Julia Howe ’01: Special Effects Storyteller
Julia Howe ’01 transports viewers across time and space, creating art that taps into the senses and pushes the boundaries of reality. She’s made it her job to move audiences from theater seats to the battlefields of Sparta, the Great Wall of China ─ even into the clutches of Godzilla.
You never know where a Stevens degree will take you in life.
For Howe, it led to a career in film and television, working on projects featuring the biggest names in Hollywood – Steven Spielberg, Matt Damon and Jim Carrey, just to name a few – and the global industry overall.
Howe – a dual sociology/philosophy major who minored in music and also studied computer science and project management at Stevens – is a Los Angeles-based artist and technologist for hire and entrepreneur who works on major Hollywood films and television series, virtual reality (VR) experiences, music videos and TV commercials.
She is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the Emmys) and co-founder of Clever Fox Media, a joint venture with her husband, Dekker Dreyer. The team travels the world creating VR and augmented reality (AR) experiences, as well as visual effects for clients such as Warner Brothers, Disney, Forbes and the NFL.
A “tinkerer” from an early age, Howe recalls learning how to use power tools in the workshop of her grandfather, Wesley J. Howe ’43 (namesake of Stevens’ Howe Center, and the late Stevens benefactor and board chairman). Her drive to create persisted as she worked her way up through the entertainment industry; beginning as a stand-in for student films and lending a hand to filmmaker friends on the weekend. Her reputation as a gadget-fixer for indie films traveled, and she ended up doing an apprenticeship, joining the union and doing her time as a journey person.
Her work on the epic historical war fantasy film “300: Rise of an Empire” was a turning point as she learned motion control technology – an in-demand skill. From there, she’s built an impressive list of credits, both on TV and the silver screen.
One of her most memorable experiences was living in China for eight months during the filming of action fantasy film “The Great Wall.” Handling cybersecurity digital asset management, she battled challenging IT issues, including the country’s powerful firewall. But it was the first American film made there in a decade, she says, and she was proud to play a part.
“It was such a feat, and such a huge movie. I feel it was a good opportunity to bridge (cultural differences) – something both cultures could appreciate.”
Most recently, Howe has worked on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV game show, “Ellen’s Game of Games,” and “Hyperdrive,” a Netflix car driving competition series.
When considering new projects, Howe thinks critically about their impact. “I can help create or make that – but do I want to live in a world that has that?” she asks. She also uses this measure: It must be fun and challenging. “When I wake up and go to a job, it better bring laughter or amazement,” she says. “At the end of the day, you spend one-third of your life at work.”
For more on Julia Howe, read her profile featured in the Fall 2018 issue of The Stevens Indicator.