Ethan "Sully" Tran is a 17-year old Valorant caster who has found great success alongside his commentary partner Upmind. Sully has had the opportunity to several Nerd Street Gamer events, and more recently the VCT NA Challengers.
Sully sat down with Esports Heaven to discuss his casting career, a day in his life, and returning to casting LANs. He also shared his insights on the casting industry, offered tips to upcoming casters, and also told us about his favorite team going into the 3rd stage of VCT.
Thank you for taking the time to give us an interview, Sully. To start, what made you ultimately decide to pursue a career in the esports industry? Was a career relating to games what you always wanted to do?Of course, thank you so much for having me! I honestly can’t pinpoint the exact reason I decided to pursue Esports, as it was a mix of things. My journey into commentary isn’t anything extravagant. I worked really hard, spent long hours casting and having fun. At first, it was just a hobby and a dream to me. It wasn’t until Valorant came out that I really began to pursue this industry. Although I met Upmind before Valorant came out, we weren’t close until about 3 months into Valorant. He’s one of the biggest reasons I started to really take Esports and commentary seriously. I think without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. What does a typical day in your life look like?This is actually pretty funny because some people think my day is all about grinding casts and doing business stuff just because of what I’ve casted. In reality, most of my day is like any other teenager where I wake up, lay in bed for an hour watching TikTok before going to the gym for 2 hours, and coming home to watch a VOD review until I get bored or have plans with friends. I try to follow a schedule and go to the gym every day, but during event season and VCTs my schedule gets messed up a lot and I normally just go with the flow trying to maximize the sleep I get and the amount of food I eat.Could you describe your reaction when you were granted the opportunity to cast an official Riot tournament?I can’t exactly remember, but at the start of VCT Stage 1, Upmind and I had the goal of just being a part of the event and cast at least 1 day of challengers. We didn’t expect to be a part of the VCT circuit instantly because truthfully we weren’t satisfied with where we were as a commentary duo. As soon as we received a DM from the talent manager to commentate the first set of Challengers, I remember I instantly tried to call Upmind, but he was asleep. I think at first Boq who was the talent manager for the first set of Challengers toyed with us and said he needed a mop and a janitor for the studio they had and left us hanging like his mystical sensei ways for a few hours (those were some of the most unnerving hours). Upmind and I sat on a call for an hour until Boq messaged us back asking to cast Challengers 1, and we couldn’t believe it. We didn’t think we were anywhere near the level we wanted to be at personally but we were super glad to have the opportunity. In your career as a caster, what’s been your biggest achievement and challenge to date? What do you think was your career-defining moment?I can’t think of the biggest achievement at the moment just because I feel I’ve only just begun and I haven’t had the opportunity to work on any major events just yet. But for now, I’d say I think it is just getting the recognition that me and Uphmind have received these past 6 months. We grinded hard and had a lot of ups and downs when we first started casting together, and it took us almost a year to get to a point where we felt at least semi-satisfied in the performance we produced on the broadcast.As for the biggest challenge I’ve faced, I think it was working with Upmind for a year straight, especially with school for the both of us. When Valorant was blossoming and we wanted to work together, we were both still in school in really important semesters for us. He was graduating and I was a junior studying for a lot of major exams all while commentating almost every day and staying up late working on our duo with Upmind. It was mentally taxing and I don’t know how we managed to keep up with the talent or even propel ourselves during that time. But I’m proud we got over the school obstacle and still managed to at least find a spot at the kid’s table for Valorant talent. What are your goals for 2021? If you are offered the chance to cast a Masters tournament, would you agree despite having to attend high school too?My goals for 2021, are to continue working with Upmind on perfecting our duo and finally getting to LAN together, and of course, get into talks with Riot about our futures in the Valorant scene and securing a spot as true Tier 1 talent in the Valorant scene. I would 100% take a spot at a Masters tournament. I’m trying to make casting my life and I know the chance to cast a Masters tournament is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’d be willing to sacrifice school time and social life to work the event. Since the majority of your professional casting career was remote rather than being in-studio, will return to broadcasting LANs be difficult?I honestly don’t know, I’ve only been to 2 LANs ever and I don’t remember what casting was like. It all happened in a blur really. I have worked online for 90% of my career so far, and have never even met Upmind in real life. But, if Upmind and I can produce what we do right now I know 100% our work will be 10x better than what we can produce online. Sully, considering the recent roster changes by many teams, do you think any particular organization has a chance to shock the community with a massive comeback in the third stage of VCT? Which team are you supporting and Why?It’s super hard to say, I’d love to see C9 make another really good run as I thought THEY would be the other team to represent NA in Iceland. However, I think XSET is another good team, and the fact that they just picked up Dephh could result in them a super solid run. But as of now, I’m supporting the true NA team, Sentinels. Obviously because every game Upmind and I’ve cast that had them playing they won, but also because they just have to be in Berlin and have to win a second international title.Would you consider the casting industry oversaturated with talent? What makes a caster stand out?I’d say it’s saturated just because of how many people want in on the Valorant pie, but also because there are so many different types of casters with distinct styles trying to push themselves into the spotlight, all while skipping crucial steps in their development as a caster. For me the biggest thing that makes a caster stand out in Valorant is a few things; the quality of their commentary, game knowledge, but most importantly how professional they are and how they present themselves. I don’t think commentators recognize how big it is to look professional. Some commentators can’t even make eye contact with the camera or will type on their second monitor while they’re on camera. Furthermore, some commentators are treating this career like a hobby or a side hustle and not putting their all in. So, normally a caster that catches my eye is someone who clearly shows themselves as hard workers and presents themself with confidence. After finishing high school, do you plan to continue casting as a full-time career? If not, is there any area of study that appeals to you more? I’d love to continue commentating full-time, but I know that isn’t 100% viable depending on where I find myself at the end of my senior year. But if I were to go to college I’d most likely study communications or move into a behind-the-scenes role somewhere in the Esports industry. I don’t plan on leaving Esports anytime soon. Many young people looking to pursue a career in esports admire and take inspiration from you. Do you have any advice for these upcoming casters?Just be yourself. Don’t try and copy other people or judge your success off of others. I get worried that young kids base their success on mine. Moreover, they judge their place in the industry based on the time I’ve been working with theirs and then benchmark their worth. I want to stress that everyone’s journey is different and not everyone is going to be in the right place at the right time.If you want to make this your life, stop treating it like a career or a 9-5 and focus on yourself. Plus, don’t worry about others’ success, because success comes to those who don’t beg for it. Sully, Once again thank you for taking out time for the interview. The floor is yours for any final things you’d like to say, shoutouts, etc.Thanks again for interviewing me! If anyone reads this has any questions or needs advice from myself reach out to me on my socials; @sullycastsKindly support us by following Esports Heaven on Twitter and keep tabs on our website for more interesting content.If you enjoyed this interview of ohai, follow the author for more Valorant content at @AashirAhmed155.
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