Being famous for 15 minutes is so 2005. Try getting cut-through when you’ve only got 6 seconds to make an impression.
Nicholas Megalis, a musician, artist, author, self-proclaimed idiot and also an uber-popular micro video creator, has managed it.
Pegged as one of the early poster boys of Vine, Megalis shot to looping stardom in the early days of the short-form platform.
Since then his weird and wacky videos have a conveyor belt to the higher digital ground. But don’t think it’s just Vine he frequents, although his content on this platform alone has attracted an eye-popping 800 million loops.
You can also find Megalis dedicating endless hours of his time to Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope, to name just a few.
Unruly caught up with him to find out what his secret to success is:
1. How has your life changed since you exploded on Vine. Was this a life turning point for you and do you now consider yourself famous?
Life is the same, except that I’m so famous and so rich now that I can’t even sunbathe on my yacht without the coastguard pulling up on me and asking me for a photo and creating a wake with their powerful boat engines, making me spill my plum juice mai tai. My mansion briefly lost electricity yesterday, so I imported a family of muskrats to run around in an “electricity-conduction sphere”, if you will, to conduct a current strong enough to power my 17 laptop computers.
2. Your mechanic for audience attention is clearly humour. Is this the best way to get people’s attention online today?
I don’t know how else to deal with my brain and my environment. It’s so hard for me to function without laughing. I don’t think I’ve ever made it a full day without erupting into laughter. It’s not all funny, either. Life isn’t always funny. It’s just a way to deal with it. It’s a way to interpret things.
3. What’s your advice for anyone looking to harness the power of mobile video?
Mobile video is about catching someone’s attention in the same amount of time it takes to fart or sneeze. That’s about as much time as you have on mobile video. I’ve seen some incredibly deep, beautiful films that take three hours to get through, and then another three days to process mentally. And that’s great, good for you. Good for film. I wish I could sit still long enough to watch more films. But I’m always on the bus. And I’m always spilling coffee all over myself. And I like to watch 300 videos in five minutes. Do you see my dilemma?
4. You’ve done a number of branded video collaborations. These sort of partnerships don’t always work. What elements do you think are key to sponsored content success?
Make something you believe in. That’s hard to do, especially when someone is waving cash at you. It’s hard to stick to your guns. It’s hard to say no to money, but I’ve done it. I’ve done it thrice today, already. And I actually just used the word “thrice” in a sentence. I’m proud of myself. I feel so smart! I only do things that I really, really dig and that I think my people will dig. Stuff that fits into the Megalis universe. Let me make art for your company. Not content. Actual art. I’m not going to just hold your candy bar in my dead hand and have you put make-up on me and do my hair. Although I’d love a French manicure. Sure, sometimes a paycheck is a paycheck. But money is gasoline. It is fuel for the machine. It helps me buy groceries and acrylic paint. And I can actually leave New York sometimes, now. So thank God I’m able to do that. Finally.
5. We actually met on Meerkat (thanks Meerkat), what’s your thoughts on this fledgling platform? Will we still be talking about it in a month or a year for that matter?
Meerkat is weird. Good weird. Periscope. All of it is weird. They are both awesome. Why are we compelled to constantly broadcast our coffee routines and our night terrors and our spousal arguments? What is life? At what point did watching television get permanently replaced by being television? We all want to be famous, it’s now human nature at this point. It’s ingrained, it’s part of our evolutionary DNA. Warhol was right. And that’s cool. I just like being in the middle of it, sometimes. I like to be in the eye of the storm. We are the reporters.
6. Cannes Lions Festival is on the horizon. There were waves of Vine content flooding the social web at last year’s event, but will Vine still be a major player this year for live events. Has Meerkat and Periscope closed that door?
We are journalists, all of us. The gatekeepers are being laid off. Television is on-demand. Films are being consumed on the train ride to work on screens the size of Post-It notes. And the revolution will be Meerkatted. Whatever the revolution even is.
7. Have the introduction of live-stream platforms like Meerkat and Periscope changed everything for mobile video? Has rigorous content planning been thrown out the digital window for a more real-time approach?
There is always room for everyone. Vine is still going strong, it still has a normal breathing pattern. It’s still pumping blood. It’s new for new people. A whole wave of new freaks are discovering it. It’s still a part of my day, a part of my work. I still make Vines, for pleasure, for creative release and for hire. And I believe in the future of Vine. I was catapulted into outer space on that app. It’ll morph and flow and dematerialize and shape-shift for years and a new audience will find it. Don’t close the book on something that’s only a few years old. Jesus! Give it time. Why are we so quick to forget an old friend?
8. It’s common for brands to join every video party. How do you think brands can utilize live-streaming as part of their online strategies?
Will writing and actually thinking about content be replaced by improvisational, off-the-cuff guerrilla TV? No. They are two separate beasts. The people who are creating stuff out of thin air are never creating stuff out of thin air. They’re just that good. Everything starts with an idea. Sometimes that idea is storyboarded, scrapped, redrawn, tossed out, pinned up on a corkboard, thrown away again, written on a napkin, transferred to your iPhone Notes, and then deleted and then maybe, just maybe, you pull it out of your ass again someday and it becomes something real. Everything on this Earth comes out of writing. Even the rants in my apartment on Meerkat. Me drinking coffee and pacing around in my pajamas. Those are concepts that have been stewing between my eyes for 26 years.
9. You’re now the proud author of a shiny new book, MEGA WEIRD. What inspired you to turn from video mediums to print?
Spend less time reading about Reese Witherspoon’s new vegan diet on Yahoo! and more time reading about my Yia Yia chasing me with a wooden spoon through the streets of Warren, Ohio. I just realized both topics contain the word “spoon”. Somebody turn on that Spoon record. You know the one! I don’t know, I just love books. I love printed things. I love my publisher. I love that they believed in me and could feel my soul. I love that people are buying this book in Tulsa and in Toronto and in Seattle and Rhode Island. There is nothing cooler than seeing something I made on paper in an actual store. It’s a childhood dream come true. Something I can hold in my hands and sniff. Don’t tell me you don’t sniff books. That new book smell is like candy to me.
10. It would appear your mentality is you can achieve whatever you want if you’ve got a camera and a platform to post it on. Would you agree?
Sure, why not? You can do anything you set your mind to if you have enough free time, a handful of long-suffering friends and accomplices who believe in you, and literally nothing to lose.
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