A Profile of Element Pictures and Interview with co-founder Andrew Lowe
20 October 2016

A Profile of Element Pictures and Interview with co-founder Andrew Lowe

As part of our occasional series to mark the 25th anniversary of the MEDIA programme, we highlight Irish film companies who have benefited from MEDIA support. We look at the various paths they have taken through MEDIA-supported training programmes, funding programmes, and marketplace opportunities and ask them what’s the secret to their success!

Our company profile series is also a celebration of the very significant achievements of, and high quality submissions by, the many Irish companies who have been successful in their funding applications. Since the launch of the Creative Europe 2014-2020 programme, Ireland has performed very well with a high number of quality projects being submitted and going on to receive funding.

This month we feature Element Pictures, an Irish success story and a company that has become an international world player with Lenny Abrahamson’s Room which won at both the Golden Globes® and the Oscars® as well as Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, 2016.

THE COMPANY: ELEMENT PICTURES

Element Pictures (formerly Temple Films established by Ed Guiney) has been supported by MEDIA since director Paddy Breathnach’s film, Ailsa, received TV Funding in MEDIA 1. In 2001, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe established Element Pictures and the company has gone on to produce successful MEDIA supported Films, such as The Guard and The Lobster, established a distribution arm and a VOD platform. Their recent productions include Lenny Abrahamson’s, Room, which won at the Golden Globes® and the Oscars® as well as the MEDIA supported feature, The Lobster, from director Yorgos Lanthimos which stars Colin Farrell and won the Jury Prize in Cannes 2016. 

Upcoming productions include Lanthimos’ next feature, The Killing of a Sacred Deer which is supported by Creative Europe MEDIA. Element Pictures TV productions include the hit TV3 show Red Rock and Rebellion for RTE. Element Pictures Distribution also handles StudioCanal’s slate in Ireland, and the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season in Ireland as well as direct acquisitions. Element Pictures operates an online video on demand platform, Volta.ie, which focuses on the best of Irish and international films. Additionally, Element Pictures runs and operates the Light House Cinema, one of Dublin’s premiere art house cinemas.

The person: Andrew Lowe

Andrew Lowe jointly runs Element Pictures with Ed Guiney with whom he founded the company in 2001. Andrew’s focus is on managing the financing and business affairs of Element’s own slate of projects and the overseeing of Element’s co-production activity in both film and television. Andrew is also a board member of the Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) and Vice Chair of the IBEC Audiovisual Federation. Prior to setting up Element Pictures with Ed Guiney, Andrew was head of Business Affairs at the Irish Film Board (1999-2001) and a freelance production accountant in feature film from 1993 to 1999.

ELEMENT MEDIA FUNDING AWARDS

  • 2001 TV Programming
  • 2002 Slate Funding
  • 2003 Slate Funding
  • 2005 i2I Audiovisual Support
  • 2008 Slate Funding
  • 2008 i2i Audiovisual Support
  • 2010 i2i Audiovisual Support
  • 2011 Slate Funding
  • 2011 i2i Audiovisual Support
  • 2014 Slate Funding

MEDIA SUPPORTED PROJECTS BY ELEMENT FILMS

(Includes development, i2i and distribution support. Many of these films are available to stream on Volta.ie)

  • Ailsa
  • Lassie
  • Garage
  • The Guard
  • Lassie
  • Frank
  • What Richard Did
  • Garage
  • Jimmy’s Hall
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley
  • Cracks
  • Shadow Dancer
  • The Lobster
  • A Date for Mad Mary
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer

THE QUESTIONS

1. Shortly after Element Pictures was founded in 2001, the company received TV Programming and Slate Development funding. How important was it to receive MEDIA funding at that stage and how did it help the company develop?

Andrew: It was crucial to be honest in the early stages of the company when there was little going on in the way of production. The funding we received had the combined effect of helping us to build up resources in the company so we could incur a development overhead on the one hand and then also gave us the resources to work with talent and start developing projects. And that vote of confidence in the company was really helpful at that point in time. It gave us some freedom and flexibility.

2. What European films or film-makers have inspired you? And are there film companies in Europe or America that have served as inspirations for Element Pictures?

