Ep 36 | Ed Guiney - Producer: Normal People, The Favourite, Room

Credit: BBC


Note: Please be aware this transcript is generated by AI, there will be small inconsistencies with the published podcast. Direct quotes are not attributable to the host or guest.

Mike  0:00  
Hello, Mike here. Today's guest is the wonderful film and TV producer Edie Guiney. In the episode we discuss how he got his start in the business and stories of younger days in Dublin, with Director Lenny Abrahamsson. How to find fellow filmmakers, tips for getting noticed and film and TV jobs, and how no matter where you start, the most important thing in this world is having something to say. That's enough for me. Here's Ed.

Ed  0:25  
Say you don't need a lot of resources. What you do need is something to say you need someone amongst all of you who's got something interesting to say.

Mike  0:33  
Hello, and welcome to Red Carpet rookies. My name is Mike battle, a film crew member turned screenwriter working in London. Each episode I bring you life lessons and stories from the people behind your favourite movies and shows to help demystify the business for aspiring filmmakers and fans alike. Thanks for joining me. Let's get started. Today's guest is one of Ireland's most notable film producers, beginning his life and the Irish capital. He pursued his passion into movie production during his time at Trinity College Dublin, where he set up a Film Society with a certain Lenny Abrahamsson. Today, he and his company element pictures have come a long way from those days though, having produced the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos is the favourite and Lenny's very own movie room, both of which our guests picked up Oscar nominations for a BAFTA win for the favourite. He's also the man behind the international phenomenon of normal people that exploded recent Best Actor nominee Paul Mescal onto our screens. I reached out to him after watching the amazing calm with horses that he produced with our mutual friend Kate. And I'm very happy to have him here today. My guest is Mr. Ed Guiney. How are you doing today?

Ed  1:48  
Hi, Mike, how are you? Thanks for having me.

Mike  1:50  
Thanks for your time. Now, Ed, I like to ask all of my guests the same first question. And that is, what did your parents do? And did it affect your career choices growing up?

Ed  1:59  
Well, actually, my parents were both doctors. So I obviously didn't follow in the family footsteps. And I know my interest in film was completely sort of personal. I mean, my, my parents took me to the cinema as a kid, but my dad didn't really like the cinema, but but it was really kind of, I grew up, you know, watching countless sort of videos all through the night. And I just sort of fell in love with films. And I also fell in love with the idea of producing when I was a teenager, I read a lot of books about producers, like, you know, Putnam and Sam Spiegel and Paul Berg and, and all the old kind of guys who set up the original studios in LA. And I sort of was fascinated by making films. But from that point of view, I suppose I never wanted to be a director. I always wanted to be a producer at

Mike  2:49  
the time that you're talking about there with the Betamax tapes. Was you and Paul Hickey,

Ed  2:53  
I believe? That's right, exactly.

Mike  2:55  
Were there any movies from back in those days that began to form part of your tastes that you have today? I know it's a long time ago.

Ed  3:02  
Well, I mean, the things we just watched everything. So like we'd watch four or five movies a night so that was everything from animal has to blues off on to parody and back, you know, literally, via all the classics, the couplers, the Scorsese's all of that stuff. So everything, we watched everything.

Mike  3:20  
Funnily enough, we actually share an interest talking about your reading of the Hollywood moguls. When I was studying history University, I was desperate to get into the film industry and try to check my vintage wherever I could into my essays. And I wrote one on the early moguls, Carl, the male and those guys, what was it that you were attracted to in those books? As a young guy growing up in Ireland?

Ed  3:39  
Really no good question. I mean, I definitely started with, you know, loving films. And then I think by reading those books, I could see the possibility of being involved in, in the film business, but I think it was, I don't know, I found it quite romantic and exciting. And they were all pioneers, you know, a lot of them were kind of, you know, refugees from, from Eastern Europe. But they just felt like there was an energy and excitement about it. And it's really hard to know what what appeals to me, but I don't know I can only I just was fascinated by them. I have a bunch of books up there on the shelf. But I can see

Mike  4:17  
nicely, I can see them. I've got you'll never eat lunch on mine still to read.

