The Arts Interview: Eleanor McSherry

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Born and raised on the North Circular Road, in Limerick, I came from a family of seven children, five boys and two girls.

Born and raised on the North Circular Road, in Limerick, I came from a family of seven children, five boys and two girls.

When I was about twenty two years old, I moved to Dublin to work. I lived, there, for about ten years, got married and moved back home to Limerick, when my children started school.

I went to the Salesians for both my Primary and Secondary education. Later, I completed a Certificate in Broadcasting at RTÉ (through the People’s College, Dublin). I also went to Mary Immaculate College (MIC), as a mature student, and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Communications and Philosophy.

Recently, I finished my Masters Degree in Philosophy, by research.

When I was very young I used to write poetry, plays and short stories, which I would broadcast all over my parent’s house.

I also told my younger sister, Liz, stories at night to help her sleep. As a teenager, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist, like Kate Adie.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write something. Even though, I worked at different jobs, over the years, I was always writing. Why I wanted to write is hard to say. Probably, it emerged out of a need to share what was going on in my head, with someone else.

For me, being a scriptwriter reflects my need to tell a story, spin a tail and watch magic unfold before on the big screen before our eyes.

My passion for scriptwriting comes from a love of the movies. I used to watch old black and white films every Saturday afternoon on TV.

They had fantastic actors in them, like David Niven, Bob Hope, James Cagney and my favourite actors, Richard Harris and Maureen O’Hara.

I wanted to learn how to write like that and how to make people feel something when they watched a movie I wrote. Currently, I have two films in preproduction at the moment. They are both short films. One is about a child with autism and his first day at school.

This script was shortlisted for the Galway Film Centre’s Short Script Awards, in 2009 and 2010 and Dublin Filmbase’s Short Script Award, in 2010. My second film script is a five minute fantasy piece about a young girl and a Fairy Queen. This has been shortlisted for a script award at the Waterford Film Festival, 2012.

There was an emphasis on writing in my family.

My mother is a very creative person. She is both an artist and an accomplished writer. Both my parents, Anne O’Keeffe and the late Dr Denis O’Keeffe, were and are very supportive nurturing people.

They were the greatest influence on my life choices. My parents instilled in us all both a social conscience and a strong creative ability. Even today, my Mum is always great for advice. One example of a nugget of wisdom they gave me was when I once asked my Dad what I should do when I left school and he said; ‘find a job where you can do what you love everyday and it’ll never be work’.

This has stuck with me all of my life. I knew, then, that a desk job just would not suit me. Today, I am an academic, a scriptwriter, an independent filmmaker, an events organiser, a Mum and a disability rights campaigner, and I love every single thing that I do.

After co-founding the Special Needs Parents Association of Ireland, today I am their Limerick Regional Parent Representative and one of their National Policy Officers.

As a result of this work, I am regularly on the radio, television and in print, both nationally and locally, speaking out for people with disabilities, especially children. Indeed, I am a member of the University of Limerick’s (UL) Intellectual Disabilities Studies Group.

As a member of Dóchas Hope and People With Autism, I also organise World Autism Day every year. I became involved with disability issues after my own son was born with Aspergers Syndrome, which is a form of autism.

Currently, I am the Creative Director of the Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival 2013, which is very exciting.

I am also the Public Relations Officer for Behind The Scenes Filmmakers’ Network, which is based in Limerick while simultaneously working as a producer/director/writer with Sidhe Film.

In addition, I teach scriptwriting in the Limerick Writer’s Centre, twice a year. I am also just about to start a job lecturing with the University College Cork’s Adult Education Unit (ACE), in the Limerick College of Further Education, on its Certificate in Autism Spectrum Studies.

Everyone should write, if that is what they want to do.

If you want to write, you should. No one wants to look back on their life and have regrets.

If you feel that you have a story in you, give it a go. If no one likes it, well at least you will have tried. You’ll know then it was not meant to be.

However, there is very little money in scriptwriting here. If you want to make money in scriptwriting you are better off leaving Ireland. For me money is nice but it is not essential. I just love making movies and have been very lucky so far as most of my scripts have been shortlisted for awards. This means that I have a foot in the door of most good production 

However, now that I have my own filmmaking company, with Maeve McGrath, we often just make our own movies.

To find out more about Eleanor McSherry’s filmmaking please see the following: @rhliff and Harris Limerick InternationalFilmFestival. The Inaugural Richard Harris International Film Festival will take place at the Limerick Arts Centre from Dec 6-8.