Roads Entertainment has an intriguing backstory and is building a promising slate. Andreas Wiseman talks to producer Alan Maher about the new Dublin-based film and TV company.

Former Irish Film Board executive Alan Maher is used to being asked about his ambitious business partner Danielle Ryan, founder of one-year-old Dublin-based production company Roads Entertainment.

“When I was in LA recently, I briefly explained Danielle’s backstory to an agent at CAA,” explains Maher in London’s Groucho Club. “He said, ‘Oh, so she’s Ireland’s Megan Ellison.’ I get that all the time.”

At first glance, it’s easy to see why. Ryanair founder Tony Ryan’s millionaire granddaughter Danielle Ryan is a 30-year-old entrepreneur, business woman, philanthropist and RADA-trained actress who is now launching a film production company as part of a luxury group, which also comprises publishing and fragrance houses. (New Hollywood powerhouse Ellison is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s daughter and has produced the likes of Zero Dark Thirty and American Hustle.)

The comparison is a fun one. But essentially a dead-end. “There’s a certain interest in Danielle and what she’s doing from the press,” admits Maher.

“But I don’t want to disappoint people,” he laughs. “There may be some similarities in terms of taste but there are slightly different chequebooks. We are not about to fully finance films of the Megan Ellison scale.”

Growing the slate

Ryan and Maher - himself a trained actor - set up Roads Entertainment in early 2013 after meeting while Maher was at the Irish Film Board.

Despite her diversity of interests, Ryan was already well known among the Irish industry, primarily as the director and founder of Dublin drama school The Lir. She was also an investor in Carol Morley’s acclaimed documentary Dreams Of A Life.

The company recently began production on its first documentary and is now amassing a slate of intriguing projects. The duo have also been joined by Doireann de Buitléar, who formerly produced commercials for Passion Pictures.

“The plan is to put together a company in a pretty conventional way. We want to develop high-quality projects in the commercial arthouse area, particularly based around true life stories,” says Maher, who was known as a documentary aficionado at the IFB, with credits including Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God, Dreams Of A Life and Knuckle.

True to that philosophy, the outfit’s first project to go into production is family history story After The Dance, a BBC Storyville commission directed by Daisy Asquith. They are also planning documentary Being AP, about renowned jockey AP McCoy, a co-production with Moneyglass Films and Partizan, developed with BBC Films and the IFB.

But the team is also working on an intriguing slate of fictional feature projects. “Documentaries will form part of what we do,” says Maher. “But we have a development fund to get projects started or for optioning projects, getting a treatment done or match financing other partners.”

The most developed of these is “unconventional love story” Trade, a script from Mark O’Halloran, the writer of Garage and Adam & Paul, which will be directed by experienced special-effects technician David Roddham.

With Harvest Films, Roads is developing Song Of Granite about the life of Irish traditional singer Joe Heaney to be directed by Pat Collins, while actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes is writing an under-wraps script to be directed by Alexandra McGuinness.

Roads has also optioned a biography of Revolutionary Road writer Richard Yates, which is being written by Tim Rose Price; and Ten Cent Plague, about the US senate hearings around comic books in the 1940s and 1950s, which is being written by Bronson writer Brock Norman Brock. Also on the slate is Black Blocked, a “bromance set against the anarchist movement”, which is being developed with Break Em Films and actor/writers Joel Fry and Nathaniel Martello-White.