The Guarantee


DIR: Ian Power   WRI: Colin Murphy   PRO: John Kelleher  DOP: Cian de Buitléar   ED: Vinny Beirne  DES: Ray Ball   MUS: Stefan French CAST: Peter Coonan, David Murray, Orla Fitzgerald, Gary Lydon, Morgan C. Jones, Jesse Morris

Rarely enough do we see Irish cinema aim for any type of self-reflection lacking the padding of time and thematic distance; accounts of Bloody Sunday and the Guildford Four crept onto our screens twenty years after the fact, and more recent exercises in navel-gazing have thrust more towards some sense of the Irish spirit or character without any contextual foundation in current events.

Not at all to our discredit, mind – it is simply that Ian Power’s The Guarantee is a beast of a different kind. Based on Colin Murphy’s stage play Guaranteed!, the film takes us through 2008’s banking collapse, a defining event still very much an open wound in the national psyche.

Spanning the lead-up to and events of the critical night on which the government agreed to prop up the ailing financial system, it is bold and relevant subject matter for which any Irish artist should be applauded for tackling. Even if, as in this case, it veers slightly wide of the mark.

From the outset, The Guarantee strives manfully to prop itself between the two stools of documentary and drama, but ends up heaped between the two. Talking heads and TV3 newsreel punctuate sterile, studio-shot tracking sequences and eerily back-lit press conferences. Headlines and frantic email exchanges flutter across the screen, as fleeting as any effort to ground the audience in human moments amidst a flurry of economic jargon and bankers so sinister they lack only cloven hooves and moustaches for the twirling.

The characterization is one of the more disappointing aspects – The Guarantee posits itself as a drama first, but for the notable exception of David Murray’s underplayed Finance Minister Brian Lenihan (and perhaps Gary Lydon’s underserved Taoiseach Brian Cowan), the cast largely melds into a parade of frowning suits blaring but one note.

An effort to render a political thriller in the tradition of All The President’s Men with the high-value gloss of The Social Network,  The Guarantee ultimately fails to capture the style or substance of either. It is, however, a worthy effort to open dialogue on an issue that is as incomprehensible to the general Irish public (this reviewer included) as it is all-pervading in their day-to-day lives.


Ruairí Moore

15A (See IFCO for details)

76 minutes

The Guarantee is released 31st October 2014




Line-up Announced for ‘The Guarantee’ Live Panel Event


With a week to go to the world premiere of The Guarantee, the line-up for the interactive live event on Thursday 30th October has been announced. Today FM’s Matt Cooper will be joined by businessman, broadcaster and former politician Ivan Yates, Irish Times journalist Una Mullally, The Guarantee screenwriter Colin Murphy and the film’s director Ian Power for a post screening discussion and Q&A.

The interactive event will see cinemas across the country show the feature simultaneously at 8pm which will be followed by a live satellite link-up broadcasting the post-screening discussion from Movies@Dundrum. Audiences across the country will be able to interact with the panel and pose questions through a special live Twitter feed which will be projected to each cinema.

Directed by Ian Power (The Runway) and starring Love/Hate’s Peter Coonan, David Murray (Amber), Orla Fitzgerald (The Wind That Shakes The Barley), Morgan C. Jones (Vikings), and Gary Lydon (Calvary) the film recreates the drama surrounding the most significant political decision in modern Irish history; when the Irish government decided to guarantee the entire domestic banking system. It charts the origins of that pivotal decision and follows developments through the peak of the boom to the beginning of the bust.

Written by Colin Murphy and based on his stage play “Guaranteed!” produced by Fishamble Theatre Company, we see Peter Coonan and Gary Lydon star as Anglo Irish Bank Chief Executive David Drumm and Taoiseach Brian Cowen respectively, with David Murray, Morgan C. Jones and Orla Fitzgerald also starring as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, Anglo Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick and civil servant Kate Walsh.

The film was produced by John Kelleher Media in association with the BAI, the Irish Film Board and TV3.

The Guarantee will be released in Irish cinemas on 30th October and will be broadcast on TV3 and released on DVD later this year.


Issue 139 Winter 2011 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Ian Power



Over the coming weeks Film Ireland will publish online the entire back catalogue of articles written by members of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild that have appeared in Film Ireland magazine. These popular articles give an insight into the creative process used by each writer.  

