From Niagara to the Grammys

By: Liam Cuddy

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- People say you “find yourself” in college. It’s a place where you realize who you are, what you want to do, and where your life is heading. That wasn’t quite the case for alumni, Jack Hogan, a student who graduated with a biology degree in 2003, and wound up following his passion as a freelance producer for music videos in Hollywood.

Jack came to Niagara in hopes of graduating with a biology degree. The plan was to eventually work as a dentist alongside his father who had his own local business in his hometown of Auburn N.Y. Jack had a fruitful 4 years at Niagara, being the class president, the president of Phi Kappa Sigma, and being a prominent member on the board of the Niagara University Community Action Program (NUCAP), he had his hands quite full. After completing his four years, Jack moved back to Auburn to work with his father. He then decided that dentistry wasn’t for him, and worked to get into Syracuse University’s Newhouse School where he studied Television, Radio and Film.

As many young, artistically-inclined individuals do, he decided he needed to move to Los Angeles to see what he could make of himself. “The day after graduation I told my parents I was going to LA. I packed all the stuff up in my little Dodge Stratus and drove across the country. I was destined to figure “it” out”

With little money in his pocket, and a superior work ethic, Jack was ready to make connections. “Los Angeles is a city where everyone’s been told their the most talented, the prettiest, the best singer, the best writer, the hottest thing going. And you need to be a better worker than all of them. If you’re ready to make coffee runs, and do whatever it is they want you to do, the cream rises to the top, and people will notice you.”

And notice him they did. Jack soon secured a job as a production assistant at Frank the Plumber, a small up and coming company being ran out of the garage of one of its owners. Frank the Plumber found its big break with infamous Brittany Spears infamous 2007 Video Music Awards performance of “Gimme More”. A performance where the singer clearly was out of her element. YouTube was just getting started, and viewers of the video were curious about the production company behind the disaster.

No press is bad press, and soon Frank the Plumber and associates were getting called to produce video content for celebrity tours such as Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, Madonna and Beyonce. They all gained noticeable recognition when they were asked to produce the music video for Katy Perry’s “Hot N’ Cold”, one of the pop icons breakout hits on her rise to the top. Frank the Plumber and associates were still working out of a garage at this point.

Eventually the company parted ways, and Hogan decided to stay in the production game, becoming a freelance music video & commercial producer. He began booking innovative events such as Operation Myspace; a show for the troops that was shot on a military base in Kuwait and was featured on The Today Show. It was big breaks like that which got him work at huge events such as Coachella/Stagecoach in Indio, CA, and booked him his 1st music video in Las Vegas – LMFAO “Shots” (ft. Lil Jon).  He quickly moved on to artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, LMFAO, Enrique Iglesias, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Fall Out Boy & 5 Seconds of Summer.

“After that, crazy stuff started happening. It was like everything began to fall into place and I couldn’t keep up with all of the work that was coming my way. I was getting gigs with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger. I was then brought back to work on Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” music video. I was even able to fly my mom out in 2011 to be in Mick Jagger’s supergroup music video – “Miracle Worker”.  It was wild, and it was a lot of hard work.”

As impressive as those accolades were, perhaps none stood out for what was to come next.

“At this point, nobody knew who Sia was. There was the song “Titanium,” but she was only a feature at that point. One day I was working with a director who was Sia’s roommate, they played “Chandelier” for me, and I immediately knew it was going to be a hit.”

Hogan was asked to help produce the video, but things were only getting started.

For those who aren’t already familiar with Sia’s “Chandelier” music video, it is a dark, haunting video of Maddie Ziegler dancing around an eerie apartment. It is a unique video paired with a catchy, powerful song – a combination that quickly gathered a lot of attention. So much attention, that it was soon nominated for Music Video of The Year in 2015, and just like that, Hogan was going to the Grammys.

“It was a surreal experience. I was able to take my Mom as a plus one so that she could see her favorite artist, Paul Mccartney, perform live. We had the best time.” Although “Chandelier” lost to Pharrell’s “Happy” for the Best Music Video Category, it was still a memorable night all the same.

“I produced a little more after that, but after a while I decided I was done with music videos. I was ready to move on.” Hogan decided he wanted to break into the advertising business where he was able to manage and produce commercials for many popular consumer brands like Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, Verizon and General Mills. He even produced a Diet Coke spot that aired during the 2016 Oscars. Hogan moved to New York City with his husband Riaan in 2017 after a jam-packed 11 years of working tirelessly in the City of Angels. He is still working with pharmaceutical advertising, and is proud to look back at the life he has lived since leaving Niagara.

“You can do this coming from a place like Niagara. You need to ask yourself, are you ready to sacrifice all these things to pursue your dreams? Is it worth you taking 10 years to get the point where you are doing your dream job? That’s your call – it certainly was mine, and that’s a decision you have to make when the time is right for you. There are moments where you look around and think, wait… this is something (a dream) that even a guy from Niagara can do. The sky is the limit if you truly want it.”

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