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Alumnus Jeff Johnson: Music and Film Production

Jeff Johnson.  
The crew from "The Seeker" enjoys dinner under a full moon after a day of filming on Lake Superior. Photo from Jeff Johnson's Instagram.  
The Seeker
A promo for "The Seeker."  
A trombone and french horn ring in harmony over the scene of a blue-sky day in Wisconsin. A woman begins speaking. The song playing is “Unexplainable Stories” by Cloud Cult, and the woman is describing the effect on her of tragic murders in River Falls, Wisconsin.

The 20-minute Cloud Cult clip is just one of Jeff Johnson’s intense and emotional film productions. His company, Motion 117 Productions, with clients that include Minnesota Public Radio, Pepsi, Mall of America, and Urban Ventures, showcases his passion for audio and visual design.

THE UMD INFLUENCE

As a student, Jeff brought the headlining band, The Black Eyed Peas, to UMD. It was a monumental task, and Jeff dove into the details.

In 2004, Jeff graduated in marketing from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. While he decided to form his own company, which is decidedly in the creative realm, he credits his classes with giving him the skills to run the financial side of his business.

He shunned the idea of corporate careers. “I’m more interested in creating something bigger than myself,” he said.

Instead, he continued in the technical audio and visual production field with various organizations in the Twin Cities such as Dinkytown’s Varsity Theater, and in 2010 created Motion 117 Productions.

CLOUD CULT

In 2007, Jeff Johnson began working with the Minnesota band, Cloud Cult. The band is in a genre by itself, sometimes described as experimental harmonic rock.

With Cloud Cult, Jeff also created a captivating, short four-episode series called “Stories From the Road.” It features regular people, all Cloud Cult fans, who have experienced great struggles and tragedy. Their lives inspire Cloud Cult’s music.

Jeff worked with Cloud Cult on their first feature length film, "The Seeker." Jeff helped write the screenplay and Motion 117 produced the film. There are no spoken words in the entire film. Instead, the visuals and score, composed by the band, narrate the story.

FOLLOWING THE CURIOUS

“Choose your own adventure,” Jeff advises. “Be curious." It's worked for Jeff.

Curiosity has brought Jeff to some remarkable stories. Besides making films with musicians, he has worked with other businesses and nonprofits.

“There is more than my singular experience,” Jeff said. “There are so many other points of view.” His films build empathy and helps him be aware of his own ignorance. Through his work, he gets to meet people whose lives are dramatically different than his own.

For instance, he did a project for Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis based nonprofit that fights urban poverty. They hired him to interview and create a video about a man who was out of prison, on parole.

Hearing stories of courage, helps others become courageous, and as Jeff says, “It makes the world a better place.”

About LSBE's marketing program

By Sebastian Nemec, June 2016.

UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu


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