Stars are not just a Hollywood byproduct. Today, the line between celebrity and average citizen is being blurred in cyberspace. Online video superstars have moved beyond their devoted niche followings, becoming mainstream media fixtures; these figures are a looking glass for the power of online video.
Hailing from different backgrounds, covering vastly different territory, and with numerous different goals in mind, many Internet stars share some common qualities worth taking note of. You may already possess most of them or they may be qualities you are ready to cultivate within yourself. Wherever you stand, we have five of them to share with you today, followed by five more next week.
1. Creativity, Whimsy, and Imagination
In some ways, the Internet is our imagination made manifest. We can explore the boundaries of our minds; pushing our knowledge, challenging our senses, and reliving the dreams of our childhoods. It is no surprise then, that some of our most beloved online superstars are those that deliver a bit of whimsy and a lot of creative punch. There are numerous artists, animators, and musicians that have gained popularity by appealing to online audiences. One great example of this is Cyriak, a British artist and electronic musician who has become incredibly popular by pairing his sometimes startling animations with self-produced electronic sound bites. His avant garde videos draw millions of viewers, each anxiously awaiting his newest works of online art.
2. One of Us: Relatable
One of the huge appeals of online videos is that they are made by people we perceive to be just like us. Some of the most popular online filmmakers and actors are everyday people with a webcam or Flip Camera, recording their diatribes and gaming sessions. They are completely relatable. They do not have flawless bodies or voices. They could be your hilarious cousin or that guy you sat next to during English 101.
Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch are those guys. At one point, they were those guys you might have sat next to during classes at the University of Southern California. Together they own Overcrank Media – a LA-based production company – and run the enormously popular FreddieW channel. Their appeal? They are the funny guys that live down the hall from you. Their videos attract millions of viewers and have lead to guest director spots for McDonalds and EA Games. Their guys-next-door demeanors often serve as the crux of their videos. The duo’s videos appeal to nerds, gamers, and Hollywood celebrities, often combining a homemade feel with slick special effects.
Not all online filmmakers are fortunate enough to have a Michael Bay budget. Some of the most skilled filmmakers have a simple vision and a simple budget. Hannah Hart’s vision was simple. She was hungry and drunk, and needed to make a video for a friend– Drunk Kitchen was born. Hart is HILARIOUS, her rig is simple (a camera sitting atop a stack of books), and her choppy editing is part of her charm. She may not be Julia Child, but she understands the timeless combination of cheese and beer. Hart does not need a huge budget to make you laugh. Her simple premise is addicting, making you wish it had been your own revelation. Her resourcefulness extends to her fundraising. With the success of Drunk Kitchen, Hart decided to make a travel vlog: one part cooking show, one part travel diary. Hart turned to fundraising site Indiegogo to fund the project. Her initial idea was to travel across the US, but after quickly surpassing her $50,000 goal (she received over $220,000 from fans) she is set to explore Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Some of the best online videos have practically no budget, flashy post-production effects, or skilled editing. A good story is the backbone of your favorite videos, penned by talented writers and captured by filmmakers who understand the complexities of human emotion and experience. Joss Whedon has somewhat of a cult-like following of fans. He is a Hollywood director, writer, and producer. His fans have been with him through the good and the bad, although mostly the good. He is the creative force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, and the most recent adaptation of The Avengers. He made this list because he is the force behind one of the most beloved web series in the past six years, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
He was one of the first big-name directors to embrace the web series genre, making a sort of a meta-series about a lovable super villain who is battling his arch-nemeses and internal pangs of morality. Fans embraced the cleverly written musical series for many reasons, but Whedon’s intricate storytelling and knack for character development made this series an Internet classic. The loveable characters are easy to empathize and fall in love with. The plot is engaging and the songs are infectious. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a testament to good storytelling and the power of Internet engagement.
5. Sense of Humor
The making of this entry required hours and hours of research, namely watching a lot of videos. Those hours were full of laughter. The Internet has become a go-to for getting our funny fix. A sense of humor and the ability to improvise in front of a camera is all a lot of people need to make it online. Love her or hate her; Jenna Marbles is one of the biggest Internet sensations right now. Her audience now reaches over one billion, with each of her videos receiving millions of views.
Whether you think she is funny or not, clearly, many do and it might not be a bad idea to pay attention to how she attracted such a strong following. Marbles spoofs herself, gender norms, and celebrities in her self-edited videos. She memorably clutches her master’s degree, sobbing, at the end of her first video. Some of her funniest moments appear to be unscripted, just Marbles talking to her camera. Marbles is proof that more and more people are going online to laugh after a long day at work or school, and most importantly, that we want to laugh at people who are just like us. It is a great idea to occasionally allow your brand to be a little silly if you are ultimately gaining more recognition and trust from your viewers.
Have you developed these qualities within yourself and implemented them in your online videos? Have some come more naturally than others? Let us know by leaving your comments here, on Facebook, and on Twitter and don’t forget to check back Monday for the rest of our star quality list!