflix. Upcoming releases embrace Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter and The Souvenir Part II, each with BBC Films and A24 and exec produced by Martin Scorsese and final month noticed the discharge of Phyllida Lloyd’s Herself.
While its manufacturing enterprise continues to soar, its distribution and exhibition enterprise has, like many others, felt the brunt of the pandemic and altering theatrical panorama. Due to Covid restrictions, its cinemas are nonetheless solely permitted to function at a 25% capability.
“There’s been seismic changes in the industry and distribution and exhibition have been really challenging,” notes Lowe. “There’s no getting away from that. But I think it’s fair to say that we are optimistic about the future of the theatrical film business and that’s a global thing. For us, it feels like there will always be a demand for smart, adult-oriented drama.”
Guiney can be optimistic, pointing to the success of bold titles reminiscent of Parasite and The Favourite being indicative of a brand new section of cinema.
“I am optimistic that we’re moving into a phase where we will see some really ambitious, auteur-driven movies that are hugely original and hugely spectacular and audacious,” he says. “And we’d really love to be a part of that too.”