Hamline News

Alumnus Wins MTV Video Music Award


Hamline University alumnus Derek Johnson, ‘03, won an MTV Video Music Award for best visual effects. Johnson, with Mirada Studios, post produced the Safe and Sound music video for the group Capital Cities. The award ceremony was shot live from Brooklyn, New York on Sunday, August 25.

The Safe and Sound video featured more than 70 dancers, renowned choreographer Mandy Moore, and visual effects ranging from head replacement to complex representations of different eras of dance. The concept was developed by director Grady Hall and Mirada Studios. Johnson worked with a team consisting of designers, animators, compositors, and many others in order to turn the creative direction into a reality.

“Essentially it was my job to build the team that was going to put the video together,” Johnson said. “When the video arrived at Mirada, the only things that were attached to it were a director and a creative director. So my job was to find the people who were going to make the video happen, hire them, and then plan out how we were going to get it done.”

With an interest in screenwriting, Johnson graduated from Hamline with a major in theatre. He credits professor Bill Wallace, chair of the Theatre Department, with helping him pursue the area of study he was most passionate about.

“Wallace was a great advisor,” Johnson said. “I was a theatre major and he let me pursue film. You can’t deny the influence that would have.”

Johnson also participated in Hamline’s television studio, outdoor club, collaborative research, and theater productions such as The Laramie Project, Kindertransport, and The Skin of our Teeth.

“Spending one summer working on a research grant, writing a script, and creating a short film really turned out to be a good experience in terms of long hours and a long editing process. It really laid the groundwork for what I would be doing later. When we were in the final stages of finishing Safe and Sound I didn’t leave the office for three days.” Johnson said.

Johnson currently works as a producer at Mirada Studios in Los Angeles. In addition to his work on the Safe and Sound video, he worked on the movie Pacific Rim.

“Who would’ve thought I would move to California with a bunch of Hamline guys and get caught up in the visual effects industry, let alone be nominated for a pretty cool award,” Johnson said.

“Also, if anyone watched the awards show this coming Sunday and you thought you saw me... I sent my identical twin to cover for me. I’m in delivery mode on another cool video which I can’t talk about just yet.”

You can watch the Safe and Sound video below. As of fall 2012, students interested in pursing video production, web design, and digital video editing, can major in Digital Media Arts at Hamline. Find out more on the Digital Media Arts web page.