Filmmaker Brendan Canty is mentoring youth after projects with Hozier and Conor McGregor

Cork director Brendan Canty was behind Hozier's video for Take Me To Church, and the current ad for Budweiser with Conor McGregor.

After projects with Hozier and Conor McGregor, Brendan Canty’s focus is on mentoring at a youth film festival, writes Don O’Mahony

YOUNG filmmaker on the rise, but with many achievements and projects on the go, Brendan Canty’s first remark is to express how much he enjoyed giving an address at last year’s First Cut! Youth Film Festival.

Canty’s big break came through his video for Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’ and his most recent project was an ad featuring Conor McGregor promoting the Dream Big competition with Budweiser — but his enthusiasm for interacting with young people is palpable.

“You’re just seeing people who are excited about getting into film- making. Whether they will or not, it’s just refreshing to see that side of things because I’ve been in my own bubble the last few years,” he says.

“I’ve never been around people of that age excited and passionate about film-making since I was that age. So it was really nice. And just talking to the film-makers and hearing their stories, and watching their films and seeing who has potential and all that sort of stuff was pretty exciting and it gave me a bit of a buzz. So it’s always nice to give back and you get a great feeling from doing it,” he beams.

This year has seen him take on a greater role with the festival as he and ‘Take Me To Church’ co-director Conal Thomson have overseen its 2016 youth music video competition and provided mentoring and support for the shortlisted film-makers.

Having shot the Budweiser commercial in January, Canty is finally in a position where he can take some time out and concentrate on other projects, notably a short film.

He says: “I’ve always wanted to do a film. I never put a date on it. I never had the right idea. I think this year now I just have to do it. I won’t be happy in myself if I didn’t do it.

Conor McGregor in the ad promoting the Dream Big competition with Budweiser
Conor McGregor in the ad promoting the Dream Big competition with Budweiser

“And then doing a commercial brings financial security. I think someone the other day was like, ‘Where does Brendan live? He must live in a really nice apartment.’ And I was just like, ‘Oh, from all the money I made from the Hozier video,’” he scoffs.“Music videos don’t pay, really, but commercials do.”

Canty, though, is evangelical about music videos. Having studied multimedia at CIT, he feels he really learned his trade through making promos for his favourite songs.

Having spent the best part of a year working alongside Thompson on a 25-minute short film as part of a college project, Canty was disappointed by how little life it received after investing so much time in it.

“Whereas with music videos, I was making videos every two weeks,” he points out. “I was going out with my camera every two weeks doing something different and getting on to different artists, making things happen. And eventually I got a name for making music videos and then the Hozier thing happened.”

A moody, poignant commentary on homophobic bullying, the video was as much of a viral sensation as the song by the then-unknown Wicklow singer. As a result of Hozier’s slow-burning but resounding success, Canty found himself at the MTV VMAs in Los Angeles last September, representing ‘Take Me To Church’ in nominations for best direction and best rock video.

Conal Thompson with Brendan Canty on set for Hozier’s ’Take Me To Church’ music video
Conal Thompson with Brendan Canty on set for Hozier’s ’Take Me To Church’ music video

Up to that point, he believed his getting the gig came as a result of him tweeting about the EP after downloading it on Bandcamp. He recalls that 20 minutes after doing so, he received an email offering him the commission. However, the truth is even more remarkable.

In the lead-up to the VMAs he found out from Hozier’s people that he was one of the first in the world to buy the free or name-your-price download. “I think I was on their list to make a music video, amongst other people in Ireland, and they were trying to decide. And then the EP came out online and I bought it for a fiver. So they were like, that’s good karma; let him do the video.”

Canty left the VMAs empty-handed (“I was told that if Hozier was there I have a really good chance,” he says pointedly), but he got to return to his favourite city and this time, working with the international beer giant, the stakes were higher.

“As a director you’re picking the look of it; how you want to shoot it; all the shots; what costume he’s going to wear; why he’s going to wear this. ”

Though they only had him for six hours each day, working with The Notorious was a dream. “He was just brilliant on camera and he took directions so easy,” says Canty. “Conor doesn’t like early mornings, so he might arrive late. But then you make up the time because he’s so good and so quick.”

Through music videos, Canty learned how to work to a brief and he’s looking forward to seeing how the shortlisted filmmakers in the First Cut! competition respond to the tailored briefs set for them.

“Each of the filmmakers are so different from each other and their tastes are so different that I was able to curate them with totally different tracks. I’m super excited for what they’re going to come back with.”


1. Shoot

This is an obvious one but the most important. The more films you make the better you will become.

2. Study

Study your favourite films and music videos. Break them down shot by shot and question what made them great. Try and apply what you learned to your own films.

3. Steal

Don’t be afraid to steal ideas and shots from things you like. Once you use them in your own story and in your own context they will become yours. Every great artist does it.

4. Befriend

If you meet someone who’s a talented actor, cameraman, sound designer, musician etc. make friends with them. They are creative so most likely they will be like you. These are the people who will form your team at the start and help you make your films. Filmmaking is about teamwork.

5. Approach

Don’t be afraid to approach people you admire, filmmakers, bands, labels, production companies, funding bodies etc. Getting your name out there and meeting people well help you learn and will open doors for you.

6 Be Nice

The last one and probably the most important one. If you’re nice to people and go out of your way to help others then the world will open up for you


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