Marcus and Cody Johns on the pressures of being social media stars
A Vine may be only six seconds long, but the amount of prep work that goes into each video could take hours. And on top of it all, if you're a giant social media star, like Marcus and Cody Johns, there's always a pressure to crank out funny, viral videos time and time again.
Marcus and Cody are no strangers to going "viral." Their first YouTube video back in 2007 hit over 20,000 views when YouTube was still a smaller, lesser-known platform. Integrating their love of content creation with their film studies -- both dove into film studies in college and were also involved in feature-length projects --- the pair have had their videos become Internet sensations more times than they can count. It's no surprise; even their quick Vine clips are well thought out and carefully executed -- they are as professional as you can get on the platform. It's this level of craftsmanship that has catapulted the Johns's careers exponentially.
But running a successful social media platform also has its downsides. Ahead, we spoke to Cody and Marcus Johns about their start on Vine, how they used their classical film training to help create videos, and the side-effects of running a viral social media channel.
And if you want even more Marcus and Cody Johns news, head over to AOL.com at 6 pm EST today for more. You can also watch their new series, HeyUSAx, now by clicking here!
How did you both end up on social media in the first place?
Cody Johns: Let's take it back to the old days. Well, Vine was this app that wasn't getting that much traffic at the time and it was mainly for artists. And it was really focused on this type of art for lopping and stop-motion. It was right on the brink of comedy and I was seeing funny people come on the app, so in the very beginning, I suggested to Marcus that he should get on. So he jumped on the app quickly and got extremely big and he was still in college in Florida. And I was out in California; I came here to pursue the entertainment industry after I graduated college. I heard about the app from my roommate Joe, and he was like, "Hey you have to check this out, you have to get on the app." And we were all filmmakers so we were interested in seeing what's next in terms of filming apps. I had seen Viddy which was another prior app, and I was creating videos there, but I wasn't seeing the type of engaging audience that I saw on Vine. So Marcus was the first one to get big on the app.
That's a crazy story! He was able to get 1 million followers in a month, and it kind of sprung from there. And I was in L.A. and was working with the L.A. creators; a lot of people who got big initially, believe it or not, were from L.A. We both just started on this app at the perfect time to start. We're creative people and so we made videos that really no one else was doing. We created some pretty memorable content for a couple of years and we still continue to today.
You both have a pretty extensive film background before becoming involved with social media. How have you combined your professional training into your Vines and YouTube videos?
Cody Johns: I just think that we have been behind the camera a lot, before we started creating content in this capacity. I always say that we were creating content before there was even had a platform to create content. I had a YouTube channel before I would say most YouTubers did. It was back in 2007, so Marcus and I have a video right now that I want to release one day where Marcus is probably like four feet tall and we're fighting with lightsabers. I remember that video kind of went mini-viral, which meant it got about 20,000 views. That was a lot back in 2007!
I think we have a good idea of what we do, because we have experience on real sets. Marcus and I both have been in a couple of features now, where don't have any control of the camera or that we were reading lines and memorizing dialogue that was written. I think it was really just a great combination of that and being content creators when we were kids; we had my dad's camera and we didn't have any editing programs so we would just edit on the camera. We would shoot a whole movie, scene by scene, and literally shoot it in order.
Marcus Johns: When we messed up, we had to re-record on it, and we would record over our soccer games and our parents would get really mad.
Now that you're both so well established, do you ever feel pressure to push out viral content consistently?
I think that yeah, it does take a toll on people. I always wonder for creators, like us, are we just going to be zombies in three years because we've just been doing everything from top to bottom for so long? We're the only types of people in the entertainment industry doing everything top to bottom ourselves, from conceptualizing an idea, to writing it down, to getting our own equipment, to filming ourselves, to editing and then posting. And if it doesn't go viral, we feel bad about ourselves that we didn't own up to what we were supposed to do. And if you look at YouTube videos from back in the day, you would have every once in a while a video would go viral, but now there's a new viral meme once a week, just because there's so many people and such a wide audience. I think that my answer at least is yes, I do feel the pressure of having to think of something that will be a big video or a really funny idea when that's just totally ridiculous for someone else to think, "your job is to think of the next funniest video that will blow up on this platform." And I'm like, "Yeah, that's how our minds have been thinking for years."
YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, click here. And come back at 6 pm EST for more exclusive Marcus and Cody Johns features, including how they reacted to their "big break."
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