Vision Gone Viral: Penn State Student Finds Success As TikTok Visual Effects Artist
With more than 9.3 million likes and 370,000 followers, Penn State student Andrew Moyer has reached influencer status through his viral TikTok account. A talented visual effects artist, the creator has earned a massive following on the popular app with his combination of original content and expert editing.
Yet for the student studying Film Production at University Park, it’s never been about the numbers.
“I could have 100 followers, and I’d still be making the same content,” Moyer said.
Recently, the Villanova, Pa., native sat down with us to discuss his successful artistic journey. From even just a short conversation, one can see the reason why he has gained a massive platform in a few short years. It’s all in his ability to remain humble and genuine as ever within the highly edited and often disingenuous world of social media.
While many famous TikTokers began internet careers years before him, Moyer has quickly accomplished what it takes others years to do. With a large and loyal audience, Moyer portrays confidence, charisma, and excellence in visual effects in his content. But as a young high school freshman starting at Radnor High School, this reality was nothing but a dream.
“I was a very shy person,” he said. “I was very behind the camera at the start.”
This evolution of Moyer’s humble self-description to his current confidence on TikTok is just as noteworthy as the platform he’s gained in under three years. Originally encouraged to pursue media studies by fellow classmates and mentors, Moyer began working on editing projects for his high school’s cable network, RADTV. Now, Moyer appears on both sides of the camera.
“I guess as my confidence grew, I became more comfortable on camera, but I kind of forced myself to break that nervousness,” Moyer said.
Gaining confidence within extracurriculars including theatre and media studies, Moyer grew his talent to pursue his passion fully. Right before his senior year, the creator took the next step towards his dream: starting a TikTok account. At the convincing of his younger sister Meghan to begin, he found inspiration close to home that would eventually become his iconic username, @costco.samples.
“I went shopping with my mom,” he said. “I was looking around, brainstorming, and there was a sample of chicken tenders. It kind of just clicked from there.”
“A little silly story, but it happened,” he continued.
With this charming tale, it’s hard to believe that the viral account name originated from a family shopping trip to a Pennsylvania grocery staple. In managing the rapid Internet fame, Moyer shared how he still relies on the support of his parents, Marta and Ed, and his siblings, Kelly and Meghan, as well as the family’s deep connection to blue and white values.
“They are very supportive of me and everything I do, and they’re a huge factor in me pursuing this,” he said. “We love Penn State [and] the atmosphere on campus.”
Uplifted by family and community to pursue his dream, Moyer crafts artistic pursuits bound to start a conversation. On the Internet, this equates to the comments section — a modern-day digital battlefield of likes, memes, and replies particularly vulnerable to negative feedback.
Yet as an artist, Moyer views the feedback as a chance to be better than yesterday, a commitment to improvement truly unseen within the influencer realm that so often relies on repetitive content for higher engagement.
This originality draws in millions of views accompanied by vibrant comments, and Moyer reads each and every one. In tackling this aspect of being a creator, Moyer shared his philosophy, a true testament to his character off the digital grid.
“I still try to read everything because someone took the time to leave a comment and I feel like it should be read,” said Moyer.
Grateful for followers as people behind their accounts, Moyer treats each word with respect and dignity, traits notoriously absent from many Internet interactions soured by trolls behind the keyboard. In tackling hateful commentary, Moyer revealed a gemstone of brilliance only understood and better yet, practiced by those who strive for excellence beyond their own glory.
“I try not to let the negative comments get to me, but sometimes they do,” he said.
Continuing the stellar streak of honesty for art, Moyer explained his mindset that’s quite literally never far, written upon a Post-It note displayed on the top of his desk.
“It says, ‘Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t ask for advice,’” he said. “There’s always going to be people who don’t like your work, don’t like you and you have to know that you’re happy with what you’re making. That’s what really matters, at the end of the day.”
Remembering this popular quote, Moyer overcomes the pressure associated with Internet fame to create his original work. Finding this creative liberty early within the Penn State environment allows for limitless possibilities.