Ian Power on thinking in montage, discipline and an over-active imagination.


Can you tell us about your approach to writing?


Because I started to write so that I could direct, I’ve always approached writing as a learner writer. There’s a fundamental honesty you need if you want to get better. I’ve written six screenplays. My approach has always been ‘If you don’t like it, fine, I’ll write a better film’. The trick is the learning curve. So the first script was pretty bad, but they were incrementally better. Writing is a craft at the end of the day.


Starting out, you want to re-invent the wheel with story structure. By the time I wrote The Runway I was concerned only with telling a simple story in a very traditional way. I wanted to go after a three-act structure and do it as well as I could.


When you make a film you realize that three-act structure is really just an industry checklist to make sure you’re telling a story. The real deficit of the three-act structure as a theory is that it overlooks the power of standalone dramatic sequences. Stanley Kubrick had a theory that all films are made up of 8–12 ‘non-submersible units’. All his films have non-traditional story patterns but all feel like pure films.


The funny thing is that a person on the street will rarely talk about a film in terms of three-act narrative – they will talk always talk about ‘the best bits’. Think about it in this way – a monologue in a mirror, planning a heist, a dinner scene, aftermath of a robbery, a torture scene, a father and son scene, a Mexican stand-off – that’s Reservoir Dogs isn’t it? What about the first turning point etc., etc.? It’s just industry bollox.


The real genius of thinking about films in terms of units is that you think in terms of montage. You are forced to think about the screenplay in terms of film syntax, not prose. The beauty of that is that what you leave out can have just as much meaning as what you leave in.


So Oliver Stone takes 20 minutes to establish the madness of Vietnam in Platoon (traditional three-act approach), while Kubrick makes a single cut from a marine blowing his brains out in a sterile latrine to a hooker’s ass in main-street Saigon and we know we are not in Kansas anymore. It’s quite liberating when you think about it.


When you are writing are you thinking of an audience?


David Lean had a great saying – ‘Make the films you want to make and hope that people go and see them. If they don’t, then give up!’ He’s not talking about making films that are esoteric and personal – he’s talking about a hope that your sensibility as a filmmaker is shared by a wider group of humans. Ultimately we’re storytellers not storyowners – it’s a generous craft. In truth that’s the first gift of any great writer – the common touch.


What’s your typical writing schedule?


When I started writing I thought that you should write when you felt inspired, so I would sit around all day, then start writing late in the afternoon. This progressed later and later until I was writing through the night and sleeping most of the day. The result wasn’t very good. For starters you feel like you’re on a different path to the rest of the world – the baggage of being an unemployed writer seemed emphasized by the pattern of being asleep when everyone else was at work. So very quickly I decided to opt for discipline and started to get up early.


Norman Mailer talks about the phenomenon of going to bed and telling your brain that it needs to be writing first thing in the morning and how the brain responds so positively to the request. I’ve always found mornings to be the most productive time. I get up early, maybe 6am and I feel like I’ve got the jump on most of the rat race.


I’ve had a motto for a long time that if it’s not fun to write it’s not going to be fun to read. So before I start to write a script, I try to avoid beginning until the outline is in place. I’ll pitch the idea to anyone who’ll listen – honing the story. It’s amazing how things that stump you for hours on your own will suddenly come to you in an instant when you’re trying to thrill a listener. Once the outline is there I start the 6ams and blitz it. This probably translates to about a month of actual writing preceded by 6 months of pacing, thinking, and pitching. So I write quickly, but it takes a long time.


Do you ‘write what you know’?


Not specifically. It’s probably a weakness and a strength. I rely heavily on imagination. I’ve always had an over-active imagination. But I write things that have a personal sensibility. I don’t limit myself to my own experience because frankly I don’t believe I’ve had the kind of life experience that would be interesting to people to watch. I think a lot of Irish writers are guilty of thinking their lives and experience more interesting than they actually are.


If you’re Ernest Hemingway and you’ve just come back from the Spanish Civil War and you’ve spent your afternoons drinking rum and shooting bears then write about what you know, people will be fascinated. If you’re not, then you’re going to have to make it up.


What advice would you have for writers?


Keep writing and keep reading. I was lucky enough not to get into film school when I left secondary and ended up studying History of Art and English in UCD Arts. This was the single greatest advantage of my career because I’ve read all the right books and studied all the right paintings.