Ed  4:22  
It's up there too. Yeah. Oh, nice.

Mike  4:24  
They're all there. I wonder if it's in part, because the thing that I like about them is they're very entrepreneurial. And obviously you ended up setting up a company and producers are somewhat entrepreneurs in their own little world, aren't they? Each film is its own company.

Ed  4:36  
Yeah, no, it is. I mean, I think it's just, I think also I really like being involved in films, but maybe sixth sense that I wasn't maybe details oriented enough to be a filmmaker like I don't think that I necessarily have the patience to be as exacting as you need to be as a filmmaker. I don't know. I also just didn't have the desire to direct in that sense. But I do really like The company of directors and writers and creative people, generally I love being around them. And I feel very comfortable in their company. And so maybe it was something around that, too.

Mike  5:11  
That's cool. Did you find any pressure back in those early days when you were wanting to become a filmmaker, or getting involved in the film industry to pursue a more traditional career? Doctors often want them to join the medical world.

Ed  5:23  
Yeah, no, no, I don't, I definitely did. But I sort of, I guess, once I went to university, I went to Trinity in Dublin, and which is the backdrop for normal people, many years later. And I had known Lenny Abramson, when I was a teenager, just around Dublin. And we talked about films a lot. And when I went to Trinity, I started the film making society with Lenny, and we started to make short films. So I mean, I'm also aware of the kind of the privilege of that of being able to do that, you know, not everyone has that access. But we certainly took advantage of the possibilities of, you know, just making things in college and, and we had a lot of friends who were actors and writers, etc. And the first film that the kind of first proper film that we made together was a film called The three Joe's, which starred, among others it was about, there was a kind of silent Trump we made. And then he says, But I guess the best known actor in the UK is Dominic West, who was a student in Trinity at the same time as us and a friend of ours. So it was just that kind of thing. And I suppose it's sort of, that's what I often say to people is, you know, who are interested in getting into film, even if they aren't in the in, you know, in an environment like university or third level institution where there's time to kind of experiment. But I think it's kind of gravitate towards like minded people, and even making things on weekends. And I suppose the thing about nowadays is that it's actually it is a lot cheaper to make things. I mean, you can make things on an iPhone, you can edit things on the laptop, but the kind of impulse to make things and to gather people around you is, I guess, the kind of thing that I learned in university, and I definitely had that kind of size.

Mike  7:03  
Funnily enough, you mentioned the collaboration there and finding other people, and then our prep for this chat. And I find myself watching the thrillingly named ecologies of cultural production workshop industry panel, which you featured on and in that you said, to find your fellow travellers, like you did with Lenny and Michael joy at university. How would you recommend people go about doing that these days? Do you think it's I guess, it's probably more internet first these days? Surely since your time at Trinity?

Ed  7:28  
So yeah, like, I mean, there was, yeah, it was in person. It was in real life in that sense. But I mean, you know, I'm, you know, imagine if you are somebody who wants to kind of make something, there are all sorts of ways of finding like minded people online, on whatever, wherever, you know, I can't imagine it's that hard in a way. Like, there are always people who want to act, and there are people who want to try out different things. And like we, you know, honestly, we were utterly clueless, like, completely no one had a clue. really, genuinely, I mean, it was really, yeah, you can just say, Well, you know, it's like forming a band, well, I'll be the bass player, I'll be the, you know, I'll play the keyboards and I'll be the lead singer, it's kind of like, well, I'll direct you acts, you rise you, you're the kind of person and just do us, you know, it's, and you really isn't. So you don't need a lot of resources, when you do need something to say you need someone amongst all of you who's got something interesting to say. And that's, you know, not always self evident, but it's, it's really, it's really key, whether that's a writer, or director or stand up comedian or whatever, you know, somebody has to have something to kind of try to, they want to articulate. So yeah, it's, you know, and then in terms of getting things out there, it's like, again, it's, it's very different days, but obviously, YouTube and all of that stuff is there. And you know, and if you make something that's interesting, whether it's really short form like on Tik Tok, Instagram, or something longer form on YouTube, if it's punchy and catchy, people will pick up on it. And then you can use that to create momentum, maybe to make a short film, etc, etc. That's kind of how it works. But I think in many ways, it's very available. You know, and if you look at, you know, people, like, very different kinds of, not, not million miles away from me, but like, say, someone like Shane meadows, you know, came up in the north of England making, you know, very low budget films with paddy Cassadine. And, you know, his friends. Oh, like their man shoes. Yeah. But even before that, you know, they were making like, 24/7 and, you know, that was all a bunch of piles of desire to make stuff together and who just got it together to deal with the guns and, you know, it's it is all there. I think if you have the desire to do it, then it's about finding other people who share that desire. In a way maybe that's the first thing you have to do is find those people who only need two or three of them. You don't need many of them. Find your fellow travellers. Yeah, exactly.