“As a communications student, I’m in an atmosphere where creativity is welcomed,” he said. “Creativity is everywhere and it’s an environment where people can be without judgment.”
Supported by fellow creatives at the pinnacle of innovation, Moyer is currently pushing the boundaries in his newest project, a depiction of Spider-Man guaranteed to be a fresh take on the classic character. Learning how to animate 3-D characters from scratch, this Marvel fan has already redone the project three times, perfecting the final product within Blender, a modeling software new to Moyer.
“The reason it’s such a big shift from my previous projects is because it’s a whole new type of software, and you have to think about the project differently,” he said.
Currently finalizing the new project for a spring 2022 release, Moyer also celebrates another accomplishment: the addition of his short film, “Broken Clock,” to IMDb. After a lengthy application process and review, the short film on mental health is now listed on the site, as is Moyer in his director and writer roles.
In accomplishments such as these, Moyer shines even brighter as a pillar of Penn State pride within the editing world and remains grateful to the Penn State environment that continually uplifts him beyond his creative role.
“It’s such a unique feeling,” he said. “Even just walking through the HUB, it’s good to know that you’re not alone, and there’s other people around you who are willing to help and just be supportive, no matter who you are.”
Exemplifying his thankfulness for Penn State, Moyer also emphasized how a walk through campus looks a bit different to him.
“Whenever I’m just walking or by myself, those gears are always turning,” he said. “From McElwain Hall to the Business Building, you see the Life Sciences Building with the nice glass, so I’m always thinking about different videos I can do there. Even in the HUB, I did a couple of plans.”
With the strength of his community never far from heart or mind, Moyer starts his process with inspiration in daily activities that add up to a massive brainstorming list. A digital compilation of creativity, the list currently clocks in at around four minutes to scroll through completely, tangible evidence of both his character and commitment.
“It’s filled with these random instances, ideas, film ideas, whatever,” he explained. “I also have a notebook in which I do most of my sketches or drawings.”
Armed with his expertise in editing software Adobe After Effects and a simple iPhone, Moyer then moves to the storyboarding phase, a challenging stage in which he plans each shot and strategy for bringing the vision to life. Within the timeline, flexibility remains crucial for success. Even the subtlest aspect means the world to Moyer, and the young talent remains dedicated to getting it right. While this may seem tedious, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look right,” he said. “Or I’ll think, ‘I need to be over to the left a little bit, I’ll just do a reshoot.’”
Along with in-depth editing for TikTok, Moyer manages other aspects of being a college student. A member of the Student Film Organization and an employee for CommAgency, Moyer balances his jam-packed schedule with the fast-moving demands of current TikTok trends. Because of the detailed workload and pressure-filled maintenance of excellence online, each video can take three to five days to fully craft.
“There’s definitely low points in every project, where I lose motivation or I’m not a fan of the video anymore,” Moyer said.
Yet once again, Moyer’s commitment and character lead him to success, and he powers through to create the viral content.
“If I do start to feel that way…eventually, I do start to build back that confidence in the video,” he said. “Then I’ll export it, upload it to TikTok, and hope for the best.”
In another aspect of humanity behind the screen, Moyer strives to provide resources for new editors. After getting his start on YouTube years ago, Moyer gives back by not only recording how he achieves his visual effects but sharing his entire process.
“I was just so appreciative that that was there for me, and I want to show everyone else that ‘you can do this, too,’” he said.
Within each tutorial video, Moyer breaks down countless hours of work and brainpower into three-minute clips for beginners. In displaying these complicated visual achievements so transparently, Moyer opens the door for innovation, as well as inspires the next generation to pursue all dreams by modeling complexity as an enhancement to passion, rather than a challenge.
“As a community, we can grow so much faster if we share information,” he said. “[And,] if people aren’t watching to learn, I want them to be entertained.”
In this valiant effort, Moyer also crafts his tutorials to be enjoyable for all. By incorporating elements of comedy and theatrics into the educational clips, Moyer rounds out the experience in his own style of genuine content. In this way, he serves as not only the expert but as your friend next door, possessing a duality of creating that differentiates him from your average influencer.
