Watch: Former jarvey from Cork uses life savings to make film on suicide

A Corkman who worked as a jarvey in Killarney for years has put his life savings into making a film on suicide that is to be shown at cinemas nationwide from Friday.

That’s quite the achievement for a movie made with a total budget of €150,000, having received additional support from local businesses.

Damien O’Callaghan, 42, fell in love with writing after he trained as an actor at Killarney’s Briciú Theatre Company, alongside the likes of Michael Fassbender and Donal Courtney.

His latest movie, written by Damien and Kildare screenwriter Paul Fitzsimons, was prompted by a newspaper article which outlined how 6,000 Irish people died of suicide between 2002 and 2012. Damien said he couldn’t believe that many people had given up on their life.

The Gift tells the story of Sean, a man contemplating ending it all after losing his wife to cancer.

The movie, Damien’s first feature film, stars Alan Devine who played ‘The Hutch’ in Veronica Guerin; Una Kavanagh from Fair City; Dawn Bradfield from Moone Boy; and veteran comedian Brendan Grace even makes an appearance.

“The movie is certainly intense and dramatic and it doesn’t sugar coat the topic of suicide. It has nine very full-on scenes,” said Damien.

Damien, from Mahon in Cork City, believes he honed his storytelling abilities while working as a jarvey in Killarney.

“You met all of life there. There was so many people that had stories to tell you. World War Two, we heard the lot.

“And you’d be telling stories back, it’s all part of the job, telling stories.

“To be honest, I’ve felt one half of my life was talking about the other half of my life,” he said.

While Damien worked as a jarvey by day for 10 years and to this day, sometimes helps out if one of the jarveys need time off, he was a bouncer by night. It was this second job that gave him the inspiration for his acclaimed 2014 short movie, Bouncers which was selected for the Cork and Kerry film festivals.

He later completed a degree in hotel management and moved to the US before he returned to Killarney in 2006 and set up OC Productions.

The Gift film was shortlisted in the ‘Best First Feature’ category at the 2016 World of Film Festival in Glasgow.

The Gift will screen from Friday, April 21, at cinemas around Ireland, including Omniplex cinemas in Dublin-Rathmines, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford and at Cinema Killarney, Co Kerry.

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