Mike  9:54  
That's a really great answer. Thank you so much. It's really cool to hear about the modern platforms being used as well and It's funny to hear you talking about the not really having a clue. And you'll be the bass player on things like that. Because there's a trend in the very successful people I speak to on this podcast, they all seem to have a similarity. And they don't mind a bit of a hustle. But if I fake it till you make it, and it also reminded me a little bit of you, perhaps with three, Joe's where you're of that age, and you're going, I'm commissioning a script. Yeah, you know, that's, that's a big thing to do, which I imagine later benefited you in many ways, but for a young person to say that, I don't know if I if I was what age were you when you were doing that?

Ed  10:28  
Yes, it was like around 20. Yeah,

Mike  10:31  
I think that's comfort. That's confidence there.

Ed  10:33  
Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I don't know why. But I guess was probably all those books I was reading that kind of made me think that's what you had to do. But I did pay Michael West, was before we joined the euro, there would have been 100 Old Irish pounds. They were called to write the script for three years. Yeah, but I don't know. Yeah, but it there is definitely a thing of like you you do have to have the kind of the drive under just add some level doesn't mean that you need to be a kind of very garrulous, you know, used car salesman type person, you just need to have a certain amount of drive and a little bit of balls. But I mean, I wouldn't say that I'm a kind of, you know, necessarily very extrovert, showbizzy type person, I'm not really. But I think it's just a thing of, you know, being clear about what you want, and just hustling together. As you say, hustle is a big thing. Definitely.

Mike  11:22  
How was it that you hustled your way into your early job that strong Bo green apple?

Ed  11:27  
I just wrote to them, I was in college, and I wrote to them, and I don't know what, maybe they weren't that many of the people rolling them down? I'm not really sure. But I got a job from as a runner during the summer. And I was kind of insistent. And I may not have even been paid initially, I'm not sure. Or if I was it was very little. And it was, you know, I did it instead of instead of going away, which a lot of students do in Ireland at least go away to work. I stayed at home one summer, and I did that. And I mean, I guess I'd have to say like I was in a lucky position where I could afford to do that in a way like I you know, some people just have to go and earn their fees. So I don't mind I kind of presume that everyone can do that. But I was lucky to be able to do it. And I got a job working for actually two guys or three guys who were very good friends of mine now all a bit older than me, but all of whom were, you know, established producers, and who were very good to me and taught me a lot. And yeah, I'm in touch with all of them still. And they're all still doing various versions of their thing. But yeah, it's just it's, and but I did at that time, I would have written I think probably, I would have written to every possible company in Ireland and just written those letters, you know, and, you know, it does work, you know, you just have to persevere. It takes a while sometimes, but it does work, you know. And it's also I guess, it's, you know, there's a, a woman who now works for us, in development, a woman called Eliza, it's Kevin, and she wrote a letter to us, she was working in London and PR wrote a letter, very nice letter, very polite letter, which kind of marked her out just the tone of it, and the way that she approached it. And we wrote back saying, Look, we don't have anything right now. And then she wrote again, three months later, six months later, we still didn't have anything she wrote again, another three or six months later, saying, Oh, I just noticed you got money for this film, do you think you'll be hiring people? And actually, it was just, every time I was like, oh, okay, that's interesting, too, is, you know, persistent and yeah, you know, all that kind of stuff. And, and it was just acquired persistence, but actually was very mundane matter. And maybe we didn't hire immediately, but later, and actually, it, you know, turned out ultimately, that her dad was, is a very well known television director leads to I know, a friend of mine, but she'd never ever ever kind of land on that. That's cool. You know, there's always Yeah, which is, you know, I mean, so she definitely wasn't a Napa baby in that regard, and could have been, and but she did quietly and persistently write, you know, very considered no letters that we notice. And it's really that it's that it's kind of having that intelligence, and thinking about how you can sort of be a bit more thoughtful and targeted about who you write to whether you get noticed,

