Cork teen: Lockdown was hard, but I got a hit film out of it!

Teenager MICHAEL KEANE used the pandemic to tap into his creative side. Here, the 17-year-old, from Cobh, explains how he ended up making a film that has been viewed million of times
Cork teen: Lockdown was hard, but I got a hit film out of it!

ACCLAIMED DEBUT: In Michael Keane’s film, Covid Éire, he travels by train from Cobh to Cork city and back, and his voiceover discusses the impact of Covid-19. 

THE pandemic was such a bizarre time for everyone. For me, it provided me with the time and space I needed to create a body of work which launched my career and big break into the film industry.

But let’s take a trip back to March, 2020, when the pandemic became a worry across Ireland. I was just about halfway through my Transition Year in St Francis College, Rochestown.

One day in Maths class, the principal announced that the following day we would not be returning to school. This brought great joy to most, but concern to some, who feared we may never return to the classroom.

The days after it felt like we were given an early summer holiday, but soon the boredom and isolation of not being able to see anybody in person became difficult.

April, 2020, was a very long month, every day felt like groundhog day, always the same. 

There was nothing to do, nobody to see but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s dystopian announcements on the TV, just to hear that we would no longer be able to set foot outside of a 2km radius of our own homes.

Then I realised that I could document this strange time. All I had to do was come up with an original idea and a way to somehow share my message across Ireland and the world about how lost I was feeling. In May, 2020, I wrote a first draft for a short film titled Covid Eire. I created a simple script with a few lines, telling the story of how I was feeling.

I went around my town of Cobh in search of a good location to film it, then an idea struck me. What if it were set on a train and the character could be taking a train ride, reflecting on what he has been through.

So I grabbed all my gear, headed to the train station and took a return ride from Cobh to Cork without getting off. I simply put my camera on the tripod and filmed myself.

When I arrived home, I put a voice-over to the cinematic sequence, and voila! I had just created a movie.

I uploaded the film to YouTube and in the first day it raked in more than 2,000 views.

Local radio stations reached out and interviewed me about the film. As the days went by, the views started to get higher. It got to a point where strangers would recognise me in the street.

In June, 2020, I heard the team at Amazon Prime Video were interested in acquiring the movie to feature it on their platform in the shorts category. I couldn’t believe that my own little time capsule video was going to be on Amazon Prime.

Shortly after, we drew up a deal and signed contracts, and there I was, on the home page of one of the biggest TV streaming platforms.

Last October, the film won the ‘Spirit Award’ at the IndieCork Film Festival. The atmosphere was electric as we got dressed up to walk the red carpet and watch my own movie in the Gate Cinema in Cork city on the big screen.

The film was selected for the Fastnet Film Festival and nominated for Ireland’s Young Filmmaker Of The Year 2021.

Then, in March this year, I got a call in school from a journalist from RTÉ News who said she wanted to interview me. We met over Zoom and chatted a bit about the movie, shortly after they played a 30 second clip and interview on the Six One News.

It is probably one of the achievements I am most proud of to date, having been on Ireland’s most watched TV channel, it just feels unlike anything else.

Covid Eire has now had more than 3.6 million views on Tik Tok and 86,000 on Youtube.

The pandemic has been so hard for all of us, but, if you use it to your advantage and get creative, it will be a win-win situation. So I encourage teenagers across Cork to get creative and make something, you never know where it may end up.

I want to thank my mates and teachers at St Francis College, Rochestown, who have encouraged and supported my work so much.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more