Denfeld News

March 15, 2014
Duluth News Tribune

Duluthian's speech turns to film creation
By Christa Lawler

What was first a persuasive speech by a local high school student has gotten acinematic makeover that will premiere this weekend on YouTube. 

"Our Potter Potential," written by Matthew Johnson, is a piece directed toward his fellow Millennials that links demographic stereotypes, his own weight loss and the most famous boy wizard. Minneapolis-based IR Media has taken Johnson's words and created a 15-minute film that includes dramatizations and clips of Johnson presenting the speech from a perch at Glensheen mansion. 

"Our Potter Potential" goes live at7 p.m. Sunday on YouTube and its creators are hoping it sparks a conversation about what has been referred to as the Entitlement Generation. 

"I wanted to talk about our generation, and how Ithought there are a lot of bad stereotypes about us and a lot of expectations about how we're going to ruin the world," said Johnson, 18. "I wanted to show the good aspects of our generation." 

Johnson crafted the piece during the 2012-13 speech season, when he was as senior at Denfeld High School. 

The speech focused on the perception that he and his peers expect something for nothing - the exclusive invitation to Hogwarts. Johnson asked his fellow Millennials to take action and work hard to achieve goals. He tied in his own 100-plus pound weight loss. 

Johnson's speech changed and grew, received positive feedback and won awards, he said. He fell shy of presenting the speech at nationals, but heard positive comments from his peers. 

But it was his presentation during the school's spring talent show that caught the attention of a Minneapolis-based media company. 

Daniel Oyinloye, CEO of IR Media, said the teenager wore a suit just started talking. Oyinloye said he thought Johnson was introducing his talent, but that he just kept talking about Harry Potter and the "entitlement generation ," topics that interested Oyinloye. 

"I picked up acamera and started recording," said Oyinloye, a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. "I was blown away. I watch a lot of TED Talks. This kid from Denfeld was conscientious enough to take this subject and do something on it and tie it in with Harry Potter." 

Johnson said Oyinloye called him after the talent show with a proposal: His startup company would film the speech and turn it intoa video. 

"Our Potter Potential" has been a work in progress since August. The video stars Johnson, who is now in his first year at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He presents his speech from a spot on the terrace at Glensheen Mansion and a handful of actors - including News Tribune editorial page editor Chuck Frederick and his daughter Claire Frederick - provide dramatization. 

The video will go live on YouTube on Sunday, and Johnson said he hopes viewers will tune in. He will be available to respond to questions in the video's comment section. 

Johnson created an event for the screening on the video's Facebook page and has about 100 people signed up to simultaneously watch it. 

"The main goal is to spark a conversation about our generation," Johnson said. "I want to put out the idea that we're not the bad little kids who are lazy and entitled to things and puttinga positive message out there that will create discussions and have a positive impact."

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