A professional YouTuber stepped outside the computer screen and onto campus.
YouTube personality and filmmaker Casey Neistat spoke to Ohio State students on Monday as part of the OUABe Spontaneous event, put on by the Ohio Union Activities Board.
Prior to his lecture, Neistat hosted a film workshop where he led a discussion on his involvement in the film industry, past and present, and answered questions from students.
In November 2016, Neistat sold the now-defunct video sharing app he created, Beme, to CNN for a reported $25 million.
Neistat addressed his accumulation of approximately 5.5 million YouTube subscribers over the course of last year, due to the popularity of his daily vlog series. He credited this success with his ability to establish and popularize brief, 10-minute videos of his daily life, which he said no one had consistently done before.
“In a field where YouTubers are the sheep, you need to be the black wolf,” he said during the workshop. “You need to turn the opposite direction and take out every sheep on your way.”
During both parts of the event, Neistat told the audience about his background. He said from a young age he had a clear vision for what success would look like for him. At the age of 19, he recalled wanting to become a television news reporter and produce his own stories. He added that his desire was so strong, that he was willing to uproot himself and relocate to New York City from Connecticut in pursuit of success.
“I reflect on that often because I think that it underscores the importance of having a target, and the greater value in being malleable in terms of what success manifests itself as,” Neistat said.
Neistat regarded many events in his teen years as being unplanned. A high-school dropout, he later moved away from his home and had a child with his then-girlfriend at the age of 16, and together they lived in a trailer park. He harkened back to his sense of comfort and his shifting view of success as a member of the middle class during that time in his life, and encouraged students not to get complacent on the path to achievement.
“Nothing could’ve derailed me during that period,” he said. “And if you have to ask yourself ‘how do I know if I want it?’ then you probably don’t.”
Neistat added that this personal drive led him to work as a bike messenger in order to support his filmmaking aspiration. Finally, with a budget of about $30, Neistat and his brother released a three-minute short film titled “iPod’s Dirty Secret,” which attracted international media exposure. The film highlighted major criticism of the device’s lack of a battery replacement service for its line of iPods, and was covered by The Washington Post, CBS News and BBC News, among other outlets. He attributed his initial success to his motivation to succeed, which he said consumed him.
“If you’re a possessed person, there’s no predetermined path to get you to where you want to be,” he said. “All that matters is you have an idea.”