How to Become a YouTube Celebrity
With almost 49,000 followers, Carmack is adamant that the secret to viral success is a lot less sexy than you might think.
By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University
It’s Sunday night, and YouTuber Will Carmack still doesn’t have a video filmed for his regular Monday upload.
Instead of spending the weekend studying for an upcoming exam or hanging out with friends, the sophomore Media Arts and Design major is spending his time working on script ideas for his next comedy sketch, to be posted on YouTube for his ever-growing audience of nearly 49,000 subscribers.
Carmack, who goes to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, got his start on YouTube back in 2010, when his main focus was simply sharing his stop-motion Lego hobby online. After achieving a whopping 30 views on that first gem, Carmack decided to continue posting to his channel as a creative outlet, eventually transitioning his content into what he describes as “cinematic sketches,” allowing his comedic side to shine through.
Since 2010, Carmack has worked hard to grow his online fan base, gaining thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter, traveling on a 2014 meet-and-greet tour with entertainment company Press Play, collaborating on the popular channel ThatYTLife, amassing almost three million total channel views and perhaps most crazy of all: Starting college in 2015.
“I think the hardest thing about being in college [and a YouTuber] is finding time to make something I’m proud of,” Carmack said. “Because even during the weekend, I don’t have all of that time just to film — I also have to study and do homework at some point.”
While it can be tough to balance his online persona with his social and academic life at JMU, Carmack has stayed true to his YouTube slogan: “Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.”
“There’s never going to be a time in my life where I’m around this many people my age,” Carmack said. “So the good thing about [being a college YouTuber] is that there’s a lot of people to film with. I’m friends with a lot of the theatre people, so they always want to be in my videos.”
Carmack credits his experience on YouTube to sparking his interest in filmmaking, changing his life and causing him to declare a concentration in film at JMU. His future goals now include founding a production company that would work on producing high-quality content for his channel, as well as short films such as wedding videos and commercials for small businesses.
For now, Carmack is happy making his own style of fun and quirky sketches, vlogs and Q and A videos every week, simply because he loves doing it.
“I think it’s going to be one of those things, where regardless if I make [YouTube] a career or job, I’m still going to do it just because it’s fun,” Carmack said. “It’s something where I can be my own boss — I get to decide what I post. And I like having this little audience that comes to my videos because Will Carmack made them. That means a lot to me.”
8 Questions for Will Carmack
1. Favorite social media platform?
Snapchat. It’s definitely the easiest way to interact with your viewers. If you leave your Snapchat account open, you can constantly get Snapchats from people who watch your videos, and that, I think, is one of the most rewarding things about being a YouTuber — seeing the faces of the people who watch your content.
2. Favorite YouTuber?
Probably Philip DeFranco. He’s real. He has a news channel, and he tells it really, really well. He’ll give you both sides of the [issue], and then give his opinion. I think that’s a really respectable way to do the news.
3. Craziest and/or funniest moment while filming a video?
Actually, I was filming a video two weeks ago called “The Coffee Song,” and I didn’t realize until I was editing the clip, but the guys in the background were talking about doing cocaine at beach week. This one guy literally goes, “Uh, yeah, I did two lines, three shots,” and then someone went: “Did it make you feel good?” and [the first guy] said: “Yeah, but the next morning I felt like I was gonna die!” Like, no shit, you did cocaine! In what world would you think that’s okay?
4. What camera do you use to film?
I film with a Canon 70D. But I switch off between a 135mm lens and a 50mm lens, both Canon.
5. Weirdest comment you’ve ever gotten?
I get a lot of weird ones. I made this Q and A most recently — it’s a wedgie prank on someone, and I didn’t realize … that for some reason, there’s this audience who likes wedgie pranks, I guess? And it got, like, 22,000 views and there’s a lot of people commenting about making the girl I gave a wedgie to in the video do a “wedgie war.” But I think the weirdest one was when this guy asked: “Where are you the most ticklish?”
6. Favorite videos you’ve made?
7. YouTube Red: Yay or Nay?
I’ve never used it and I don’t plan on using it. I think it’s kind of a cheap way to use your fan base to make money.
8. What advice do you have for someone looking to expand their social media presence?
There are two things that are really important: continuity and collaboration. You have to make it known that you’re posting every week, and you can’t just say that — you have to do it. [Second], you have to reach out to people. As a YouTuber, it’s really hard to get big on your own. The best way to expand your social media presence is to collaborate with other people.