Luke McKinney | Filmmaker

It didn’t take Luke McKinney ’10 Digital Filmmaking long to find the opportunity of a lifetime that every young artist aspires to achieve.

A friend got a job on a reality show for the Discovery Channel but decided not to take it and gave the information to McKinney. McKinney showed up in his place, and as fate would have it, ended up working for three seasons on the show “Flying Wild
Alaska.”

“It was seven days after graduation and they called to send me to Alaska,” said McKinney. “They asked if I was available in the fall because they knew I had just graduated. I said yes, and they said, ‘we’ll see you then.’”

The job was on a season-by-season basis, yet he worked on all three seasons of the show. He was flown into a fishing village of about 600 people that was 90 percent Inuit and lived there nine months out of his first 18 months out of school.

“I was the art department, the carpenter, the cook, the time-lapse guy and part-time producer,” he said. “I did logistics for survival missions out in the bush. I was the errand boy who went to town. I did it all, and they kept moving me up the ladder.”

Before he was able to take advantage of such an opportunity, McKinney learned his trade in digital filmmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute, but it was really by chance that he enrolled at the school to pursue his dream.

“I was at a turning point of failing out of another college and going to a nine-to- five job and hating that kind of life so, it was this or professional bowling,” he said. “I applied on a whim, and one of the admissions people followed up strong with me. I applied in mid-summer, and he got me in by the fall semester 2007.”

McKinney is from southwest Iowa, so he didn’t have to stray too far from home as he began his journey. He always had a love for video, but he didn’t understand it as an art form until he started at KCAI.

While at KCAI, McKinney found inspiration and support from various areas of the school that helped shape his business aspirations.

“The entire photo and video department was very involved with everything going on,” he said. “The art history teachers were helpful. You could always find a person to answer a question for the specific problem that you were having. As long as you’re opening that communication, they always made the time to help you out.”

Next for McKinney is establishing his own business – McKinney Makes Media, LLC – offering full media production from printmaking and creating merchandise for companies to animation. He’s actually been doing the work for four years; however, McKinney is taking the entrepreneurial tep of making it a full-fledged LLC. He is also working on a project in Alaska for the BBC. For a while, he bounced back- and-forth between finding a steady studio job and staying in the freelance world. Forming his own company will allow him to take the freelance route on a full-time basis while staying in Kansas City.

McKinney finds Kansas City a great place to set up his business because of its low cost of living and the large amount of resources to select from when he’s working on a large project.

“I found my path wanting to survive my own way,” McKinney said. “It’s been about wanting to learn within my means. If you’re willing to help yourself, the people at KCAI are willing to help you. If you set your mind to what you want to do, you’ll find a way to do it. Choosing an art life will never be a normal life. If it’s your passion, keep it your passion. Don’t give it up because of financial reasons or whatever else. If you can live within your means, because that’s part of being an artist, then you can make it work. This is a great structure to support that.”