Mo: I’m pretty sure at one point or another you’ve seen his YouTube videos or his work on Vine. His YouTube channel has more than 318,000 followers, more than 73 million views dedicated to just teaching people all around the world how to create and edit videos. He has won contests, awards for television commercials. Please welcome Zach King. Zach, Thanks for being here.
ZACH: Good morning! How’s it going? Thanks for having me.
MO: Zach, listen, I gotta say this buddy, while your tutorials are awesome, and really it’s just kind and generous of you to go out and teach people these things, I got say how fantastic your Vine clips are. They’re unbelievable, Zach.
ZACH: Thanks! This week has been crazy, it’s gotten a lot of exposure. What happened was for the last 4 months I’ve been making these Vine videos which, if you know what Vine is, it’s this app that you have on your phone and you have six seconds to tell a little story. A lot of people do comedy, a lot of people tell these funny little clips, but I do special effects. You know, turning things or floating things, doing magic tricks, but you have this cool start and stop motion, so I’ll freeze and I’ll change my position or change an object and you kinda have this magical effect. You kinda really need to see them to get the picture. This kid, from I think Russia, posted like 8 or 9 minutes of my videos on a YouTube clip and for some reason it just kinda took off in the media — it was on the Today Show, I can’t talk about what other shows I’ll be on this next week, but it really got a lot of exposure, which is pretty cool.
Mo: That’s awesome. Now when it comes to Vine, what’s the most difficult part in editing a 6-second video? Is there something that’s gonna take hour after hour, maybe the whole night, to just put up these 6 seconds?
ZACH: Yeah! Some of them. Usually I can get them done in half an hour. The hard part is, when I first started, telling something in 6 seconds is a lot harder than you think. You try and get the app, you get down to the pressure and be like, ‘Man, I really need to trim down my storytelling in order to do this.’ So at first, that was the difficult part. Now my tricks are starting to get a little more complex, I’m trying to push myself and people don’t want to see the same thing over and over, so in doing that, for example, I think last week I posted a video where I had floating popcorn. I had it on this kind of invisible string, and it took like 3 or 4 hours in the garage, because I’m looping popcorn on this string! So some of them take a little bit of time.
Mo: You have a degree in film and I want to ask, can a guy without a film background or an editing background, can they be taught how to put a little bit of “wow” in their videos the way you do it, or is this all too technical?
ZACH: That’s what’s so exciting about the age we’re living in, with the internet. The answer is yes, anyone can learn how to do this. All these visual effects that I do in editing and stop motion, I just learned them myself. I taught myself, these weren’t things I got from film school necessarily, it was more the theory of film and how movies are made. But to actually do these types of effects, you’re actually seeing kids that are like 11 or 12 making similar stuff to me, and it’s incredible, just because of the internet.
MO: How much of it though is talent? How much of the talent is God-given and how much is learned? You’re saying like an 11-year-old can go out and do it, but does he have to be born artistic?
ZACH: I think you do have to have some sort of creative abilities or the desire, because I definitely put in hours. Me and my friends do this, we put in a couple of all-nighters a week just learning, having fun, goofing off, experimenting with different things with our cameras, and that’s where it’s gonna come from — if you don’t love it, you’re not gonna put in that extra time. You know how they say it takes about 10,000 hours to really master something? I don’t really know if I’ve hit that point yet, but there are a lot of hours involved.
Mo: How much of your own money goes into making a viral video? Is it expensive? Or is it just things you find around the house and you just put it together?
ZACH: You know, really, it is that – I find these objects around the house, whatever it is, and I’ll use it in my videos. Other than having the gear, I just have a computer to edit my YouTube videos and a Canon 5D for my videos. Once you have that, maybe like five or six thousand dollars worth of equipment, you can make an incredible YouTube video, and that’s all you need. Which is amazing, because back in the day, even a couple of years ago, you would need so much more.
Mo: You know, locally, when we have effects in our movies sometimes they’re really cheesy, and we go, ‘Why is it so cheesy in ours, but Hollywood can come up with these great effects?’ The answer I usually here is, ‘Money! Budget! Without the money we can’t do anything!’ These days though, in 2014, can you come up with kick-ass effects on a budget?
ZACH: Yeah, you really can. There are guys that have done their own feature films like, the directing, the editing, the visual effects, and they have won some serious awards in Hollywood and have gotten a lot of attention. I did a road trip this summer around the United States, we did about 10,000 miles and met up with our fans, and I was blown away time and time again by the kids we were meeting, who were seriously just 11 or 12 years old. They were showing us their work on their computer and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we are gonna have no jobs someday.’ These kids are amazing and they are just sitting in their rooms learning how to do After Effects or learning other special effects software. They’re learning from the internet too, they’re watching YouTube videos from either people like us that are teaching it or finding whatever can and learning it before film school, which is amazing because I don’t know if they’re gonna need film school by the time they get there.
Mo: Right. They’re gonna be so prepped and ready to go in their freshman year. It’s gonna be crazy. Is what you do at this point lucrative?
ZACH: It is lucrative. It is lucrative especially for a guy out of college, it’s great money, but I don’t even do it for the money. I do it because I love it. I would do this if I was making no pennies at all. You know, when you truly love something, you would just do it, that’s why you live and breathe. But I’ve been fortunate to make good money to pay my team that works with me. I feel like we’re just kind of goofing around and making movies.
Mo: In our country, Zach, it’s common for companies, brands and stuff like that, to contact a popular YouTuber and try to make a viral video, not make it look like a commercial but make it look like a viral video and they just kinda throw their brand in there. They pay huge, huge money for that. Is that the culture in America as well? Do they approach you and say, “Hey, can you get a viral video going for us?”
ZACH: Yeah, they definitely do that. They definitely like to attach their names to what they call ‘influencers.’ I don’t know what they call them there, but they’re ‘influencers’ here and that’s what I am. They definitely are reaching out. It’s always a difficult conversation because a brand comes and says, ‘Hey, make a viral video, let’s try to get it to 100 million views’ and you’re like, ‘Well, I can’t promise anything.’ That’s definitely the culture here.
Mo: What’s your dream project at this point in your life? I know you’re really, really young. Do you have certain goals for 2014 that you’d like to achieve?
ZACH: I don’t even have a plan to my life. When I was in film school, it’s funny, I had like, ‘By the time graduate, I wanna be the next Steven Spielberg. I wanna be making and directing my first feature film.’ I think I’ve slowed down my pace a little bit, I’m taking a little more patient route and building an online audience because I love it. I also think we’re in a kind of a changing time with internet video morphing. We don’t know where exactly it’s going, or how web series will look like and how TV will be delivered on the internet, and so because of that I’m just building an online audience because I think it’s really important for filmmakers. Really, for anyone that can be online or have a brand online, I think it’s important. I’m just following that route right now. Down the road, 10 years from now, I’d love to be directing feature films but I’m really not in a hurry to get there because I’m advancing my skills by doing all these different Vine and YouTube videos, and I’m also getting that audience, like I said.
Mo: Zach, I just want to remind everyone that you are out there teaching people how to use some of the software for people to learn themselves, which is really generous of you because it’s kinda like helping the competition but at the same time I feel like you just throw that out the window and say, ‘Hey, let’s all just put some great material out there.’
ZACH: Yeah, in the end we’re all collaborating in various ways so it’s not much of a competition. We’re all there for entertainment and helping please an audience.