Learn to re-write. Re-writing doesn’t mean you write a bunch of new stuff. It means you look at what you’ve written, you consider what doesn’t work and you fix it within the confines of your story.


I know a lot of writers who can write great first drafts. The reason no one will ever hear of them is because after the first draft they lose interest in making the script as good as it can be. That’s the creative instinct – you see a thing almost complete and that’s good enough. That’s where craft comes in – craft is the thing that shapes creative instinct and systematically helps you to fully realize your inspiration.


Stay positive. There’s a real trap that writers fall into in this country where they start to believe that they’re not getting a break because of politics or because someone doesn’t like them. The truth is that talent will always find a way and a good script will always get you noticed!

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Winter 2011 issue 139, published 1st November 2011.



DVD Review: The Runway


In 1983, the entire nation was captivated when a Mexican pilot crash-landed in Mallow, Cork. In those cash-strapped yet community minded times, building a runway was perhaps a real life metaphor for hopes and dreams taking flight. Writer/Director Ian Power’s feature debut reimagines these events as an immensely enjoyable family film centred on Paco (Kierans), a nine-year-old yearning for a father figure. In swoops the dashing but mysterious Columbian pilot, Ernesto (Bichir). Ernesto quickly charms the locals as well as Paco’s plucky single mom (Condon). Soon, the town full of unemployed factory workers pulls together to get the damaged plane airborne again.

Large chunks of the story echo E.T. and heavy doses of Spielbergian sentimentality abound, but this all works surprisingly well, and the plot’s occasional bumps are smoothed over by the film’s considerable charms. Like Spielberg at his best, Power and cinematographer PJ Dillon manage to capture the child’s eye view, where innocence is both precious and fleeting, and the adult world can be a scary place. The acting is terrific across the board and genuine humour is present throughout. The Runway is a simple and uplifting tale one would have to be a curmudgeon not to like.

Includes the special feature: ‘Making of’ Documentary

Shane Perez

The Runway is released on DVD on 7th October 2011

  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Element Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: 7th October 2011


Ian Power ('The Runway') Q&A


Ian Power talks about his film The Runway, which is in cinemas now, and the challenges he had to overcome to make it.

What was your last production?

I’ve just finished a film called The Runway – my first feature, which I also wrote. It’s inspired by the true story of a South American pilot who crashed his plane in Mallow in 1983. The locals came together and, against all odds, built a runway to get him home. A feel-good film.

How did you become a director?

When I was about 16 I wanted to be a dentist. My folks had an inkling that this wasn’t the right path for me so they sent me to a career guidance councillor and after the usual aptitude tests he suggested film. I always loved film but when you’re young you don’t think about it as a realistic career, or at least then you didn’t.

In film school everyone wants to direct. I was lucky enough to get to direct one of our thesis films and did a terrible job. And I suppose there’s nothing to motivate you to make another film like a bad film, so about 6 months out of film school I made Buskers, a Filmbase short, and it won a lot of awards and stuff and put me on the map. Specifically, it got me my first commercial, which was a good script that turned out great and won more awards. That got me a lot of other commercials and I lost my way for a bit in terms of drama, which is what really interests me. So I started writing again and, five scripts later, I made The Runway.

How has your role as a director impacted on the development of a production?

Because I write, I have always been at the heart of the development process. But even as a writer/director, after the draft that starts the development process in terms of finance, you have to put your director’s hat on, too. I think people underestimate the role of a director in development because all too often directors come on late in the day. It’s perceived that they will be an additional expense. Producers hold out to see if Steven Spielberg might be attracted when the script is right or something crazy like that, and miss an opportunity to have a very practical point of view on the script – specifically the point of view of the person who will realize the film at the end of the day.

Thankfully this culture is changing. Directors are being brought on board in the development process, but I’m still not certain that producers consider the director’s role in development on at least the same terms of importance as their own.

Do you have an anecdote that describes a challenge that you overcame creatively as director?

