Sarah McGuinness | Interview
Emmy Nominated British Producer, Director, Composer and Screenwriter
By Michael Ferguson
Sarah McGuinness is on a mission. A music mission. The Emmy nominated British producer, director, composer and screenwriter has stepped into her seductive, strong and sassy musical alter-ego and released her debut album Unbroken in November 2017. The album marries both sound and vision with every track, accompanied by its very own mini-movie, ultimately being more than just a video.
If you know Sarah McGuinness you will also know Sarah Townsend, she is one and the same and makes for a very intriguing combination. Sarah Townsend is her other guise, being the renowned movie director, producer and screenwriter for both TV and the big screen.
Sarah took time out from her busy schedule to talk to CultureHUB Magazine and to give us a personal insight into the lives of both Sarah McGuinness and Sarah Townsend.
Hailing from L/Derry, Sarah spoke of leaving the Maiden City in the late 1980s, which in her words was, “not a very fun time to be here for anyone” and headed to London and University study. Whilst she spends a lot of time away from Northern Ireland she tries to get back as often as possible to visit, especially at holiday times and is adamant that “nothing is better than a trip to the sea to calm down and reflect between intensive work schedules”.
Her debut album Unbroken was released in November 2017, is the culmination of a process spanning many years and as Sarah reveals, “between my many other projects”. She is absolutely thrilled to have got to the stage where her album is now in the public domain and is heartfelt in a feeling that all the hard work that went into the making of the album, shines through in the finished article.
Producing Unbroken was the very talented Ed Buller, who has previously worked with a range of well know artist including Suede, Pulp and The Courteeners. “I met him in the late 90s when he heard one of my soundtracks and said how much he loved it. We talked for years about doing something but it only became a reality in the last year or so, with great results.”
Musically Sarah immerses herself in the glamour and intrigue of the 50s and 60s silver screen. Her musical influences are unmistakable and include David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, Burt Bacharach but “most of all the inimitable John Barry”, who most famously composed the scores for 11 of the James Bond movies between 1963 and 1987. There is no doubting the feel of these varied musical influences in this debut album.
As for Sarah Townsend, her most notable works include the Emmy nominated documentary Believe, the inside story on Eddie Izzard and also the multi award-winning Noma: Forgiving Apartheid, about the acclaimed stage and screen actress Noma Dumezweni, an Olivier Award winner, and famed for her portrayal of Hermione Granger in the West End smash Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Sarah explained: “It is very gratifying to feel all the years of work you put in are recognised by other people because mostly if you are behind the scenes you are invisible. Getting the BAFTA short-list for my Noma documentary last year was a total surprise and pleasure. It’s great to feel you are part of such a committed industry.”
Sarah enjoys life both behind and in front of the camera. The Unbroken project has given her the “opportunity to combine my skills simultaneously and it will keep me busy for a while, one video at a time, now the songs are complete!”
The first single from the album is ‘Glad You’re Gone’ and on first listen appears to have Bond Theme written all over it. With a new Bond movie scheduled for November 2019 I asked of her thoughts on the possibility of the track being used. “Funny,” she continues: “Everyone says that about ‘Glad You’re Gone’, and yet there are other songs that I’d thought were more obvious contenders. The song ‘Miss You’ for example. Anyway, I live in hope, who knows…” Indeed.
The future for Sarah McGuinness appears pretty clear. She continues: “The idea is to complete all the videos for this album, so that each is its own story representing a different woman in a different situation that we all recognise, or perhaps aspire to, and to show them in styles that reference classic movies. The key difference is that the female character in each of these videos doesn’t suffer the usual fate i.e. is punished or bumped off for her feistiness, but instead she triumphs as on the old 1950s Pulp Fiction covers were the woman is always shown having made a decision, or killed someone, or runs off with the money and survived…
“It’s important to create stories that show a woman’s independence in a positive and fun light, as that is still a rare thing even now.”
Finally I asked Sarah to put together her four dream guests for a dinner party, you will not be surprised to hear they are all women. “These lists are nearly always mostly men, aren’t they?” So, I await, who are the four? “J.K Rowling for her wit and political insight, Amal Clooney for her fascinating take on blending her brilliance on Human Rights law with femininity and self-esteem. Sharon Osbourne for her intelligence and management skills. And finally Michelle Obama for her extraordinary experience, gravitas and grace.” It is safe to say this is a very formidable guest list and would be very welcome at Sarah’s house anytime.
The chapter entitled Unbroken is the latest part of the story that is Sarah McGuinness but there is no doubt this story is far from finished.Unbroken the debut album by Sarah McGuinness is out now – available to order from Amazon and iTunes. ORDER HERE