Unconventional way family of four makes a living
This article is a part of #KanvasLive, an interactive, cross-platform content series brought to life on the Kanvas app and AOL.com. See more on coverage here.
For the Reynolds family, Vine is a family affair. Not only does all four members of their close-knit family make viral videos, but so does the Reynold's Grandmother, Bette Reynolds. As Stewart Reynolds (the dad behind the account Brittlestar) notes, "My mom has a Vine -- we have like three generations of people making Vines."
While the family has over 271 million loops on the app, going viral was not their first priority. "We had a tech company that totally blew apart during the recession. Like, unbelievably blew apart." After suffering from this personal tragedy, the Reynolds family used Vine as a way to cope, making videos to help them laugh and find humor during some of their hardest moments. Their incredible sense of humor has led the family of four to their newest profession, being able to self-sustain themselves by making hysterical 6-second videos.
The Reynolds family is proof that with hard work and a positive outlook, almost anything is possible. We recently sat down with Stewart Reynolds at this year's Playlist Live festival to talk about his family's rise to Vine stardom, how he deals with the haters, and more!
What brings you to PlayList live and is this your first year here?
This is our third Playlist Live event. One of the cool things about these is that you get to actually meet the people who watch your stuff. You'll see comments and likes from people, but you don't actually know who they are for real, so it's always kind of fun and weird when they're there in the flesh and they come up and say: "I watched this, this is really cool, and I liked this" -- and you're like 'Oh, I didn't even knew that this kind of person would enjoy that, which is awesome!"
Is there a super memorable moment you've had at PlayList with a Fan?
At the last PlayList Live we were at last year, we did a Meet n' Greet in DC and there was a young woman there who had actually hand sketched our entire family. We'll get little gifts from time to time, which is awesome, but that drawing was just this incredible effort! She kind of shyly walked up and said: "I made this" and then walked away. We have that in our house now which is really nice.
Coming at it as a dad it's a bit of a different angle as opposed to just kind of sharing with my friends. Most people my age aren't on social media in the same way that I'm on social media. The thing that got me attracted to it was being able to have a creative outlet, and being able to create fun stuff, and then building an audience of people who watch it and actually enjoy it. Doing that and then getting feedback from events like this where you meet people who say: "You know, that Vine that you did, it got me through a tough time" That's totally motivating to keep creating.
What was that moment where you thought: 'this could be something I want to do'?
For the past two and a half years, it's literally all my family does. It's our source of income, it's our jobs. That moment kind of really struck me as a possibility after I did this Vine called Put Your Finger on the Screen. It was the first viral video that I did, and it took off. Within a month, Disney had actually hired us to go down to the Social Media Allstars event in California and we met up with a bunch of YouTubers and other social people.So, that was the moment where we thought, well, they're making videos for a living, why can't we be doing this too?
We're coming at it from an interesting angle because I do Vines and videos with my family. So it's myself, my oldest son Owen, my youngest son Gregor, and my long suffering wife Shannon who just appears in them because she has to. We all do stuff together, but they also do their own content as well, which is kind of neat.
What is your favorite thing about Vine?
Vine is my first love. I like Vine because it's so incredibly shareable and addictive. One of the great things about Vine is that if you do it really well you can tell a whole story, you can covey everything you need to convey in that 6.5 seconds. If you do it well enough, it's easy to share with people, you can watch 100 of them while you're waiting in line at the grocery store. Vines are so addictive and shareable and bite-sized. They're like tiny bite-sized brownies.
How do you block out internet haters and negative comments
When our kids started doing Vines and putting themselves out there we had to kind of address this head on because you get very mild 'hate comments', but you also get really vile and horrible things said. As a family, we discussed with Owen and Gregor, we would say 'how do you feel about these comments'? If the comments were really affecting them we would have said told them to pull back. If you put yourself out there, someone's going to take a shot at you.
One of my favorite quotes ever is from David Lee Roth from Van Halen. He once said: "If you put your head above the crowd someone is bound to throw a rock at it," and that's totally accurate. For us, we've always said that those people who leave those terrible comments -- no one who is contented and happy ever leaves a hate comment. Only people who are insecure and lonely or have things that they're upset about in their lives leave those comments. You delete them, you block them, and you move on.
What advice would you give to young people trying to deal with mean comments like this?
I kept telling Vine, we have to have a way to turn off comments because when you have thousands and thousands of followers and you get hate comments, it's a small percentage. But, if you're starting out as a creator, my heart breaks for kids who are putting themselves out there -- they're getting just attacked. One of the best things about social is that you can just try stuff, you can just do it, and you can find if you have an audience. So, if you do stuff that kind of sucks, you should be able to just delete it and walk away, and try something else -- as opposed to being worried about these personal attacks.
What were you guys doing before social?
We had our own business for ten years prior, and I also did music as well. 11 years ago I did a record that was fairly successful on an Indie scale, and was licensed on MTV. I had an appreciation for media that way, and how to brand yourself.
Then, we had a tech company that totally blew apart during the recession. Like, unbelievably blew apart. We had come through that terrible time, and starting Vine was a conscious decision of saying: "I want to just laugh today" I had spent the last past two years being so bummed out. Whatever makes me laugh today -- I'm going to do that. If I can make other people laugh, that's even better, that's really great.
Where does the Brittlestar name come from?
The name came from when our oldest son Owen was three years old. He had a marine life book and he loved going through the pictures and animals. One of them was a brittlestar, which is a starfish with long spindly legs. The cool thing about them is that they 'see' through their tentacles.
How does your family inspire your humor and your video making?
I think that when Gregor does his comedy stuff it's usually based on the fact on that relatable idea of being embarrassed by your parents, and getting in trouble with your mom, and all of those sorts of experiences that you would have as a teen. I think for myself, it's kind of taking this view of the world today through the eyes of a dad who's just an exaggerated version of myself.
I look at what happens in my family, what's going on and then I just kind of parcel that up into an experience that might be relatable to a bunch of people. One of the things we try to avoid is being too sweet and cutesy. It's more of a case of, this is actually how we are, just a little bit more ridiculous.
Do you have a favorite video you've ever made?
Yes there is, but nobody liked it. I have an absolute favorite one that I totally loved but no one else really did, but nobody understood what it was about. You don't have to include this but you can if you want, I did a Vine called Urologist The Movie. I loved it so much! I just woke up one morning thinking, my god, who would want to be a Urologist. So, that's my favorite but no one really liked it.
Ones that I liked that other people also liked that I made were any of the Nickelback ones that I made. My favorite of that series is, I got invited to the White House in March, and I did one where I was standing on the White House lawn and I said, "ladies and gentlemen, the canadian... (because i'm from canada)... the canadian national anthem!" And then Nickleback starts playing and I'm like 'no, what??" Nightmare at the Whitehouse -- so that's my favorite one that people actually understood.
Do you guys have plans for the future? Or you specifically?
It's interesting you ask that because we got asked similar questions a year ago, and we were kind of like, I don't know. It was all branding and coming to PlayList live last year was mind blowing, to see how many people are here, like tens of thousands of kids and people. It didn't seem real.
We've been fortunate enough that we've been able to go from opportunity to opportunity, and I think now it's about, in a business sense, that people know our brand and know who we are. It's important for us to brand ourselves regardless of platform. One of the interesting things we found out a year ago, was that the more fun we have, the better the end product does, the more people appreciate it. It's not a bad gig, really.
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