Movie and television stars are so last decade.
In an age when surfing YouTube is as common as (and often more entertaining than) flipping through TV channels, there has emerged an eclectic breed of celebrity: the Internet star.
You know the type. There was the kid who set up a tripod and filmed himself twirling a metal rod around as if his life depended on it. “The Star Wars Kid” currently has over 900 million hits on YouTube. And who hasn’t heard of Fred Figglehorn? The hyperactive, helium-voiced character’s YouTube channel was the first to hit over one million subscribers.
With help from those who have garnered success via their Web videos, here are a few tips for those looking to make a name for themselves in an age when fame could be just few clicks away.
With a new form of online entertainment and a YouTube-savvy generation comes the chance to test just what it is that makes a video’s number of views shoot from one to a million. In other words, content possibilities are almost limitless.
Although predicting which online videos will be the talk of the town is near impossible ““ Who would have thought so many people could spend hours LOL-ing at cats? ““ creators of Web shows with large cult followings recognize the importance of taking advantage of the freedom the web offers.
For Conor Duffy, the internet provided him with the opportunity to make a comedy web show with a pretty unconventional subject matter. “Patrick Duffy and the Crab” stars his dad, actor Patrick Duffy (you probably know him as the dad from “Step by Step,” your parents probably know him as Bobby Ewing on the drama “Dallas”), and a giant crab puppet. The abnormal pair spends the two-minute episodes chatting about everyday subjects such as TV shows and Facebook.
Initially skeptical of the concept, Patrick Duffy, said the Web became a way for him to expand his career at an older age.
“Here I am having established a certain reputation in television and I’m going to do basically one-minute sitcom episodes with a crab. I could be laughed off the face of the earth and not taken seriously again. And quite the opposite has happened. I have had people come up who think that this is the most intelligent piece of humor for this time,” Duffy said.
Moral of the story: The Web has opened the doors to major entertainment experimentation. Have an idea for a video or web show that sounds crazy? Sometimes the crazier, the better.
You could pull a Bo Burnham and set up a tripod and film yourself, but teamwork is never a bad thing.
For Joel Church-Cooper, star and creator of Web series “Roommating,” more man power meant more creativity. He and the co-creator for the show, Erin Gibson, were close friends who decided to start a Web series about roommates, a situation Church-Cooper said they were familiar with, having “hung out enough to get on each other’s nerves.”
“It definitely feels like it was the product of the two of us together,” Church-Cooper said. “It was our product. You could get all the writers in the world together that couldn’t do what the two of us did to create that.”
Similarly, “Jake and Amir” Web show creators, Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, were both hired as writers for the Web site CollegeHumor, found a common comedic ground and began filming videos for fun in the office. They now shoot two episodes a week, which are featured on their Web site.
Their coworkers have also become regulars on the show. While none of the CollegeHumor employees are hired as actors, members of the editorial, advertising, marketing and design staff appear on the show and contribute.
“It’s definitely a fun office,” Hurwitz said. “Like a day-to-day thing is I’m scared that someone’s going to shoot me with a Nerf gun, which is a good problem to have at work.”
Get the word out
Posting on a video-sharing Web site is just the first of many steps at getting your video in the public eye. The Internet provides a variety of other advertising and marketing outlets. Online Web media is also cheaper to produce than televised and easier to show to people because it’s open for anyone to see.
In addition to posting their videos on a number of video-sharing sites, “Jake and Amir” creators paid $8 for their Web site, jakeandamir.com. Here they posted their videos and other information, and the site quickly began attracting fans in the hundreds.
In addition to using a number of distribution platforms, UCLA alumni creators of the popular web series “Dorm Life” developed a social-networking strategy to increase word-of-mouth marketing. They gave the show’s characters Facebook pages, which allowed for more fan-character interaction.
“Even more than just watching (the show), they post on our Facebook walls and we post back,” said Jordan Riggs, creator, writer and actor for the show. “So I think considering user experience and making that a deeper and more meaningful experience also gets people to watch the show faithfully, to come back every week and to spread the word.”
Dorm Life is now one of the most viewed Web shows on Hulu.com.
Film for fun
Only in this day and age can a 16-year-old click the record button, sing some politically incorrect lyrics, post it online and become famous overnight. Literally. When Bo Burnham’s videos were featured on Break.com, the hit number was in the millions in the first few days. And he had just intended to make his brother and a few friends laugh.
“I just didn’t think of it as that big of a deal,” Burnham said. As a result of his online success, he is now a standup comedian and appeared in Judd Apatow’s film “Funny People.”
The same goes for the UCLA Jerk Kings, whose music videos of their dance routines (many of them filmed at UCLA) became the first jerk videos to reach a million hits on YouTube. Their first tutorial video, posted in October, received around 3,000 hits in less than a day.
“We never thought it would get a lot of views,” said Barnaby Kupper, member of Jerk Kings. “We just did it for fun … but we rode the wave. And so far it’s been taking us pretty far.”
With a total of six videos, Kupper admits to being recognized on the streets by people of all ages because of their YouTube presence. They have also been asked to perform at parties, dance clubs and schools.