University of Oregon alumni Kelly Vigil, BS ’14, and Brian Allen, BS ’13, moved to New York City just over a year ago to pursue careers in the media production industry. Success came to them quickly. Soon after landing jobs at RadicalMedia, the two won an Emmy Award for their recent role in the production of an interactive app for Taylor Swift.
Vigil and Allen’s love of production can be traced back to their time as students at the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). Although Allen began his academic career as a business major, he later transferred to the SOJC and discovered he had a strong passion for advertising. Vigil also majored in advertising and worked at the SOJC equipment center during his time as a student.
Vigil’s job allowed him to check out production equipment during weekends. He and Allen both say much of their success and professional development arose from the independent projects they completed outside of the classroom.
“We were curious and wanted to do things big. Curiosity drove a lot of our skill development,” says Allen.
Vigil and Allen also felt the faculty resources at the SOJC played a significant role in their success. “The amount of people you have represented in that one building is amazing,” says Allen. “Kelly and I had incredible resources and a basis of skills to use.”
The Emmy-winning project is the American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience app, which is designed to be an interactive musical experience starring global music superstar Taylor Swift. The app allows users to choose where they go, who they follow and what they do while exploring the mansion that is featured in the hit music video for the song “Blank Space.”
The app’s images were shot with 360-degree cameras to create a realistic feel. The experience includes multiple rooms and storylines and has dozens of hidden interactive features for users to explore. According to RadicalMedia’s website, the app also features the original “Blank Space” music video, “1989” album purchase details and tour ticketing information. Behind-the-scenes footage from the Taylor Swift shoot and the archive of Amex UNSTAGED live events and films with other artists are also available for the app’s users to explore. You can download the app through iTunes and Google Play.
Due to the complexity of the app, Vigil and Allen’s responsibilities were multifaceted, and both had crucial roles in aspects of production. As one of the project’s content managers, Vigil’s role was to communicate which cuts were correct and ensure that time codes were coordinated and synced to audio tracks. Vigil also worked with editors and designers to make assets the correct size and appearance and ensure the app’s elements were consistent across all platforms.
Three weeks before final editing, Allen was brought in to help with video editing. Since the app has many components, including videography, photography and audio, it became Vigil and Allen’s responsibility to manage internal systems and ensure all the pieces fit together cohesively.
Although the project was a team effort, Vigil and Allen say it also required immense personal skill and dedication. Such a complex project required the ability to think on their feet, collaborate creatively and perform a variety of tasks. “At RadicalMedia, it’s not about taking on one specific role, but being able to contribute to all roles,” says Vigil. “There is a strong DIY and hands-on mentality here.”
Both Vigil and Allen say their positions at RadicalMedia are much like their experiences as students in the SOJC. “It draws from so many disciplines and forms of knowledge. It’s challenging you, pushing you to do better and collect skills in all areas of interest,” says Allen. “It keeps you on your feet, which is what we have had to show in our jobs at RadicalMedia.”
Since their time at the SOJC, Vigil and Allen’s professional aspirations have continued to grow. When asked about their upcoming projects, Vigil and Allen showed excitement but secrecy. “We can’t tell you, but it’s going to be big,” says Allen.
They do reveal that they will be working with new types of immersive media. Upcoming projects include physical installations featuring digitally driven ways for people to interact with products and ideas in a more personal and hands-on way.
Vigil plans to continue exploring new ways to use old technologies while pursuing his interests in production, creative content and projection mapping. Allen hopes to pursue his passion of filmmaking and one day direct a film. Both alumni are a testament to the creativity and innovation of SOJC students.
The SOJC would like to congratulate both of these alumni on this exceptional accomplishment.
Story by Nicole Rideout ’16