On The Runway we had scheduled 7 days in our main exterior field location to cover all the main set pieces. We were a small film but the plan was to turn into a big production for a short time to get these bigger scenes. But we got rained out – the field turned into a bog – and this had to reduce to four. Now, we had spent weeks in pre-production trying to scale down these scenes and 7 days was the minimum for the script to make any sense. Now it’s the day before we’re due to go into the field and I’m being told that it’s washed out and that we’re going to have to build a real runway just to get into the field and it’s going to rob three of our days. There was a palpable sense of despair around me – like the film had just collapsed. And the truth is that these moments are directing in its purest form. I know it’s really a logistical problem but it’s easy to be creative without logistical problems. And when these problems arise you have a choice. You can give up and accept that the film is ruined, or you can make it part of the film – own it.

So I took the wet pages of the schedule and put together a work-around. I bought us another day in our interiors with a re-write on a couple of scenes, I dropped some other scenes, and I combined whatever I could to shorten the scenes we were doing in the field. The truth is that a film takes on its own life once the shoot begins and some are easier than others. Nothing about making The Runway was easy but I enjoyed every second of it and I learned a ton.

This article first appeared in Film Ireland magazine – Issue 134 – The Autumn Issue 2010


The Runway

the runway

DIR/WRI: Ian Power • PRO: Macdara Kelleher, Brendan McDonald, Ian Power • DOP: P.J. Dillon • Ed: Amine Jaber • DES: Ray Ball • Cast: James Cosmo, Kerry Condon, Demián Bichir

Paco (Jamie Kierans) has it tough; his Mum seems to work every hour of the day, his Dad is ‘in Spain’, and his best friend Frogs has just had his family’s traveller site moved out of their sleepy Cork village. The year is 1983 and Ireland is in the midst of a recession, with everyone seemingly waiting for something to happen. And indeed something does, with the crash landing of handsome South American rogue Ernesto (Demian Bichir).

Since it is Paco who finds Ernesto, and indeed it is only Paco who seems to be able to (semi) understand Ernesto’s Spanish ramblings, Paco swiftly becomes Ernesto’s handler-come-translator. Some of the best comedy moments come when even Paco can’t quite understand what Ernesto is saying, and makes up an entirely fictional backstory in order to get the village on his side (‘He’s an orphan.’). But it isn’t long before the village have joined forces in order to get Ernesto’s crashed plane back into working order, and begin construction of a runway for it to take off.

Writer/Director Ian Power wears the film’s Spielberg heart on its sleeve, in particular the very strong E.T.-vibe (missing father figure, crash landing outsider, construction of something to help him return home), and the strong cast help bring the drama and comedy when and where it’s needed. The only real fault lies when the film concerns itself with Ernesto’s real past, involving a slightly muddled story of stolen gems and Ernesto’s evil brother.

Thankfully, not much screen time is given over to this sub-plot, and the film focuses mostly where it should – on the burgeoning relationships between Paco and Ernesto, and Ernesto and Paco’s mum, not to mention the well-played balancing act of having the village play for comic relief without descending into any real clichés. Much like the runway itself at the time, this movie should capture the hearts and imagination of the rest of the country. Between this and The Guard, it looks like 2011 will be a great year for Irish cinema.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Runway is released on 10th June 2011


IFTA Rising Star Award Nominees Announced


Bord Scannán na hÉireann /the Irish Film Board (IFB) and the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) have announced the Rising Star Award nominees for 2011, the winner of which will be named at the Irish Film and Television Awards ceremony on 12th February 2011.

Selected by a special jury and sponsored by the IFB, the Rising Star Award is a unique Award which highlights exceptional new and breakthrough talent working in all areas of the Irish film industry.

The 2011 nominees are:
Antonia Campbell Hughes (Actress) Bright Star, When Harvey Met Bob
Domhnall Gleeson (Actor) True Grit, Sensation
Ian Power (Writer/Director) The Runway, The Wonderful Story of Kelvin Kind
Juanita Wilson (Writer/Director) As If I Am Not There, The Door

The 2010 Rising Star Award was won by Tomm Moore, writer/director of the Oscar nominated feature animation The Secret of Kells. Tomm has since begun working on his second feature length animation Song of the Sea. 

Centurion and Hunger actor Michael Fassbender received the Rising Star Award in 2009, whilst young actress Saoirse Ronan was named the winner of the first Rising Star IFTA in 2008 for her breakthrough performance in Atonement.

The 8th Annual Irish Film & Television Awards will take place at Dublin’s spectacular new Convention Centre on Saturday 12th February 2011. The ceremony will broadcast live on RTÉ One at 9.30pm.