Meet the Graduates: Erik

Major: Communication Arts
Certificate: Digital Studies


How does it feel to be done with college?

It’s weird. I was so used to my routine – waking up early, working out, eating breakfast, going to class, going to work, going home at the end of the day – now it seems like I have way too much free time. It feels like a normal summer break right now, but hopefully things start picking up a little soon.

What have you been up to since graduation?

I’m currently working for the Brewers as a part-time scoreboard freelancer, working various positions like editing and operating camera. I edit a lot of the in-between inning videos. For example, during spring training they recorded a bunch of interviews with players for fun features like “Name as many ice cream flavors as you can in 15 seconds.” Then in between the innings, we’ll have a fan come up on top of the dugout and ask them to name as many ice cream flavors as they can. After they’re done, the video of the player doing the same thing will play. I get to be super creative and it’s a lot of fun. Each game I’m learning something new about either the process that I use to make videos or just what happens in the control room at Miller Park.

How did you get the job with the Brewers?

It sounds super cliché because it’s been said so many times during undergrad, but connections are the key to landing anything. Throughout undergrad, I worked as a Production Assistant for UW Athletics and I knew one of my full-time colleagues there worked for the Brewers as well. I mentioned to him that I’d like to work for the Brewers and he told me to email the director. So, I emailed the director, he responded, we had a quick ten minute interview and I was hired because he trusted my colleague at UW Athletics. It was a lot easier than I expected and I don’t know what the process would have been like if I didn’t know anyone who worked there and I’d just cold-emailed the director.

It’s amazing what using your connections can do for you.

Yeah. I’m not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t have people from the UW giving me recommendations and telling me about open positions. I’m also working on getting to know the people who work with me at the Brewers. There are sixty of us on staff, with about thirty who work each game. Each game I’m getting more comfortable with the job and the people, many of whom do freelance video work elsewhere too. So I think there’s an opportunity for me to do freelance work other places if I want.

I’m also getting to know people who work in marketing who do the stuff that I eventually want to do – making highlights and filming games. So I’ve got my foot in the door and am making some solid connections.

Do you think you’d like to continue doing freelance work?

It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of hours, a lot of odd hours, and a lot of communication over email. Especially with video projects, you’re not sitting there with someone making the changes together. Eventually I’d like something a little more stable.

Do you feel like Digital Studies has been helpful so far?

Yeah, definitely. I really enjoyed the courses that made me think about my own career and decisions. For example, the capstone course really opened my eyes to everything that’s possible in terms of building a website, making sure my LinkedIn profile is up to date, making connections, and the career advice.

What’s been most challenging for you since graduation?

The commute to Milwaukee is a hour and a half since I’m still living in Madison, so that’s tough. And when I’m not working, I’m at home trying to keep myself busy by cleaning, organizing my digital files, and all that. To be honest, I’m a little bored. I thought I had another job lined up for the summer, along with the Brewers, but that didn’t work out as planned, so I’m still trying to figure that out. I have a few things in the works, but nothing set yet.

Do you have any advice for current students interested in sports video production?

You have to be willing to do the dirty jobs; the ones that no one else wants to do. This not only helps out the team, but shows that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make others jobs easier. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. I’ve only been with the Brewers for a couple of months, but I’m already moving up and am making a large number of the videos that run on the video board. It really does pay off to do the small stuff; people will notice.

What’s new with you since we last talked?

I started a new job as a Multi-Platform Video Editor for the Big Ten Network!

Congratulations! Tell me more about how that happened.

I was made aware of a new Big Ten Network program that focuses on individual Big Ten schools, like Wisconsin. I had a phone interview back in June and then a few weeks later, I had an in-person interview with the Big Ten representative, along with the Director of Video and the Director of Communications at UW-Athletics. I had worked in UW-Athletics for four years as an undergrad and I think a big reason I got the position was because of my experience and already knowing most of the personnel.

So what is the job like?

