Entertainment powered by alumni producer
By Alisa Nguyen
Jennifer Osaki (B.F.A.’17/A) is a New York-based video producer for Thrillist, an online media website covering food, drink, travel and entertainment. Whether she’s reviewing the most recent episode of HBO’s “Euphoria” or discussing the Popeyes vs. Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich debate, every day is a memorable one.
Osaki recently took over the VCU Alumni Instagram account, where we followed along for a behind-the-scenes look into her thrilling life.
Why did you choose VCU and what was your experience like at the university?
I chose VCU because I went to the VCUarts Pre-College Summer Intensive for two consecutive summers leading up to my junior and senior years of high school. Getting to know the actual professors I would potentially have classes with and having a taste of college was really eye-opening.
As a native Californian, I really wanted to explore a new environment, and what says that more than moving over 1,000 miles away?
Of course, actually attending college was a rollercoaster of an experience. Like many college students who come to VCU, I learned what it was like to face love, loss, endurance, sacrifice, independence and ultimately leave in one piece with a shiny college degree.
The graphic design program is pretty intense; there’s a reason why VCUarts is so highly ranked. The work students and professors produce constantly inspires me even if I’m not currently working as a designer. The best thing was the bonds I made with my professors and fellow classmates, who I still stay in touch with today.
One good thing about VCU is that you’re constantly meeting and creating with so many people from all over the world. Inside and outside of classes, I gained amazing perspectives that opened my eyes to many things.
I became active in many different organizations such as my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, volunteer opportunities and even Homecoming Court. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there and opened my mind to learning and embracing change, which is easier said than done sometimes!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working as a video producer at Thrillist is so fun! It also means I am constantly learning every single day, which ties into all of the favorite parts of my job.
Whether I’m eating one-of-a-kind dishes on camera, researching travel destinations in Africa or New Orleans or interviewing chefs and other content creators, I always take away something new. I love the fact that I am in a creative environment where no day is the same.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s stress to this job as well, such as editing a video before a huge deadline or problem-solving every issue under the sun, but it pushes me to continue growing as a content creator. I must also add that my co-workers are one of my favorite things about my job. They definitely contribute to the fun work environment here.
What is your typical work day like at Thrillist?
A typical work day [at Thrillist] usually starts with my team sharing ideas on what kinds of videos we want to produce for the brand. The videos I work on primarily live on Facebook and might make an appearance on Instagram and Snapchat so I take that into consideration when I pitch my ideas. These videos are usually planned a week or more in advance unless it’s something newsier.
After that, I’ll go on a shoot if we’re doing something in New York or start editing my current video. My main area is food and drink, but I often get to work in different areas so some days I might be doing something entertainment-based or travel-focused which means I’m always researching and learning something new. Sometimes my design background is helpful since I can specifically communicate any issues or feedback my team has with the design team.
More often than not spontaneous things happen, such as a new menu item from Taco Bell is in the office for us to taste test or a giant trampoline appears. Due to our content coverage, we always get to try things and food out before it’s released to the public. It’s always an unpredictable day!
Did you always envision yourself as a video producer? How did studying graphic design tie into your position now?
In college, my friends used to joke that my dream job would be to make food videos all day. I just never actually thought it would happen. I found some ways to integrate food content into my design projects as a student, and learning motion graphics definitely helped me look better when it came to applying to jobs.
While my design skills were a huge plus, I attribute landing my job at Thrillist to a mix of different internships. My graphic design internship at International Secret Agents let me dabble in video production, interview celebrities and do some shooting and editing. That helped me get an internship at Insider and then ultimately got me to where I am today.
What has been your favorite or most memorable story you’ve worked on?
There have been so many videos that I’ve worked on that were full-on passion projects. However my coverage of Zauo, the first restaurant where guests can catch their own live fish for dinner in the U.S., was the most comprehensive in terms of tying culture, fun and food into one piece.
I was the only producer to snag an interview with the company’s president, who came from Japan for the opening, and I was able to weave in a story about people’s relationship with food, the fun fishing process, the delicious food and even some unfamiliar ways the fish is prepared.
Creating content about a restaurant doesn’t have to be about clickbait and wow factor. There’s so much to tell when there’s a story that ties people and food together. Our relationship with food is so multifaceted, and there is always something deeper to learn from it. It makes me happy when strangers message me to tell me how much they enjoy my stories because that means I am doing my job to help others learn in a fun way!