“I did something crazy,” he said, gesturing toward a seven-foot-tall black bookshelf filled almost to capacity. “I separated the movies and books I haven’t read from the ones I have.”
Titles varying from “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, to “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, to academic research books on the environment, to commentaries on Mormonism, litter the shelves. His friends question if he’s actually going to read them all.
“I am going to read these, cover to cover,” he responds with determination.
Derrick Clements, from Stockton, Calif., is driven to achieve all of his creative pursuits, even when they seem out of reach. In a lot of ways, Clements’ story is very similar to that of many Latter-day Saints his age — he served a full-time mission in Brazil, taught at the Missionary Training Center for four years, switched his major several times and is currently attending BYU as a senior studying English literature. But in many important ways, his story is unique and inspiring.
Clements, from a very young age, loved everything about Pixar — the movies, the characters, the company — and he loved listening to podcasts. He decided to bring these two interests together in 2010 by creating “The Pixar Podcast.” It now has nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter and has gained the attention of Pixar and Disney alike. Clements has been invited by Pixar on two all-expense-paid trips to tour the studio.
“Disney sent me ‘Monster’s University’ for free, and I need to do a review of it,” Clements said while preparing to record the podcast’s next episode.
He said the responses from Disney and Pixar have helped him see that his dreams are not that far out of reach.
“At that point I saw that my world was opening up, that these crazy awesome things actually weren’t that far away. We are all kinds of close to these kinds of things if we just reach out and do it,” he said.
Currently Clements works as a Biology 100 TA for Richard Gill, an associate professor in the College of Life Sciences at BYU.
“He was somebody who, from the very beginning, stood out. He was in a class of almost 200 students, and I knew Derrick,” Gill said about his first impression of Clements. In addition to the creativity Gill sees in Clements, he has high expectations for him.
“I would hope that I would hear him as the host of some syndicated podcast in the future,” Gill said.
Clements also has an enthusiasm for storytelling. His desire to understand people, as well as his passion for expressing his opinion, led him to start “The Porch,” a monthly storytelling show that takes place at Muse Music Café. “The Porch” has been host to many notable people in the LDS community, including Joanna Brooks, a popular progressive Mormon blogger; Richard Dutcher, maker of the film “God’s Army”; and Mallory Everton, one of the stars of BYUtv’s “Studio C.”
Clements is also increasing his presence online. Hannah Wheelwright, a political science student at BYU, is the founder of youngmormonfeminists.org, a blog that Clements regularly contributes to as a writer. Wheelwright first met Clements while they were both working at the MTC, and since then the two have collaborated in several local and online projects.
“He is without guile. He is the one person that is 1,000 percent sincere in everything he does,” Wheelwright said. “You can just see it on his face every time you hear him talk or interact with him.”
Clements, like many students before him, found himself at a crossroads in making career decisions. He was faced with the decision to either stay with a “safe” and “secure” major or to pursue his passion. There was a point in time where he was planning on attending medical school, but earlier this year he felt the need to do otherwise.
Clements applied for an internship with Radiolab, a nationally recognized radio show and one of his favorites. While touring Pixar his second time, he got the call back for the internship.
“I was actually very nervous in that moment, because I never thought I’d be happier than I was right then,” Clements said.
While away at his internship in New York City this past summer, Clements had a good friend, Victoria Birkbeck, take over responsibilities for “The Porch” in Provo. Her interactions with Clements have continued to show the effect he is having on his community.
“I think Derrick will do great things, and I hope that ‘The Porch’ will continue to be popular and meaningful to people,” Birkbeck said.
Clements considers himself blessed to be following his dreams, and he wants everyone else to follow their own.
“When you are passionate about something, and when you can get good at something, then you can be successful,” Clements said with a smile. “That’s the idea I’ve been convinced of, and we’ll see how it pans out.”