Daniel Radcliffe is usually the one with audiences under his spell, but this time, it was Jake Sirianni’s turn to do a trick. To draw attention to his internship application (number 9816558) for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jake took footage from one of the late-night talk show’s most popular videos — a segment of Daniel rapping on the show — and, according to Jimmy Fallon, “somehow” replaced the rapping Radcliffe with himself.
A Few Secrets to Sirianni’s Success
Jake’s video went viral and earned him not only a summer internship with The Tonight Show, but also his own featured segment on the show. Creating the video wasn’t easy, but with the right tools and work ethic, Jake was able to bring his vision to life. Here are a few keys to Jake’s success that you can apply on your next creative project.
Know Who Influences You and Channel Their Work
Jake’s initial idea for the video was to rap about some of The Tonight Show writers, honoring the laughs they have given him over the years. However, the idea evolved as he realized that the video could also provide him an opportunity to get his foot in the door and even elevate his chance of earning a coveted Tonight Show internship. The show’s writers, “Jo, Becky, and Borelli,” still made it into his rap, along with “Haskell and Opsal, my comedy mentors,” but Jake says he has other heroes who have also influenced his work.
First, he named Lorne Michaels. “He’s been really close to my heart since freshman year of high school,” Jake says. “I just really enjoy his work and his hard work ethic — for obvious reasons, he’s my media broadcast hero.”
Second is Gary Vaynerchuk — an entrepreneur, YouTube sensation, and all-around interesting guy who has been motivational to Jake.
Third is the rapping composer of hit Broadway musicals, Lin-Manuel Miranda. “He’s super creative and a really hard worker,” says Jake. “While I worked on the video, I’d be listening to Hamilton, and I’d say that three of his songs, “My Shot,“ “Take a Break,“ and “Non-Stop,” were kind of like the anthem throughout this whole project.”
Find Ways to Hype Your Work With Yourself and Others
Jake spent between 60 and 80 hours working on the project — and has no doubt that it was worth it — but finding that much extra time in an already-full semester was challenging. The internship was his dream, but extra motivation always helps.
“One of the hype factors or reminders for me was writing the number 26 on both of my hands — as you see in the video,” explains Jake. “The purpose of that was just to look down at my hands and to remind myself to work on the project at any moment that I had free, or sometimes even in my not-free moments when I should be doing other things.”
People would see “26” on Jake’s hands and ask what it meant. For Jake, it was a reference to Blackalicious’s “Alphabet Aerobics” — the rap performed by Daniel Radcliffe in the original video — but Jake kept the project’s details a secret. Instead, he would respond with a simple, “That’s a secret project I’m working on and hopefully it works and pays off.”
Promoting his secret project on social media also helped hold Jake to his goal. It wasn’t unusual to find Jake Snapchatting photos of his hands in the middle of the night as he sat up working on his project. By the time his video launched, Jake had developed a steady social media following.
Use the Right Tools to Help You Get the Job Done
Jake wanted the video to look as realistic as possible, as if he belonged in the original video. He says Adobe After Effects was his biggest asset in this project. “A lot of the process was about duplication — trying to maintain that base reality of what looks normal without it actually being normal because you’re taking out one of the assets and replacing it,” Jake says. To create the effect, he used the hide tool and continuously placed the image of himself next to Daniel to make sure that everything from size to placement looked as normal as possible.
Jake started using Adobe products in high school and has had his own student subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud since just before starting college. “For a student, it’s very affordable, and it’s a great program overall — very easy to use,” says Jake.
In the end, Jake had 82 layers in his After Effects composition. With Creative Cloud, he says he was able to go from Premiere to After Effects to Audition very quickly and easily using his personal MacBook Pro. With such a hectic schedule, being able to work on the fly and be adaptable was essential. Jake says he also appreciated the workflow between apps and that he easily could look up tutorials for how-to information and best practices.
Work Hard and Be Patient
Like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jake believes that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to hard work and patience. If you have the ability to be passionate about something you love and to put in the time and work necessary — with speed at the microlevel and patience at the macrolevel — you will eventually achieve your goals. It’s the hard work that matters.
Jake’s advice for his peers is to be self-aware. “Know your weaknesses as well as your strengths and do what you’re really good at,” says Jake. “Get in the mindset of doing, doing, doing. If you’re a content creator, always create content. if you’re an artist, put things out there. Be comfortable failing and risking spectacularly; be able to push the envelope appropriately.”
At the end of the day, being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses — and capitalizing on those strengths while working around those weaknesses — is how you make a place for yourself and unlock the power of your creativity.
What Lies Ahead for Jake
Jake will head to 30 Rock in New York City this summer to continue honing his creative and technical skills behind the scenes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.