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Belmont students’ “1989” mashup gains swift success

What does it take to get Taylor Swift “obsessed’?

Two Belmont students recently learned just that when they were catapulted onto screens across the nation after their project garnered attention from the star.

During winter break, Louisa Wendorff and Devin Dawson’s mashup video of Taylor Swift’s songs “Blank Space” and “Style” went viral with almost 11 million views on YouTube. The video even received a shoutout on Twitter by Swift, who said she was simply “obsessed” with their rendition of her work.

But the vision for the video began weeks before its success and recognition.

The project started in late November, when Wendorff, Dawson and creative director and Belmont alumna Blythe Thomas discussed ideas for new videos for Wendorff’s YouTube channel while on break. It was then that Wendorff first proposed giving an album she loved— Swift’s “1989”— her own spin.

“Those two songs, ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Style’ were my favorites from the record, so I was really inspired by those songs,” she said. “Having Thanksgiving with my friends Blythe and Devin, I brought them to Devin and we messed around and I said ‘I just want to try something.'”

The project was put on hold for a while before it became the video that swept the web, however. It was picked up again on the first week of December and quickly grew from only a vision into a viral hit.

Dawson and Wendorff arranged the vocals—layering one song carefully atop the other— and presented the finished version to Thomas. A couple of nights before the video was filmed, Wendorff contacted Thomas to discuss their visions for the video.

“I was envisioning a really long black road with yellow lines, and we were standing in the middle of the street facing each other and spinning. She was ‘Oh my gosh, I was envisioning it back to back and spinning’,” Wendorff said.

The trio filmed the video off of Old Hillsboro Road near Leiper’s Fork. Wendorff called the location “perfect” because of its wide variety of geographic features.

“There’s a river on one side and a forest on the other side. Literally every element was there, which was super beautiful and visually a really cool place to shoot,” she said.

The video itself was filmed in seven takes from various angles before Wendorff left to meet family for the holidays, leaving Thomas to post-production.

Wendorff and Thomas agreed that the “seamless process” behind the video was one of the most remarkable aspects about it. A small technical hiccup in the 10-hour post-production was the only glitch from start to finish, despite not being able to edit the video together as they usually do, and instead had to edit over Skype.

“As we were filming there were no issues. Because we’re super collaborative, she’ll show me the video with just the first rough cut and I’ll go over and say, ‘Okay, I remember this shot,’ and we’ll edit it together,” Wendorff said.

The work would pay off in the end, however. Today, the video has more than 11.6 million hits and Swift’s tweet on Dec. 27 alone has been shared over 17,000 times.

Thomas said her team is weighing the new opportunities the video has provided for Wendorff, whose EP “Arrow” peaked at No. 2 in the singer/songwriter category on iTunes and No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart.

Since the release of the video, the mashup has been mentioned by several networks, websites and publications, including Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post and CBS News. Wendorff has even made appearances on local Nashville radio station Lightning 100 and nationally syndicated show “On Air with Ryan Seacrest.”

Wendorff said that while she is still getting used to the idea of having a video go viral, she is also “overwhelmed with gratitude” for all of the support shown from everyone from her fans to her friends and family, as well as those who work with her.

Wendorff is especially grateful for the support from Swift herself and said that she hopes one day to be able to take the lessons she has learned from the experience and pay them forward.

“Being on the other side of that tweet is so humbling and is a testament to how amazing Taylor is as a person. The amount of influence she has is incredible and I just hope to one day be able to have the influence to do something similar one day,” Wendorff said.

To learn more about Wendorff and see the mashup video, check out her YouTube account or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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