‘We have to tell our own stories’ – Ed Guiney on new Dublin screenwriting festival

At a ‘very tough’ moment for the international industry, the Element Pictures co-founder hopes this month’s Storyhouse event at the Light House can help screenwriters ‘move to the next phase’

This month marks a first for Ed Guiney. Not the Oscars – the Element Pictures co-founder was a serial nominee even before the raft of nods for Poor Things – but the inaugural Storyhouse, a new annual festival in Dublin that “champions, cultivates and celebrates” the art and craft of storytelling for the screen.

“I’ve been talking about doing it for years,” says Guiney, who has spearheaded the not-for-profit initiative as a means to help the Irish industry “move to the next phase”. There is no reason why Ireland, given its rich literary heritage, shouldn’t be a “world centre of excellence” for screenwriting, he believes.

“We have to tell our own stories and not jump on bandwagons. In many ways, it’s all about the script and the ideas and who owns them,” he says.

The two-day event, hosted at the Element-owned Light House Cinema and produced by Lara Hickey and Charlene Lydon, is about “writers talking to writers”, rather than “experts, in inverted commas, talking to writers”.


Getting a script made has never been the easiest of accomplishments in a notoriously precarious industry, but the current climate is especially difficult for both aspiring screenwriters and those trying to build and sustain careers in the business.

“It’s very tough at the moment, it just is. All of the big streamers and broadcasters are pulling back after the big Covid chase for eyeballs, and obviously RTÉ is in a heap,” says Guiney, who established Element with Andrew Lowe in 2001.

The ambition is that attendees will be inspired by the first-hand accounts of speakers such as Tony McNamara, the Australian screenwriter who adapted Poor Things, co-wrote Element’s The Favourite and also created television comedy drama The Great.

France’s Arthur Harari, a recent Bafta winner alongside Justine Triet for their Oscar-nominated original screenplay for Anatomy of a Fall, also jumps out from the list of international speakers destined for the March 21st-22nd festival.

Other names revealed to date include two new British voices in film, Molly Manning Walker, writer-director of How to Have Sex, and Charlotte Regan, writer-director of Scrapper, as well as novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls and Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi.

The first tranche of tickets – advertised initially to students and members of the Writers Guild of Ireland and Screen Directors Guild of Ireland – has sold out, but more tickets will be released soon.

“We have tried to keep the price reasonable,” Guiney says. Storyhouse, which costs €50 to attend, is also backed by Screen Ireland and Fremantle, Element’s majority owners since 2022.

In parallel with the main interview, panel and case study sessions, a professional development strand called Storyhouse Lab will see new and early-career screenwriters receive free access to the festival while also taking part in additional sessions under the mentorship of Bafta and Ifta-winning screenwriter Malcolm Campbell. The open call for participants closes on March 1st, with “lots” of applications already received.

“Our hope is that it gives people wings,” says Guiney of Storyhouse Lab.

Upcoming Element productions include the second series of the Nancy Harris comedy drama The Dry for ITV and RTÉ, an adaptation of Jordan Tannahill’s novel The Listeners for the BBC, and Kinds of Kindness, its next film with director Yorgos Lanthimos and star Emma Stone.

Before all this, there is the small matter of the Oscars on March 10th, where the 11 nominations for Poor Things – the highest ever for an Irish-produced film – includes best picture, for which Guiney and Lowe are personally nominated alongside Lanthimos and Stone.

“I don’t know how we will do on the night, you know, but equally, we’ve had a great run,” says Guiney of the film’s success, which has also seen it win the Golden Globe for best picture (musical or comedy) and five Baftas.

While The Favourite’s box office stopped shy of $100 million, Poor Things hit that milestone this week.

“It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done.”

He feels uplifted by the “really good” start to 2024 for cinema, citing a social media post from a Saturday in January showing an array of signs on the Light House door advising that screenings for The Holdovers, The Zone of Interest and two each for All of Us Strangers and Poor Things were all sold out.

“I hope that in this next phase we will see more original cinema.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics