The making of Macken
He's a model, film maker and photographer on a mission. Deirdre McQuillanmeets the young Eoin Macken
It is September 2002, and a young UCD science student from Howth accidentally auditions for a part in Dramsoc's production of Roddy Doyle's The Snapper. To his surprise, he lands the role of Bertie, the sleazy Spanish chancer, but more importantly he uncovers a latent talent. From that point on, acting becomes Eoin Macken's passion, and his life takes a very different and unexpected focus.
Fast forward five years and he has graduated from UCD with a science and psychology degree, become a successful model in the US, been photographed by famous fashion photographers, appeared in a number of plays and independent movies, and is directing and scripting his own productions.
At 23, Eoin Macken, who was once warned that he couldn't do both modelling and acting, has proved the stereotypes wrong and established links between both professions. "In a modelling shoot you are trying to play a character, a role. There are models who are dead, who have no expression whatever. I think you need to use your physicality, your sense of humour and your emotion when you model," he says. Modelling has furthered his acting and directing career, along with his psychology studies. "I love the idea of playing a character, to get that chance to be somebody completely different," he says when we meet in Dublin.
His striking good looks and warm personality have been no drawbacks either and his modesty and self-effacement are disarming. It was only determined probing that led him to admit that he had worked in New York and LA with Peter Lindberg and Bruce Weber, probably the most celebrated fashion photographers in the world, and with the model Lauren Hutton. He has been the face of Abercrombie & Fitch, modelled for GQmagazine, and been shortlisted for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein campaigns, but dusts off these facts in an offhand manner, preferring to talk about his first movie. Influential contacts from the fashion business, however, have played a key role in his career.
Through Weber, who also makes movies, he was introduced to Nina Murano, a major Broadway coach in New York. He completed an eight-week course with her. "I learned a huge amount. I learnt how acting is more about listening to the other person; it is about reaction," he says, drawing shapes in the air animatedly with his hands. "You learn to be a foil, and that helped when it came to directing. It heightened my sense of watching other people and that's why, when you make a movie, it makes every take different."
Fashion photography, he believes, is akin to directing. "A lot of fashion photographers are telling a story with their pictures. It's a different medium and a different speciality, but the overall feeling is similar. And lighting and creating a mood are common to both."
New technology is making it easier for fledgling film makers such as Macken to make movies. In LA he worked as an assistant director on a small budget movie shot on the new state-of-the-art Genesis digital camera. As an actor, he played a lead role in the Rise of the Bricks, a student film about a fictional band. He is now completing the first feature film he has written and directed himself. It's called Possession (possessionthefilm.com), and it is a low-budget thriller about a sociopath in love with his best friend. "I wanted to bring together a group of young, talented people who were inspired by what they were working on; they have worked for 50 days for free."
He has other projects on the boil, too, including a documentary on the Irish Red Cross. He has also completed a cinematography course in Ballyfermot, and developed photographic skills working as an assistant to photographer Gerry Balfe Smith. "To be honest I just love being on the set. I love the idea of creating a story and a whole new world. It energises me. It is so much fun. In acting there is very strong pressure to perform, but directing requires more involvement with people. "
This shoot, styled by the young stylist Jan Brierton and photographed by Lorna Fitzsimons, embodies his ideas about storylines in acting and modelling having a common thread. And though he loves fashion, he admits that he is "hopeless" about clothes and relies on his younger sister Niamh for advice. "I am really bad at putting things together, not good at picking stuff that matches, and I just get bored shopping. In four months in LA, I only bought a pair of jeans." Never mind that he can't mix and match when it comes to clothes; he has more than proved his talent to do so in more exciting and wider arenas.