Mike  14:13  
I love that story. As a really good example, we don't get as many specific examples. I really like that people will latch on to that. Speaking of you being an intern there, and people come to work with you. Are there any interview type questions that you ever like to ask people that would make you think, oh, that's the sort of person I'd like to work with? Doesn't have to be a specific

Ed  14:32  
question. It's a really good question. I mean, that, like, it's funny, the ones that kind of do, I don't know, it's sort of it's people who I think advocate for themselves, but in the right way, and there's a kind of fine line between advocating for yourself and your career and being pushy. And actually, if you're pushy, but really good. That's probably okay. It's more than okay. If you pushy and entitled, that's not okay. So if someone is working for an intersection or doing kind of a, you know, fairly a job for someone who's just starting off in the business, and they asked to read scripts voluntarily, and they turn in script reports, and look for guidance and feedback, and they do that kind of seriously, with it, obvious desire to learn, that's really impressive. It's people who kind of feel like they can run before they can walk. And actually, they may have a particular judgement. But it's sort of, say, for instance, to think or talk about scripts, you need to read a load of scripts before you can, I think be useful in terms of how you talk about them. So it's that thing, it's kind of the right kind of stuff. And advocacy is really important. But it's also falling on the right side of it. And I think there's a lot of entitlement around and I think people want, maybe it's the kind of celebrity culture we live in at the moment is that people kind of often feel like that they should move quicker than their experience or their abilities might suggest to somebody like me, a kind of modest, hardworking, considered intelligence is very impressive.

Mike  16:13  
Now, Ed, I like to wrap up on red carpet rookies with a little quickfire questionnaire, which is my own Ode to any actor studio. Okay, so we're gonna go through them if that's okay with you, Mr. Ed. Garni. Now, the first one is what is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

Ed  16:32  
Let me come back to that. Sorry, I'll come back to that. Keep going. I'll come back to that.

Mike  16:36  
Don't apologise, don't you? Worry. Number two, do you have a favourite film?

Ed  16:40  
No, I don't actually, I definitely don't have a favourite. I have lots of lots and lots of favourite films. And it changes with age, and things that I thought were fantastic when I was 20, I think are really pretentious and terrible now. I think that's right. I think it's weird to have a favourite film. I think it's really weird to have a favourite film.

Mike  16:58  
Yeah, well, you're changing and the film's not so? Well. Exactly. And

Ed  17:01  
some things like feel, I didn't think of something like reaching way back now. But something like if you know, Betty blue, which at the time was mind blowingly cool, French movie, probably is fairly cheesy. Now. I don't know. And also the way that kind of the cultural changes in the way that we, you know, the kinds of things you could make the could be made the kinds of things that they explored and said 1020 30 years ago, would not be cool anymore, you know, and not not acceptable, and rightly so in many, many cases, you know, so no, I don't have a for everyone. But I do love watching films.

Mike  17:33  
That's good answer. Number three, which job in the industry would you do if you weren't doing yours?