The job itself is more or less an extension of the Athletic Department – I’m housed there and I have access to all of the UW sports teams, except that I’m technically employed by the Big Ten Network. My main job is to cover the sports that UW doesn’t have the resources or people to cover. For example, I’ll go to soccer or volleyball games, film the game, make a video, and then post it to Wisconsin On BTN. That allows UW-Athletics to simply retweet the content that I’ve created, driving revenue for both BTN and UW. Similarly, because my office is in the Athletic Department, I have access to all the footage and content that they’re creating as well. Essentially, it’s not much different from what I’d been doing as an undergrad – I’m in the same office with the same people, just getting paid (more!) by someone else.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

I’m kind of like a one man band – video producer, video editor. It’s my job to go out and find content, whether that’s coordinating with the sports information directors or figuring out ideas of what would make a cool video. For example, today the men’s basketball team was out on Bascom and they were running the hill as part of their conditioning program. I went with one of the video producers from UW and we filmed it. I came back to the office and made a quick 15 second video that I was able to put out on Twitter immediately. UW will use the same footage for a longer video later in the season, but the team allows me to get that behind-the-scenes ‘insider look’ and put it out immediately.

That sounds really fun! What’s the most challenging part of this job?

There are seven total BTN schools at the moment participating in the program and I’m now teammates with these six other people. As an undergrad, my team was made up of folks all working for the UW, but now I’m on the same team as folks from Minnesota and Iowa. It’s a totally different dynamic than what I’m used to. Also, because I’m in Madison and everyone else is either in Chicago or at their respective schools, I sometimes feel like I’m on an island. As a creative, it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of someone or quickly get creative direction, but to do that now, I have to send an email or send a message.

Is there anything you wish you’d done as a student that would have prepared you better for what you’re doing now?

I wish I would have spoken up more when it came to critiquing others work during the production courses. I’m not the most outgoing or bubbly person, so in classes I would often just bite my tongue instead of speaking up. In retrospect, I realize I would have been better suited to speak up and get that feedback out there because it probably would have made people more likely to critique my stuff. I think it’s hard for students to critique other students. No one wants to says anything, but no one gets better. For me, I had a lot of experience in video, but I’m not a graphic designer. But there were probably graphic designers in my class and they may have been more willing to help me with design elements if I helped them. Now that I’m working in the field everyday, I’m much more willing to speak up and I think it’s because I have this newfound confidence that I didn’t have as a student.

Any other advice for students who are looking to get into the video production industry?

First, love what you do. And second, listen to your colleagues. Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, put your phone away, and just be in the moment to learn. There are so many things that change day to day in terms of trends, so pay attention to what’s happening around you. In sports, learn the players names, know who they are and how to spell their names. There’s a lot of muscle memory involved and if you’re not learning something new everyday, you’re doing it wrong.

How are things going with the BTN job?

It’s going really well. I’m kind of on autopilot now, used to the flow, but still always trying to stay ahead of trends and keep content looking fresh. My program is essentially funded through sponsorships, so it’s both challenging and fun to integrate branded elements into the content.

What does that look like for you?

I’ll use this as an example – Redbox just came on board as a sponsor. The seven schools in the BTN program are tasked with creating a certain number of branded videos for them. For me, I’m responsible for six Redbox videos between now and the middle of March. Some sponsors will come at us with in-house branding and others will give us full creative freedom. I actually conceptualized and created the Redbox branding to use in our videos, which was a great experience and offered me a peek into the ad sales world. Some other sponsorships we’ve had include Pizza Ranch, Muscle Milk, Discover, RAM Trucks and ZipRecruiter. It definitely keeps my content calendar full.

Sounds like it! Do you have specific quotas that you have to meet?

Fairly loosely, yes. Obviously we have to meet the quotas of sponsors, but in general, BTN targets 60% of content towards olympic sports like softball, track and field, volleyball, wrestling, etc. The other 40% relates to men’s basketball and football.

I produce roughly 50 videos per month, and since I’ve started this job, I’ve made nearly 250 videos, all with original content. I’d say 85% of those videos have different music, which is probably the toughest part. Finding the perfect music for each video takes a lot of time, so to think that more than 200 of those videos have unique music…wow!

What are the most exciting projects you’ve worked on recently?

Two things come to mind. First, BTN wanted to create an ad campaign for the start of the Big Ten basketball season, but they didn’t want to source an expensive production house to do it. So, they asked our team to pitch concepts to them, giving us an opportunity to break from the daily content mold. They chose my concept and I ultimately ended up spearheading the campaign. The 17 individual game promos ran on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and garnered over 4 million impressions and nearly 1 million views.

