Provo filmmaker makes a living on YouTube
Each Tuesday, millions of people visit the YouTube website to view the newest creation from Devin Graham.
The young filmmaker's videos that are about three minutes long, and range in topics from video games to outdoor adventures to nature films and some draw more than 16 million views, nearly matching the number of viewers of The Big Bang Theory, the fourth-most-watched television program in the nation in early December. Even a slow week will usually bring in more than a half-million views, with plenty of videos getting between 1 and 4 million clicks.
Graham, 29, went to Brigham Young University for awhile, but he dropped out after he realized he could support himself making the videos.
"I essentially try to come up with concepts that go viral. I'm always trying to think of the next big thing," he said.
He posts a new video each week on his YouTube channel, and money comes from ads on the site. In addition, companies fly him around the world to shoot videos marketing a product or event.
Just over the summer, Graham was flown to Africa, New Zealand, Iceland, Tahiti, Iceland, New York, England and Hungary.
He originally thought he would make Hollywood films, but that has changed as he has found success on YouTube.
"What determines my success is my audience," he said. "As long as they watch, I can make any kind of movie I want to make, and to me, that's the fun part."
He says he is approached constantly by companies to make films. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he won't accept jobs from alcohol or tobacco companies.
"I'm very selective," he said. "I only take on ideas that sound fun for me or are creative and give me creative control."
Some films are based on video games. The film that captured 16 million pairs of eyes was based on the video game Assassin's Creed. He wasn't contracted to do it, but he knew there would be appeal as millions of people play the game.
It features Bountiful resident Ronnie Shalvis performing parkour or free-running stunts at landmarks in Salt Lake City. Shalvis jumps down railings of the stairs at the Salt Lake City Public Library's main branch, runs along high beams at the University of Utah and flips over the stream running through the City Creek Center.
Shalvis has been doing parkour for seven years. He describes the idea behind the activity as running away or escaping a place using the obstacles around him as an aid, and free-running is more about the creativity of finding new ways to move through space.
He suggested the spots to use downtown as he had practiced there in the past and knew what areas would be conducive to his stunts. He is part of the Ensoul parkour team, and does stunts on his own. Since the first Assassin's Creed video he made with Graham, he went from getting two to three jobs in six months to having four to five jobs in two months.
"The exposure has been great," he said.
He also went from 500 subscribers at his YouTube channel to 30,000.
He works for his father doing construction when not doing stunts professionally, but he hopes to be a full-time stuntman.
"What I love the most is the freedom it gives me. If I'm walking down a sidewalk, I'm not confined by sidewalks and walls," he said. "It gives me the freedom to do what my body is capable of doing."
"When we saw his videos, it was like 'Holy crap! These are amazing!'" said Matt Ward, who self-identifies as some marketing dude for The Dirty Dash and Color Me Rad. "When people watch the videos, they want to do the races because he captures the essence of them. He puts you there."
The races had two videos made, and Ward was impressed with Graham's speed. He had a working draft to them within hours, and a completed film within a week.
"He's OCD and a workaholic, and we love it," Ward said. "We are the same, and we love people who love their work as much as we do, and he's one of those guys."
Graham's philosophy is summed up well in his YouTube handle of Devin Supertramp, a reference to one of his favorite books, Into the Wild.
"In the book, he goes out and pursues his dreams and changes his name to Alexander Supertramp," he said. "It's all about pursuing your dreams and inspiring others to do the same. It's about expressing that whole mentality."
To see more of Devin Graham's videos, visit http://www.youtube.com/devinsupertramp.
To see more of Ronnie Shalvis' parkour videos, visit http://www.youtube.com/ronniestreetstunts
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