By Nicole Cortese
YouTube personality Sting Ray, better known as Raymond Strazdas, ’13, who has more than 12,000 YouTube subscribers, better known as Ray-diators, won Nintendo’s “The Pitch” contest on Jan. 22.
Nintendo asked contestants to send a video of their best commercial pitch for its newest gaming system, the Wii U. With a quick turnaround, Strazdas, who works at a camera store, had less than a day to script, shoot and produce a video for the contest.
“I first heard of the contest, on the day of, at work while browsing Twitter on my phone,” Strazdas said. “I looked it up online and hoped the deadline was in a few days. Turns out it was midnight that night. I debated whether to do it, wrote a script in 10 minutes and asked to leave work an hour early.”
Not only did Strazdas win the contest, but he also won a Wii U system, a bunch of games for the console and a trip for four to Los Angeles where he will be able to see the filming of his Nintendo commercial. He might also have the opportunity to be in the final version.
“I certainly didn’t expect the win,” Strazdas said. “I got a notification on my phone at work, opened it up and saw ‘Congratulations!’ I was calm all day but in my mind was super excited.”
Scott Alboum, video technologies coordinator at Rider, believes this opportunity to work with Nintendo will allow Strazdas to enhance his skills by working in a professional level in the industry.
“It’ll be important for him to spend more time learning about what it’s like to collaborate with other people, especially working in a large, international atmosphere,” Alboum said. “Learning to work with professionals to meet certain goals and the needs of projects will definitely be something new for him.”
Nintendo has always been one of Strazdas’ favorite companies and now he has the chance to work with it directly. Alboum thinks if Strazdas continues to produce the type of work he is currently doing, he will have many more opportunities to come.
“I definitely think that it’s a great opportunity for him, it’s just a matter now of what he does with it,” Alboum said. “I think that YouTube has opened a lot of doors for him and his work. Getting connected with a big international company through YouTube is an amazing thing that doesn’t happen for everyone who puts stuff out there, but it’s awesome that it happened for Ray.”
Alboum believes Strazdas has his own unique style with creating videos.
“He definitely did things that were outside of the box at Rider,” Alboum said. “He didn’t always conform to what each project should be. I think over time he conformed more to what people in the YouTube audience were looking for than what we traditionally look for in videos that we offer in our classes.”
This type of thinking allowed Strazdas to produce this video in such a short time.
“I’m a believer that creativity is something you should have fun with,” Strazdas said. “Just pick up a camera and film what’s on your mind, even if it’s the stupidest idea.”
Strazdas is no stranger to winning contests. While attending Rider, he won the 2011 National Broadcasting Society’s (NBS) On-the-Spot competition where he filmed Parkour L.A. in a 24-hour period. In 2012, he won the grand prize for the 49th Annual National Undergraduate Student Electronic Media Competition under the PSA video category for A Race To Your Plate, the open category for The Food Fortress, and a comedy segment video for Dusk Region with Travis Hastings, ’13.
“The NBS is more of a traditional video competition where the categories are for TV and film projects,” Alboum said. “We definitely encourage students to participate in these competitions.”
Strazdas’ journey as Sting Ray began in 2009 when he made WWE wrestling videos for fun and posted them to YouTube.
“It’s always been my nickname, so I decided to run with it,” Strazdas said. “Everything is branded around my name.”
Alboum thinks other students who want to pursue careers in the video field can learn from Strazdas’ experience with this contest.
“I was so excited for him and I’m proud of him,” Alboum said. “It’s a major accomplishment. Other students can learn from him that participating in contests is a great way to get noticed, and it’s a measuring stick to see where your work stands.”
Although he is gaining Ray-diators daily, Strazdas is not fazed by his growing popularity.
“I never look to be on top, I just enjoy making videos,” Strazdas said. “If YouTube wasn’t around, I’d probably still make them. Sharing them with the world just adds to the experience.”
Printed in the 2/26/14 edition