2 Minutes With … John McKelvey, Founder and CCO of Mirimar
John McKelvey is an Emmy-winning writer and the founder and chief creative officer of Mirimar Los Angeles and New York, working at the intersection of advertising, entertainment and technology.
John was previously co-founder of JohnXHannes. Throughout his career, John has helped brands, athletes and celebrities tell authentic stories in culture. Clients have included Apple, Beats by Dre, Nike, Under Armour, Squarespace, Expensify, Klarna and Montefiore. His work has encompassed advertising, music videos and the feature film Corazón starring Ana De Armas, which won multiple Grand Clios.
We spent two minutes with John to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and recent work he's admired.
John, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
Then: I grew up in Tamarama Beach, Sydney, Australia.
Now: I live in Los Angeles, via Brooklyn, New York.
What you wanted to be when you grew up.
I wanted to start a company to get paid to tell stories, make movies and commercials.
How you discovered you were creative.
Writing stories and making low-budget and even lower-quality home movies with our obscenely large family video camera.
A person you idolized creatively growing up.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
I wrote a school play when I was 14 and got my friends to act in it, myself included. Equal parts funny and ridiculous. I led the homemade pyrotechnics, including smoke bombs for added mood, and completely smoked out the auditorium. I enjoyed the creative and teamwork aspects immensely.
The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.
First concert: INXS in Centennial Park, Sydney.
Today: I'm stuck in a good albeit repetitive loop of my favorite Prince, Otis Redding, Madonna and Amy Winehouse tracks lately, but honestly I'm in deeper on podcasts and audiobooks.
Your favorite visual artist.
Your favorite fictional character.
The best book you've read lately.
Your favorite movie.
Your favorite Instagram follow.
Paul Nicklen, and give me anything ocean, whale or especially Orca related and I'm in.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
It was devastating for people, so I say this with relative perspective: I miss my family and would love them to meet my daughter. Professionally: A TV series we had developed at Mirimar and sold in went away due to Covid, so that was tough after a lot of time and effort. On a positive note, my wife and I had our daughter Marlow right as Covid lockdown began. With more time spent intimately at home, we have gotten really close, which makes me very happy.
Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.
Partnering with John Malkovich to launch his fashion label with Squarespace. He is so talented and I am grateful for such an enjoyable and intimate collaboration with him and the small team. It was all done for real in Paris and remains such a memorable project that turned into our Super Bowl campaign.
A recent project you're proud of.
Most recently we partnered with Klarna, the shopping app from Sweden, to help them launch in America. We created "Swedish For Smooother Shopping," turning absolutely anything Swedish into hard-hitting ads for Klarna. From Swedish cinema and TV shows, to commercials, soap operas and more, we transformed 50 years of Swedish film content into 60 new films by rewriting the Swedish dialogue with reimagined English subtitles about how great shopping with Klarna is. It was so much fun to write, and together we pulled off a very original and satisfying creative project at scale.
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.
When I was younger I always admired the thought-provoking work the Glue Society was putting out from Sydney. It was so smart. I always looked up to them. Then coming to the U.S. and seeing the level of commercial film work, epitomized at that time by P&G's "Thank you, Mom" from W+K and directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, was inspiring.
Someone else's creative project that you admired lately.
"You Love Me" from Beats.
Your main strength as a creative person.
Being able to distill a creative idea down to its simplest and most compelling form and then rallying our team to make it together.
Your biggest weakness.
Obsessing over projects and spending way too much time on them.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Being in the ocean.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Environmental destruction of wild beautiful places.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
An adventure travel company creating once-in-a-lifetime trips centered on surfing, sailing, heliskiing and snowboarding.