Alumni Spotlight – Lochlainn McKenna, music video director - Westlife
Award-winning director Lochlainn McKenna has reached new heights of success with his video for Westlife’s latest single, ‘Better Man’. His 1990s-set accompaniment to the Ed Sheeran-penned song has already racked up over 8 million views on YouTube. Lochlainn recently signed with a prestigious London-based creative agency and intends to concentrate on commercials and music videos before a move into feature films ensues. We catch up with the Cork man to look back at his college days.
Lochlainn McKenna’s journey from student to up-and-coming auteur began while studying for a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies at UCC. While in college, he gravitated towards the student Film Society and Dramat, immersing himself in the artistic energy swirling around campus. When asked about his fondest memories from that time he is refreshingly candid. “I acted in A LOT of terrible short films, but it probably got me used to being on set more than I give it credit for. That or else beans, chips and sausages in the main rest...”
Lochlainn considers his time at college as fundamental to his own personal development. It cultivated in him a passion for film which would ultimately define his career path. He counts Dr Barry Monahan as inspirational in this regard. “Barry is essentially the reason I’m doing what I’m doing, and I didn’t even really know it at the time. He kind of nurtured and fortified my interest in Irish film without me realising it. I had an interest in Irish film before I went to UCC and by the time I left UCC I was a fanatic, and now, I want to go on and make films, Irish and otherwise. So, a huge thanks to Barry, he’s a legend.”
The people Lochlainn met at university left a lasting impression; encouraging him to pursue acting, which ultimately led to a segue into directing. He names Dr Marie Kelly and Dr Bernadette Cronin as particularly influential. “Marie was always so career minded and really helpful with everything regarding building a career after college. Bernie is just so zen and has an amazing charisma about her - I loved studying with her. I have to say, in general, I was really blessed with all my lecturers.”
With the benefit of hindsight, Lochlainn now acknowledges that his determination to follow his acting dream led him to miss out on much of student life. “I was probably overly career-focused when I was in college and didn’t soak up the ‘college experience’ as much as I should have. Embrace it. Love it. It’s a special time in your life and UCC is a really special place.” He is particularly rueful that he missed English lectures, especially since writing is now an essential part of his job. “It’s funny, I regret things like skipping English lectures. I write hundreds/thousands of words a day now for work on varying topics and I think back to lectures I didn’t go to and think about how much I would enjoy them now and how useful that information would be.”
The future looks bright for the young director; with a burgeoning film career and a steely resolve to carve out a niche for himself in the world of music videos and commercials. So, what advice would he give to his younger self? “I would also say do everything, with everyone. Go to every event, every party, take every invitation, try every new thing. Do all your study, then go out all night, then wake up and attend every lecture, and then go and play a new sport or go to a club event…it’s exhausting, but worth it. There’s so much to do. The years are short and the semesters are even shorter. Embrace every bit of it.”