Second, I was invited to the Big Ten Football Championship at the beginning of December. It was very busy, from shooting team arrivals and locker rooms, to tailgates and the actual game itself. I was able to meet all the guys who work for The Journey, another BTN program. They’re some of the best at what they do, and the show’s cinematic style is something that I eventually would like to do. Another cool opportunity I got while I was there was to shoot a One Republic concert on behalf of T-Mobile, who used my footage in a video on their social platforms.

What great opportunities! Have you run into any challenges now that you’ve been there a while longer?

I think the biggest challenge is that there are seven of us working at individual schools across the country and there is essentially only one person at BTN who pushes out the content we create. So when we put our content in the queue for approval, it might be a while before it gets posted because others have content ahead of us. So when something exciting happens, it’s hard to get the content out immediately when it’s fresh and top of mind. For example, when Ethan Happ recently achieved 1000 career rebounds, I had the video ready to fire the moment it happened, but it didn’t get pushed out until some time after it occured. Timing is everything in the social world. It’s frustrating sometimes to have done the research and created the video for a specific moment, when the final and most important step in the process, posting the content, is completely out of my control.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m really looking forward to the Big Ten basketball season this year. The Big Ten is loaded with good teams, so it’ll be a test for the Badgers, which will be fun to watch. And soon enough the spring sports like softball and track & field start too. I’m a big baseball fan, so I’m excited for the softball season to begin.

It’s still early in the process, but if all goes well over the next few months, BTN plans to expand my program from the current 7 schools to all 14 Big Ten schools. That also means that the position would likely convert to full-time rather than freelance. I’m excited for all the possibilities there, as well the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role.

How are things going?

Things are good. I’m keeping busy. The spring sports are starting to wrap up, which means my contract with BTN is up in a couple of weeks. So it’s trying to tie up a bunch of loose ends. I also started back up with the Brewers and have added another freelance gig to my plate, creating videos for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Dane County.

That sounds like a great gig! How did that come about?

So my old boss at the UW has created content for them in the past, but he couldn’t do it anymore, so he came to me and asked if I’d like to take it over. I attend a handful of their events and then make recap videos for them. For example, yesterday I went to an elementary school on the east side where the bigs were having lunch with their littles and making slime. It was a really fun event to shoot and I’m working on putting that video together right now.

That’s a great way to keep creating outside of sports. How are things wrapping up with BTN? Any changes on the horizon with the program?

Spring is really slow for sports at the UW. There are only four or five happening here, so I have to be more creative with my time. Recently, I’ve been creating templates for the NFL Draft for all the Big Ten schools. It’s been fun creating something from scratch, passing it along to others in the program to use, and then watching what I’ve created go live and viral on Twitter.

There are a few changes coming, the biggest being the expansion of the program to all of the 14 Big Ten schools. Now in year 3 of the program, they’re taking on a bit of a rebranding effort as well. The MVPE program is now known as ‘BTN on Campus.’

Are you planning on coming back again for next year?

As of right now, yes, but there’s a possibility the UW may add a full-time position to their video team and if that happens, it would definitely be something I would go for. I’d really like to find a job that’s full-time, with benefits that I could stay with and grow in for a few years. It’s hard wrapping up with BTN right before the summer begins because then I have to find ways to supplement my income through the summer. I’ll be commuting to Milwaukee for Brewers games a ton and working for Big Brothers, Big Sisters in the time being. If the UW job doesn’t work out, I’ll sign back on with the Big Ten Network for another year and see where that takes me.

Sounds like a solid plan. Now that you’ve been out of college for a year, is there anything about Digital Studies that has stuck with you throughout this year?

When I worked for the UW as a student, I was mainly a content producer. And when I took the job at Big Ten, I thought it was going to be pretty similar, but I ended up doing a lot of things there that I didn’t anticipate, like more social media-type work. Having some experience working with the social side of content production was really helpful, especially when it comes to helping write copy or knowing what types of content get the best engagement online.

Whenever people ask me about my time as a Com Arts major at UW, I think about it as being geared more toward film production rather than the digital, social side of communication. But Digital Studies bridged that gap for me and gave me the confidence to work in a space that combines both production and digital media. I’m not sure where I’d be if I hadn’t done the Digital Studies Certificate – but it got me out of my comfort zone and it’s really paid off!