Breaking down his work with comical flair, Moyer establishes a full-circle moment as a beginner turned expert. In viewing all simple moments as opportunities for future expression, he’s also drawn attention and accolades from all over the world.
“I’ve met a lot of different people from the United States and England, and I have friends in Indonesia, Germany, Italy, and France,” he said.
Making international connections through the Internet, Moyer is a standout of Penn State pride as excellence within his field. In this capacity unique to TikTok, creatives from every corner of Earth come together to support innovative art that drives the conversation forward.
“It’s just love for each other… [and] that’s just the best part of TikTok, the community,” Moyer said. “It’s very cool to see how each person takes on each TikTok trend with respect to their own country’s style of film and visual effects.”
In utilizing the TikTok algorithm to connect with diverse creators across the globe, Moyer integrates his own work with the best of the best internationally. Yet, it is the charm of Moyer’s style, genuine bits of discovering magic in normalcy, that makes his vision go viral each time. Across domains, there is a level of distinct imagination unmistakably unique to the Penn State student, exemplified in one of his most popular works, “Red Eye: Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Here, Moyer depicts a dancing figure within a human eye. A clever play on the popular song with imagery of the icon Snoop Dogg, the series gained over 1.74 million views alone and originated as one man’s vision (or lack thereof, in this instance).
“I got shampoo in my eyes and that really irritated my eye,” he said. “I was looking in the mirror, and it kind of just clicked like, ‘we could make these blood vessels move or do something cool.’”
For many, this moment gone wrong is nothing special. For Moyer, the challenge presents a chance to do good, be good, and create something joyful for the entire community. As he shakes up the platform with moments turned into opportunities, his goal remains much aligned with the original role of TikTok as a global sharing platform committed to the simple joys of life.
“Every video has a memory attached to it,” he said.
In this strive for happiness, the Penn Stater champions originality and protects creativity with an enduring commitment to staying true to his own identity, also exemplified by the success of his popular “Add-On” series from 2020.
Within the collection, Moyer increased engagement by encouraging viewers to name his next visual challenge. Growing his account, he found success that qualified him for the Creator Fund, a milestone for select accounts that gain the ability to monetize their videos by likes and views.
Yet even within this milestone achievement, he prioritized artistic integrity and joy for the audience.
“I found over time that it added too much pressure to it, and it took the fun away from TikTok,” he said. “So I left… to just enjoy TikTok for the creative and fun aspect that it is, versus the business side.”
While VFX editing is labor-intensive, Moyer made this decision and has remained true to it ever since. Once again, the very character that first made him go viral shines, as well as in another choice that reflects his commitment to the person behind the screen.
“I don’t like to delete videos…because I like to see that I’ve grown over time,” he said. “To see that growth is really, really cool.”
Representing his journey to editing excellence, Moyer chooses to keep all older projects available online. Often, many influencers delete old content, but this creator celebrates the past as a personal story of struggle, achievement, and happiness.
The choice is proof that practice and dedication make a world of a difference in any discipline. And for Moyer, it’s a demonstration of the shy, young student turned viral TikTok creator.
“It’s definitely something you have to overcome, over time,” he said. “TikTok has helped me grow in my self-confidence and…it definitely adds to improving yourself.”
As an expert with limitless ability, Moyer has quickly grown into a tremendous creative force online, yet it is the consistency in character that differentiates him from millions of other influencers across the world. In one final demonstration of this character, Moyer shared a lesson learned that once again seemed spoken by a best friend.
“We all have insecurities, right? We’re all human,” he said. “We all have stuff we don’t like about ourselves and it’s just overcoming that fear. Because at the end of the day… we all make mistakes, we all look stupid, so we might as well enjoy it while we’re here.”
With the talent of an expert and the attitude of a star, Andrew Moyer grew both his following and his confidence as a visual effects artist. Changing the world of VFX and challenging the Internet to reflect a bit more of reality, he claims his place within a new generation of expression while remaining grateful to his roots.
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