"Gritty and fully conscious of its Belfast backdrop it is one to watch as a possible feature in the future." - Film Hub NI
- 20/07/2017 - 'Film Hub goes west - part two' - Film Hub NI
- 08/11/2016 - 'James Nesbitt invests in boxing film to be filmed in Belfast' - Newsletter
- 28/10/2016 - '‘The Fall’ Actresses voice support for Women in Film and upcoming ‘Guard’ - IFTN
- 20/10/2016 - 'The Fall's Bronagh Taggart enters into boxing ring in new film' - Irish News
- 14/10/2016 - 'The Fall star Bronagh Taggart desperate to land funding for knockout Belfast boxing film' - Belfast Live
- 13/10/2016 - 'The Fall's Bronagh ready to pack a punch in boxing movie' - Belfast Telegraph
Giving 5% of production funds to Women's Aid NI
As part of our campaign to secure funds to make the film, we pledged to donate 5% of the total raised to Womens Aid NI, the lead voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland addressing domestic and sexual violence and providing services for women and children.
As a consequence, on December 19th 2016, we were delighted to be able to transfer £875 to their account to help them continue their amazing work.
Read their short blog on the donation here: https://www.womensaidni.org/belfast-boxing-film-crowd-funder/
The Last Film at Casement Park?
By far one of the most difficult elements of pre-production was negotiating access to the now disused Casement Park in West Belfast. Until recently, Casement was the principal Gaelic sports stadium in the city and has been home to the Antrim football and hurling teams since 1953, but is currently closed pending a controversial redevelopment. In the end we were able to access the stadium for just two hours, including time for the Art Department to prep the location, but were lucky to keep to our schedule and catch the main stand at magic hour. To date, no other film has been granted access to the site since it closed, and Guard may prove to be the last appearance of the famous stand (and perhaps even the pitch) on film.
"Severe Mountain Mist"
The opening of the film was intended to be a longer running sequence in which the mountains that surround Belfast would be prominent, but on the morning of filming, an uncharacteristically heavy fog descended, entirely obscuring the view of the mountain. At breakfast, we changed the schedule, moving the mountain shots to later in the day in the hope that the fog would have by then at least partially cleared. At the first location, it seemed to disappear behind us as the camera was pointed in the opposite direction, but the by the time we got to the crucial shots, it was back, and worse than before. Our 1st Assistant Director, Ciaran Colton, who has worked on several seasons of Game of Thrones, much of which is filmed on the mountain, said he had never before seen a weather forecast that read "Severe Mountain Mist" let alone delivered on it. The opening sequence ended up being much shorter, and the mountain remains only briefly in one shot - as Katie runs across a motorway foot bridge - still partially obscured by the fog.
Clonard Boxing Club and Michael Conlan
The film's boxing scenes were filmed in the historic Clonard ABC in West Belfast, which moved to a brand new gym just weeks after filming. The gym in the film is where professional boxer Michael Conlan trained for several Olympic and World Championships, and has never before been used as a film location.
Casting Michael McElhatton
When we began work on producing Guard, the very first thing we decided was aim high: "start at the top and work your way down" was the motto on every element of production. Thankfully, we got the people, locations and equipment we wanted, without much compromise.
With casting, we decided to ask Robert Sterne - casting director of The Crown, Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall - if he'd be interested in helping us find the right actors. After we sent him the script, he came on board and we started talking about who might play Kieran.
We'd always been a fan of Michael McElhatton's work - his final scene in series 1 of The Fall is truly breathtaking - but he is a very busy guy, and spends a lot of time away from Ireland. On Robert's advice, we sent him the script and Jonathan wrote an accompanying letter explaining more about the project and why we wanted him to be involved. When he replied to say he was interested, it was game on. In Bronagh and Michael, we had our two lead actors, and by that point our budget was in place. The next big step was setting dates...
Eventually, after much shuffling and reshuffling, we were able to work our dates around Michael's hectic schedule. At points, it seemed like we'd lose him, but as an actor himself, Jonathan was adamant that his first project as a director would be built around the cast.
Crowdfunding: with a little help from our friends
At the beginning of the crowdfunding campaign, Bronagh and Jonathan hoped to reach just £8,000, enough to cover the initial production costs. The plan had been to raise completion funds based on the quality promised by a rough assembly. As it turned out, the campaign raised enough to cover everything, not least thanks to the intervention of several well known names.
As the campaign progressed, the team approached several industry contacts to ask for support, and on nearly every occasion, they were happy to put their weight behind the project. From BAFTA-winning director Nick Murphy, to Elaine Sperber, the former VP of production at HBO, the list of notable backers kept growing. Jessica Raine, Bronagh Waugh, Niamh McGrady, Geraldine Hughes and Sinead Keenan all lent their voices to the chorus of actresses supporting Bronagh in her fight to make Guard, while Gillian Anderson in particular praised our pledge to give 5% of funds raised online to Women's Aid NI.
As we pushed towards our target, boxers Paul Smith Jnr and Michael Conlan offered their backing, actor James Nesbitt came on board as an Executive Producer, and it all started getting ridiculous when Liam Neeson's agent got in touch to say that he too was supporting the project.
By the climax of the Indiegogo, we had raised £17,500, of which we donated £875 to Women's Aid NI.
Some well-known backers
Among over two hundred people who were kind enough to donate to our crowdfunding campaign, there were some well known names, including: boxer Paul Smith Jnr (2 x British Campion); directors Stephen Fingleton (Survivalist), Des Kennedy (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and Michael Longhurst (Amadeus at the National Theatre); producers Julian Stevens (The Fall, The Missing), Sarah Stack (Jamaica Inn, 6 Degrees), Raymond Lau (Disney's The Lodge), and John Leslie (Zoo); actors Tom Goodman-Hill (Humans, Mr Selfridge), Bronagh Waugh (The Fall, Hollyoaks), Maya Sondhi (Line of Duty, Citizen Khan and also writer of Mount Pleasant), Emmet J Scanlan (The Fall, Hollyoaks), Martin McCann (Survivalist), Paul Higgins (Line of Duty, The Thick of It), Niamh McGrady (The Fall, Holby City), Sinead Keenan (Being Human, London Irish), Conor MacNeill (The Siege of Jadotville), Packy Lee (Peaky Blinders), Karen Hassan (The Fall, Hollyoaks), and Zoe Rainey (Wicked); writers Daragh Carville (Being Human) and Lisa McGee (The White Queen, London Irish, Indian Summers); and dialogue coach Brendan Gunn (Brooklyn, Game of Thrones).
Bronagh's Boxing Training
More than any other part she's ever played, GUARD required Bronagh to do some serious physical preparation. She started learning how to box three months before Guard went into production, at Miguel's Boxing Club in Brixton. In addition to her own fitness programme (including training for her first half marathon), Bronagh attended one-on-one sessions with a team of professional boxing trainers for a few hours each week, with occasional additional sparring sessions with Jonathan in their back garden.
It sounds like a cliche, but the trainers at Miguel's were extremely complimentary about Bronagh's ability, with one lamenting that she hadn't started younger. She has, they all agreed, a mean right hook.