BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - From the season opener, to Alabama, and then the National Championship, the LSU football team had a soundtrack to the season.
Through Hollywood quality trailers and hype videos, the Tigers creative department, ranging from a football staffer to a digital writer to a junior in college doing the bulk of the video editing, created content that told the story of a historic season week by week.
“It’s definitely something that at the beginning of last year, if you would have told me now, I’d be like man you’re crazy,” says LSU videographer Will Stout.
“I didn’t think I’d be writing hype videos for The Rock by season’s end,” says writer Cody Worsham. “So it’s been pretty crazy.”
From the Rock, to John Goodman, to Anthony Mackie and some of the biggest names in movies, music and sports, the LSU brand last fall became far more than football.
“The specific moment I realized how huge it was probably right after the Texas game,” says Worsham. “When that Jamal Adams video that he narrated went out, I think Football Scoop wrote something like, ‘LSU won the game this weekend already because the hype video.' We realized we had something pretty special."
Special because of the expanded reach of each video week after week. Derek Ponamsky, the special assistant to coach Orgeron, serves as the visionary for the project and says they’re proud of the ability to communicate to a wide audience.
“We talk to our recruits every week with those videos,” says Ponamsky. “We talk to our fans every week with those videos. We are able to make sure that even on a weekend when LSU football isn’t on the field, we can stay out there and have people understand our message. And at the end of the day, that’s really what we want to do. We want to make our brand as cool as possible.”
That’s where it certainly helps to have the A-list cast on the track. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Shaq, former Tigers Glenn Dorsey and Tyrann Mathieu, and movie and television stars Shane West and Anthony Mackie were several of many famous voices to lend the Tigers some encouraging words. Then came the season finale.
“So I call Cody. I’m like, ‘Hey dude. We got the Rock,'" says Ponamsky. “So maybe about an hour and a half later, Cody text me a script. I sent the script off, and maybe about 20 minutes after that, I get two messages. The first one was a message from the Rock to Coach O thanking him for being his mentor and all of this other really cool stuff. The second one was his read for the script.”
“I’m sitting here like this is the biggest movie star in the world, and we got him to agree to it, sent it to him and get it back in like two hours. And some of the guys that played for us, we had to move heaven and earth just to get it back for 3 p.m. on Thursday to make sure we had it in there.”
Each hype video came together with its own, unique feel thanks to the vast array of talent. But what stayed the same was the process and the attention to detail from the teams in purple and gold. The football team, winning every single game, and the team of Ponamsky locking down narrators, the script writer Worsham and the shooting and editing 22-year old wizard himself Stout.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than probably what people think,” says Stout. “It’s not just putting clips together and getting a narrator.”
“A lot of times, Derek would text me on Sunday and say, here’s what coach O is talking about this week,” says Worsham. “Here’s the message he’s giving to the team. Let’s try to connect the script to that.”
“So Cody would write the script,” says Stout. “I would get that Sunday or Monday. I would use my ideas and that script and form it together and make something that makes sense. I don’t get the audio until Tuesday or Wednesday. And we post it Thursday. So I’m kind of doing the video with just the words and not the actual audio for a few days. It’s hard, but it’s a good process. We get it done.”
“Will would come to me and say, ‘Hey, I want to do this. I think it might be a little crazy and take a little bit more time, but I want to do it,’” says Ponamskyk. “And I’m like, ‘Go ahead!’ We had the opportunity, as the season went on, to take a bunch of chances and do some things. We thought it was cool, and we decided to take as many shots as we can.”
That really stood out toward the end of the season, where videos featuring John Goodman, Anthony Mackie and The Rock stole the show. But by no means was it just a coincidence.
Normally, I’m one of the only people working on the plane because I’m writing after a game and everyone else has done their job already," says Worsham. “But I look over and Will’s editing footage. And he’s going through clip by clip. And he must have edited 500 clips on that plane. And you could see the wheels turning in his head. Like, ‘Oh. I can use this in this spot. I can use this in this spot.’”
“The last one was by far the most stressful one,” says Stout. “I was back and forth from NOLA three different times in two days trying to get shots and trying to get everything lined up. Like, I would literally be sitting there editing and be like, “I want in this shot.' I’d get in my car, drive to NOLA, then come back and put it in the video. It was fun. It was worth it."
“His transitions got better and better as the season went on where it kind gave you that wow factor while watching it,” says Worsham.
“The hotel shot in Atlanta when it went up the side of the building and you went into the room and you saw Marty Smith on TV, and then it pulls back from the TV and it’s on the buses, I thought that was really cool,” says Ponamsky. “I’m sitting here watching this and I’m like, ‘This is a student worker who’s doing this stuff for us?’ Matter of fact, it was Marty Smith that was like, ‘How’d your guy do that?’ I don’t know. He’s like, ‘Where’d you get that guy from?’ I’m like, ‘He’s a student.’ That’s unbelievable.
“Our expectation is that we’re going to be really good every year. We want to make sure that the people that support the program perform at the same level that the team does.”