Andrew: We often talked about Good Machine, a European company in the 90s which ultimately became Focus Features. From that era in Europe, Paolo Pictures and Goldcrest would have been two companies in the UK that were inspirational. More recent examples would be Why Not in France and X Filme in Germany and all the companies that combined a passion for film and a respect for talent as well as a commercial approach to their business. I think if we had to describe what we do that is what we try to do.

3. What MEDIA training programmes or other supports have helped you both in your careers? Have you any advice for younger Irish producers on navigating the European marketplace?

Andrew: I went to the Media Business School in Ronda early on and found it incredibly helpful in terms of opening my eyes to how the industry worked and creating networks of people most of whom I still meet and cross paths with today. I thought it was really high quality training, and fun! I know for Ed that ACE is close to his heart and EAVE too and he continues to be an active member of ACE. I think any of the Creative Europe MEDIA training courses are a great start for young people because you learn a lot and you start to create a network of people who can help you down the road when you’re trying to get your films made.

4. You have a knack for nurturing talents such as Lenny Abrahamson whose second feature film Garage received MEDIA Slate Funding as did Frank and What Richard Did. What impact has your continuing access to development funding had on the growth of your company?

Andrew: Lenny is a very good example of a film-maker we’ve worked with from the very beginning. With Lenny part of what we do is create an environment where we can develop scripts with him up to a point where we’re happy to share it with the wider world. Having a Slate Funding award facilitated that kind of process. It’s actually invaluable to create this kind of cocoon where a project can grow and develop and when it’s ready you can go out into the world. Without Slate Funding you’re forced to go out earlier and sometimes that’s not the best thing for a project.

5. Element Pictures has produced an amazingly diverse slate of projects and worked with a wide range of Irish and European talents from Lenny to Ken Loach to Darren Thornton on A Date for Mad Mary and Yorgos Lanthimos on both The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. How do you find the talent?! Do they come to you or do you actively seek out people you want to work with?

Andrew: It’s a bit of both but it’s certainly something we take very seriously. We have quite an active development team whose job it is to find talent. Lenny and Yorgos are probably the two directors we have the most established relationships with. Other directors such as Ken Loach we tend to work with his regular producer, Rebecca O’Brien. So if Ken had an Irish production we’d tend to do that. With Lenny and Yorgos, we’re their primary productions company. Then the job is really looking after them and helping them figure out what it is they want to do next. And then beyond that working with new talent and finding people with something to say and helping them get their films made. 

6. Element has its own distribution arm. Would you say that the distribution of quality European films is a difficulty?

Andrew: Well Europe still is quite fragmented in terms of distribution of European films in general. We see that with Irish films where an Irish film can do really well in the UK but its performance in Europe can be patchy. That’s often down to the fact that the talent isn’t known outside of these islands and when it comes to Holland, Spain and Italy it just doesn’t resonate. So realistically Europe’s still a fragmented market. The only films that tend to overcome that are films of scale. Paddington is a good example – it was a big film we had in the UK driven by big companies who had the resources to market it effectively. Or else you have the arthouse movie that just goes all the way maybe because it wins a Palme D’or or an Oscar that helps elevate it. Outside of those circumstances it’s quite hard to get European-wide distribution for your film. We see it in Ireland too where the market for European films is quite limited in truth. So it is still a challenging environment. But what we see in Ireland is almost like a renaissance of the Irish film industry and there’s definitely a market in Ireland for successful Irish films. Irish audiences will get behind a good Irish film.

7. Lastly, what’s the secret to Element’s success?!

Andrew: I’m not sure there’s any secret but if there’s any defining thing for us I guess it’s the talent we work with and the people who work with us. We have a great team here and we work hard to keep them happy and engaged. I suspect it’s a combination of the people who work with us and the talent who we get to work with that’s a large part of the success we have enjoyed. 

Many thanks to Andrew for taking the time to talk to us. If you would like to know more about Creative Europe MEDIA funding schemes, training programmes, and other initiatives look through our website, or go to the European Commission portal for more information, and do get in touch with us if you would like further information.