Ed  17:37  
I think I'd be like, commissioning editor or decision maker on terms of the other side of what I do, like, firing films or something like that. Cool. Haven't heard

Mike  17:47  
that one before. Number three, what gives you a reason to get out of bed every day for a day of producing,

Ed  17:52  
I mean, it's mainly the people I work with. I'm you know, I'm I'm much more kind of person focused than I am. Idea focused, in a sense, like, I'm much more interested in what particular people have to say. And I don't just mean filmmakers. I also mean that people I work with, I work with a whole lot of very clever, very creative people who have a lot to say about the things we work on about the world in general. So I think it's that I really enjoy the community. Filmmaking is really a lovely place to be an awful lot of the time, obviously, it has its ups and downs. But generally, it's a really, there's something really nice about it, although there's a thing that like, I don't know, if you can say there's a tonne of it's actually true, but it's, I think they're very few other industries where you can have so many people from different backgrounds, with different skills working together on a thing. So you can have an amazing plaster, or you can have a choreographer or you can have an actor or you can have a caterer or a nurse or a ballet dancer, or an electrician or a driver or you know, there's a there's a whole bunch of people working in a community to make a film. And there's something really nice about that.

Mike  19:05  
Cool. And ultimate one. What is a book ideally career focused, but doesn't have to be that everyone should read perhaps maybe one of your one of the moguls

Ed  19:13  
Well, I mean, I didn't love all those books. I mean, I guess my decisions final which was the story of gold crest, which was the producer of candy and a bunch of other movies at the time as a really good book. But like loads of them I really enjoyed my also remember particularly joined there was a book about David Puttnam, the British producer called Enigma, and he was a total hero of mine when I was growing up. And as since become a good friend of mine. He lives down in West Cork in Ireland, so I'm in touch with them a lot. Again, yeah, it's 30 years older than me, but I'm really not quite 3025. And, but, but a really, still very clever, vital, interesting man. And then a non non movie related book that I read recently that I really enjoyed that was Excellent. There's a book by a guy called Oliver Berkman called 4000 weeks, which is I love that book. Yeah. Do you know it

Mike  20:06  
is part of the reason I decided to take my writing or seriously because I was doing lots of different things. Okay. It's like, you're never going to do all the things, Mike. Yeah, focus. And then on the back of that, everything started to work.

Ed  20:16  
Yeah. And actually, that's sort of maybe because towards answering the very first question you asked, asked me, which I didn't answer, which is a question of, you know, the best bit of advice you've got, and at some version of that, really is to is to understand that, you have to make choices about where you put your time and energy. And that goes for me, you know, the films that you make and the TV the you make as much as what you do in your life, because everything's sort of radically impossible. And I think also, when you grow up as a producer like me, we kind of grew up with an ace, kind of farmer. What I mean by that is like, when people come to me and ask me to do things, the fact that I can maybe do it is a reason to say yes, but of course, you can't do all the things you could possibly do. You have to discriminate and make choices. And that's definitely something I struggle with is, is kind of making choices about where I put my energy and focus. But I think it's, if not, you know, it's not quite advice. It's definitely a good question to ask yourself all the time, which is, you know, this is a good thing to be doing right now. But obviously, you you've had that experience, too. And it is a brilliant book. And, you know, as a book, it's also great sort of piece of general advice. Yep. Very thoughtful, very

Mike  21:27  
brilliant. And then my last one for you is if you want an Oscar, who would you think,

Ed  21:30  
Oh, my wife and son and people, I made the film.

Mike  21:33  
Thank you. And thank you very much for your time today and sharing your wisdom. It's been absolutely fantastic.

Ed  21:39  
Thanks, Mike. Nice to meet and stay in touch and hopefully, our paths will cross and thank you.

Mike  21:46  
Thank you for listening to another episode of red carpet rookies. To help us grow and be able to interview more amazing film and TV professionals. Please do subscribe and drop us a rating on the Apple podcast store on your iPhone or online if you're an Android user. If you're interested in regular updates, the best thing you can do is to join our mailing list at red carpet rookies.com. Or alternatively, find us on Instagram at Red Carpet rookies or Twitter at RC rookies pod. I also tweet regularly about my own learnings in the business, Mike, battle on Twitter. So please do come and say hi, thank you again for listening. We'll see you next time.