Young Guns 18: Denis Kilty

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie Posted on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.







When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

A peer had picked up an award at the One Show, and through that, I had come across Young Guns - I was amazed at the calibre of winners from previous years and I decided to throw my hat in the ring. The diversity of work is always impressive and inspiring.

Congrats on winning your second time around. What did you do differently for YG18 than for YG17?

I was fortunate to be a finalist in YG17 for sound design, so second time around I got lucky!

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

Because I do a lot of work in advertising, it's hard to choose what to put in - there is the temptation to put the 'biggest clients' in so to speak, but ultimately it's about the best work - sometimes the most unsuspecting projects bring about the most boundary-pushing results we all seek out. Bar one project, all my portfolio this year was completed in 2020 - the personal projects were all brought into existence during the first lockdown phase of Coronavirus. I wonder if that was why YG18 worked out? Everyone involved was preparing for a tough year and pushing to make the most compelling work.

I did try and chose projects that show work in a more abstract nature - that's where sound design really shines, and that is the type of work I want to have under my belt.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

Simply, I did not expect to win - I had been humbled the first time around when I saw the winners in YG17 and understood the stakes for making the cut, and even more so to win. Some of the biggest and high profile creative work in the world was created by the winners that year. I saw that as the bar to hit, and the motivation to seek out more compelling work throughout the succeeding year. So, I was chuffed when the work manifested in a win for YG18!

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

Each one has its own connection to me, whether it be from the teams involved or the creative process, but I think that the personal project 'Cannonball / Shoeblack' made with the VFX guys over in MANOR London was a real treat - there was so much happening on screen that it was a fun task to make it all glow together in a cohesive manner. The whole piece is inspired by two breeds of plants that biologically do certain things, so there was a cool space to draw inspiration from, in particular Cannonball.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

I would say my sound design work aims to be cinematic, detailed and immersive. I always want people to press play and feel that "holy s***!" moment, where it's a deep, all-encompassing audiovisual treat. Because I compose music for advertising and most of the time I am tasked with both parts, I try and blur the lines between sounds and music so they work in tandem like one big organism, delivering the emotional response together.

I ask myself on every job - "What would make this piece blow me away?" and then I just try and achieve that emotional response sonically.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

I think the person that had the biggest impact on my career to date is Derek Doyle, an agency producer for Boys + Girls in Dublin. He gave me my first opportunity to work on a commercial five or six years ago - my first ever TV ad 'The Loneliest Whale'. The ad itself was visually stunning, and it cleaned up awards left right and centre, and so from that experience, I realized that I have the capacity to do this as a career. Since then, it has been essentially wall-to-wall making music and sound for commercials. My style musically and sonically has honestly evolved alongside the briefs and the work that have presented themselves to me. It's like solving a puzzle - every day its something different, and I think that is why I ended up stepping into sound design too. I wanted to know how I could elevate my music with the keys to the other segment of sound in film and here we are today, perhaps almost 200 projects later, I've lost count. It's been a wild journey.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

I am in love with the visual work of Felix Soletic (YG18). He is a visual design master. I am addicted to his style and would love to work with him on something. Fingers crossed!

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

There have been a lot of false starts on projects due to changing circumstances, but strangely this has been my busiest year yet. Must be something I said, but I have had at least two projects per week moving along since January.

I am fortunate in that my work has been uninterrupted by Covid-19. I work remotely for a lot of clients and collaborators domestically and internationally anyway, so in many ways, I was pandemic proof before it even started. It's a total godsend and I recognize how fortunate I am to be able to continue to create.

I think that the pandemic has required a greater sense of patience and understanding in my professional work across the board. We all know this will ultimately go away, and so working together to make the best of a bad situation across the board has been the tone, at least in my world. I hope that the industry and indeed society itself can return to normal as soon as possible.

It's November, but there is still a huge amount to do before the end of the year, and I am excited and optimistic as always.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

I want to make a crazy abstract commercial for Apple. A humble request to the powers that be!

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

I want to give a shout out to Ntropic, with whom I have developed a wonderful relationship with and with whom two portfolio projects were made. They are an unbelievable collection of talent and lovely people - I love working with them, and I look forward to making more award-winning work together.


"It's refreshing to award excellence in sound design and composition and equally gratifying to listen to Denis' work and realize why. He brings another layer and world to the work that helps elevate and bring it to a new place. I've always felt as though sound can often become an afterthought to pictures, when it is equally important. Denis proves that thinking through his work."

Nessim Higson
Executive Creative Director
Young Guns 5 Winner

"Denis' soundtracks have a creative mix of sound effects into ambience, and the compositions expand the imagination towards the visuals. I strongly recommend "Future of Cooking" and "Formula1"; both of these projects completely reinvent the visual of sounds."

Chris Cheung
Artist/Creative & Artistic Director
Young Guns 11 Winner

"Although Denis's work is not visual, he leaves me wanting to fully immerse myself in the story behind his music. What gravitates my attention to Denis Kilty's work was the many textures and layers included in all of the projects he's worked on. I was never educated in music, but the commercial "Celebration" took my breath away. The haunting grandeur of the Rolls Royce commercial along with the beautiful and sensual music of "Cannonball / Shoeblack" leaves me speechless. It takes a multi-talented musician to share something so beautiful in a project that is only a few minutes long."

"Having worked on nearly 200 campaigns for world-leading brands, creating original music and sound design, Denis clearly is passionate about the process of bringing stories to life through sound. As a storyteller myself, I consider anyone collaborating with him very lucky, and look forward to his future endeavors."

Tasneem Alsultan



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



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