Have you ever wondered who produces those top ten lists on the side of your internet browser that seem to satisfy a curiosity you didn’t know you had? Or who coordinates those viral–and dangerously appetizing–food videos that activate your cravings at the worst times?
Meet South Pas High Class of 2005 graduate Tiffany Lo, the Senior Supervising Video Producer for BuzzFeed News, who has carved a niche for herself within the company as a leader who can turn promising food blog initiatives into thriving online attractions. Lo has overseen the production of hundreds and hundreds of videos since beginning as an intern in June 2013, and has established herself as an invaluable asset to the company through her leadership of the wildly successful food video blog Tasty and the small innovation video series Nifty. Tasty currently has 90 million followers on Facebook, and has been replicated and emulated by foodies around the world.
Now approaching five years with the company, 30-year-old Lo is one of the longest tenured employees in BuzzFeed’s video production department, which was working out of a small Culver City office with less than 20 employees when she signed on. Today, she works at BuzzFeed’s Los Angeles headquarters, an expansive, high-ceilinged brick building on the city’s west side, where she recently sat down with The Review to discuss her journey.
She can say without hesitation that she did not see the meteoric success of her department coming. “We had no idea really what was working,” Lo said of her early video teams. “We figured it out as we went along, but there was a lot of experimenting, a lot of weird videos.”
Weirdness was what attracted Lo to the company in the first place. On her second day as an intern, she was assisting a production shoot, testing a spray by taking aim at random objects – teddy bears, t-shirts, pieces of bread–when the action took an unexpected turn. As the shoot was starting to wind down, Lo’s manager put on one of the sprayed-down t-shirts, loaded a super soaker full of red wine and handed it to the new assistant. “Spray her!” the shoot’s producer instructed Lo.
“After that, I was like, ‘What was that?’” said Lo. “I remember thinking, ‘This place is crazy in the best possible way.’”
The creative freedom Lo enjoys has allowed her to experience the entire production process. “The cool thing about BuzzFeed,” she said, “is that if you are a video producer, you get to conceptualize and do pre-production, and you get to film it and edit it. So, you have your hands on all the parts.”
Lo didn’t attend film school like some of her colleagues, which meant she had a greater learning curve than most, but she did bring to the video department an expertise that the industry rarely sees: a talent for sound engineering.
Like many South Pasadena kids, Lo began playing music in 5th grade as part of the Monterey Hills band. “All the other girls wanted to do flute and clarinet,” she recalled, “but I chose trumpet.” Although her parents never pushed her in music (oddly enough, her siblings were the ones who were forced to take piano lessons, not Lo) she realized in high school that she wanted to do something with it professionally.
She didn’t believe she was talented enough to play professionally so she pursued sound engineering, enrolling at Expression College for the Visual Arts in Emeryville, California.
As a 21-year-old living at home in South Pas, Lo found herself assisting sound engineers at big name music studios in LA and Hollywood, working nocturnal hours for little pay but earning valuable experience.
The direction of Lo’s career began to shift away from the field of audio when she was working at the Grammy Foundation, overseeing music industry summer camps for high school students around the country. “I started making video promos at these camps without being asked to, and that’s when I discovered I wanted to work in video,” she remembered.
It is an industry joke that sound specialists don’t understand video and videographers know nothing about sound. “I was sort of that in between,” Lo said. She was asked to run audio for shoots with dialogue as a young employee and to this day teaches audio to new interns. “I still love doing audio post-production. You can have a really good video but if it has poor audio, nobody is going to watch.”
Currently, the senior producer is concentrating on a new video initiative, Goodfull, which creates content for health-conscious eaters. “I meal prep my lunches for my friends,” she said, explaining the origins of the project. “So, I really enjoy that this is an easy way to eat healthy and tasty food. One of the things I love about making these videos is that I’m showing people they can do this, too.”