24 May 2024

Jack Kirwan

20 September 2021

Where you grew up…

I grew up in Killiney right beside the sea. Getting a few extra minutes of sleep on the DART each day before the walk to school is something I’ll always remember fondly. Attending secondary school near the city centre was somewhat of an adjustment for me but being able to listen to music through my headphones on my “long” journey eased the trip magnificently. 

How you came to be at St. Conleth’s…

I remember not really minding where my parents decided to send me to secondary school. I didn’t know a lot about St.Conleths but I heard a couple of the lads from my primary school would also be attending which eased my anxieties. When the idea of St.Conleths was presented to me I hadn’t a clue what the school embodied but the moment Mr.Kelleher handed me a packet of smarties after my interview I would say that helped aid in my decision making process exponentially.

I would say the fact that the school was small and mixed were enticing aspects for my parents. I think having no particular interest in sport, it was also important that the school I attended taught art and music which I had always had strong interests in.

Favourite and/or least favourite subject in school…

My favorite subject by far would have to have been art. The art room was where I felt most comfortable and confident during my time at Conleths. I would say I knew by third year that art was definitely something that I knew I wanted to pursue after secondary school. Ms.Halpin had a huge influence on my decision to study art in college. Instead of taking a year out to do a portfolio course after sixth year, I decided to give it a go during my final year. I would never have been able to complete a portfolio worth submitting if it wasn’t for Ms.Halpin’s help. She would stay back after class most weeks to help me edit and work on different aspects of my work and I’ll always be grateful for that. The support I felt from Ms.Halpin and other teachers in school was something I possibly took for granted at the time but now I’m fully able to appreciate just how much that support has helped me over the years.

Having art class to look forward to in the timetable was always a relief to see. Being able to express myself visually and artistically during school hours created a balance that helped me get through the day. Knowing I had art to look forward to during a double period of double maths helped more than I can say.

Fondest memory of St. Conleth’s…

I think a lot of people wouldn’t agree with me but I’ll always remember 6th year fondly. I’m still extremely grateful for the classmates I was put together with as some of them remain to be my closest friends to this day. Navigating adolescence and becoming adults together is a bond I think most of us will appreciate for a very long time.

The short period of time between finishing up classes in 6th year and preparing for graduation is a fleeting moment that sticks out in my head. Being able to celebrate our time at St. Conleth’s and the bonds we had made before that final push for the Leaving Cert was quite special. I’ll always remember the anxious fits of laughter everyone shared while prepping for the ceremony and reassuring each other everything would work out in the end.

Being able to go back to the school for the 5 year anniversary with my classmates was a surreal experience. Sitting in our old desks and viscerally remembering specific moments during class was an occasion I’ll never forget.  

Who/what influenced you to pursue your chosen field…

I had always been interested in animation from a young age. I can remember watching countless DVDs and clicking on the bonus features after the credits had ended to find out more about how each film was made. Watching the animators in their studios coming up with plots and character designs was extremely inspiring.

I knew I wanted to pursue art after my time at Conleths but was never sure on which exact path to take. Being able to have a career and a salary was something I knew would be extra difficult when choosing this field but when I saw the animation course in the IADT prospectus I knew straight away it was the one for me. I also knew that by attending an institute like IADT that supported their student’s artistic explorations I would learn more about myself than I had before.

Tell us about your education/ career path…

Luckily, I got enough points in my Leaving Certificate as well as enough points in my Portfolio to get into Animation in IADT. For some reason I think in the back of my head I thought getting into art college would be the hardest part but the next four years were a lot more tough than I had expected. The imposter syndrome hit me like a tonne of bricks as I started attending lectures and tutorials with other art students surrounding me. Thankfully I kept working hard and getting through each semester until reaching my final year.

I teamed up with Éabha, my now creative partner and decided to direct and produce our own grad film, The Usual, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made. The film went on to win the award for Best First Short Animation at the Galway Film Fleadh that year. Because of this, we got to attend multiple film festivals nationally and internationally which inspired us even more to keep pursuing careers in animation.

The success of my grad film helped me to get a job quite quickly with Radii Animation just around the corner from St.Conleths where I am currently creating and directing my fourth film as we speak.

Proudest achievement to date…

I think for sure my proudest achievement to date would have to be winning an IFTA at this year’s virtual ceremony. Myself and my co-director, Éabha Bortolozzo picked up the award for Best Animated Short Film for directing our second piece of work, Her Song.

Apart from being in shock for winning the award I was extremely grateful our film won because of the subject matter that the film revolves around. Her Song is produced by Radii Animation in conjunction with Screen Ireland and RTÉ. The film sees the main character, Eve learning of her Grandmother’s harrowing history in a Mother & Baby home. Woven through her past is the mythological and misunderstood figure of the Banshee, whose comforting presence inspires the strength she needs to tell her story. Being able to highlight the dreadful issues associated with the Mother & Baby Homes to the public was our main goal with this film. For me, using animation to feature important issues to its viewers is a lot more interesting than using the medium for cartoons and children’s entertainment.

Aspirations for the future…

At the moment I’m really enjoying my field of work. I won’t lie though, the first year of the pandemic was quite a tough experience for a young filmmaker in Ireland looking for work. Thankfully I got to take the time to work on my craft and explore different avenues which have led to very rewarding and exciting experiences. For now I want to keep making films through animation that leave audiences with something to think about and stay with them after they leave the theatre. I want to keep pushing my craft and being open to any opportunity that comes my way. I believe that Irish people are some of the best storytellers out there and I would love to eventually bring more of our stories to light.

Advice for people wanting to work in your sector/ general advice…

I’m not sure if I feel old enough yet for me to have a reputable answer for this specific question but I can certainly give it a go.

If I was talking to a student currently attending St.Conleths who was worried about which path to take after their time at school, I would firstly tell them to relax. Because of St.Conleths academic reputation I think it could be quite easy to think that you may have to go down a path that you are not inspired by. The support that I felt from the school when I was open about what I wanted to pursue was extremely comforting. Students that I know from my time at Conleths have gone on to explore exceptionally interesting avenues in their careers. I believe that if you have the potential to work in an area that seems overwhelmingly niche at first, you should give it your all. St.Conleths is a great support system which I will always be thankful for.

by Charles Latvis

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