Dr Declan Keeney

Senior Lecturer & Course Director


School of Communication and Media


Room BA-05-001 Belfast BT15 1ED



Life Before Ulster

Dr Declan Keeney is an award-winning academic, documentary filmmaker and Director of Photography, who has worked in the creative industries for nearly 25 years.

He has extensive experience of working on large-scale grant-aided projects. His last three documentary films were funded from PEACE III, managed by the Special EU Programme’s Body.

His documentary We Carried Your Secrets, was profiled at the European Parliament in 2014, as part of a larger project showcasing best practice in peace and reconciliation work in Europe. Previously as a Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, Declan was Subject Lead in Films Studies and then Broadcast. During his leadership, the department rated first in the UK for Film and Production in The Guardian’s University League Tables, 2017.

Declan gained unique experience working on the front-line of broadcast journalism, factual programme-making and outside broadcasts during 13 years at the BBC. He currently chairs the judging panel for the Royal Television Society Northern Ireland’s, News and Current Affairs awards.


Declan is Course Director for the BA(Hons) in Screen Production, leading on the design and implementation of a new department at Ulster University, based in the Belfast’s city centre.

This new industry facing, and highly practical degree teaches the craft and critical skills needed for careers in the film, television and broadcasting industries. Declan adopts an innovative approach to his teaching by bringing his industry experience into the classroom, empowering students to do their best creative work, whilst preparing them for life after university in industry.

Declan has won a number of teaching awards for his innovative approach. Between 2016 and 2018 alone, his students have won prizes at 6 film festivals, 7 Royal Television Society awards and one national RTS award for best cinematography, including a final year student winning 'Best Documentary' at the Belfast Film Festival open competition with her graduate film ‘Nomad’


Declan is a Co-investigator on a £13m AHRC and industry funded Creative Cluster’s research project entitled ‘Future Screens Northern Ireland’.

The project represents the largest ever single investment in Creative Industries research in NI and partners Ulster University with Queen’s University, BBC NI and Northern Ireland Screen among others. Working with Northern Ireland Screen and the Department of Communities,

Declan is also the Principle Investigator for the Moving Image Arts Longitudinal Cohort Study, launched in November 2019. This study is funded for 5 years in the first instance and will follow school pupils as they progress through education into employment and will be a key policy driver in digital media and moving image educational provision in NI Schools. Declan is currently Artist in Residence within the Playhouse’s Peace Building Academy funded by PEACE IV and is in production with a virtual reality documentary about victims and survivors of the Troubles as they recall traumatic events in their lives along the hard border in Ireland.

Declan’s is particularly interested in new and emerging virtual reality technologies and is working with VR company Retinize to explore new photorealistic motion capture technologies.

Civic Work

Working with the Policing and Community Safety Partnership, the Youth Justice Agency and the Playhouse Theatre, Declan has recently directed and filmed a number of award winning educational short films.

These films were designed as community interventions and have agency in creating conversations between difficult to reach young people and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

With a particular interest in the legacy of the Troubles from work done on his PhD, Declan has been working with the Playhouse Theatre and the Police in Derry/Londonderry, to create a series of educational films that explore significant problems in socially disadvantage communities.

‘Recruited’ a short film directed by Declan, starring Shane Todd and written by Colin Batman, tackles the theme of recruitment to the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. Declan’s latest film in the series, ‘Ignite’ dramatises the Police’s ‘Stop and Search’ powers and its effect on a teenager called Alan, trying get on with his life after losing his Dad to the paramilitaries and will be premiered in December 2019.