EXCLUSIVE: The Favourite producer Element Pictures has set its next movie to go into production: the intimate, female-fronted drama Herself, which is set against the housing crisis. Element will produce with Catastrophe star and co-writer Sharon Horgan’s Merman.

Set in Dublin, Herself is the story of young mother Sandra who escape her abusive boyfriend and fights back against a broken housing system. She sets out to build her own home and in the process rebuilds her life and re-discovers herself. The Iron Lady and Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd is helming.

Irish theatre actress Clare Dunne will star in the film from a script she co-wrote with Malcolm Campbell (What Richard Did). The project marks rising actress Dunne’s first leading role in a feature. Among many stage roles, she previously played Prince Hal in the Donmar Theatre all-female version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV., directed by Lloyd.

Production is planned for the end of April with financiers including Screen Ireland and BBC Films. The team is in discussion with additional financiers to complete the financing and cast is due to be rounded out soon.

Element’s Ed Guiney told us, “The script is very fresh and full of heart and integrity. Clare wrote it for herself to star in and she’s an excellent actress. The combination of producers and creatives was an exciting one for us and it’s great to be involved in a project with strong new talent. The film’s subject will really resonate in the UK, Ireland and the U.S.”

Merman recently produced the third season of HBO’s Divorce. The company launched digital arm Mermade last year and Emmy and BAFTA-nominee Horgan is due to make her feature debut on Focus Features comedy The New World.

Element is also on a roll. Lauded comedy-drama The Favourite garnered ten Oscar nominations and is the third-highest-grossing movie of the year in the UK, raking in an excellent $20M. The multi-faceted Irish company, one of the UK and Ireland’s most successful in recent years, has multiple films in the works with director Yorgos Lanthimos, including western Pop. 1280 with Imperative.

The firm is lining up Room director Lenny Abrahamson’s BBC TV drama Normal People adapted from Sally Rooney’s hit novel and Abrahamson’s movie A Man’s World, about Emile Griffith, who took the life of another boxer in the ring during a live televised broadcast in 1962. Also upcoming are Starz!-BBC crime mini-series Dublin Murders, currently in post, and the second part of Joanna Hogg’s acclaimed feature The Souvenir, starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton and Robert Pattinson. The latter is due to shoot this summer.