Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator-focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
There are few things that meld science and art better than glassblowing. An arduous fusion of the two, glassblowing sees artists meticulously heat raw lumps of material to as much as 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, then spin, twist, and trim them with a variety of tools, maintaining that perfect temperature all along, to create everything from neon signs to towering installation sculptures to tiny, delicate hummingbirds.
So it makes sense that when Netflix was looking to cast a host and judge for the world’s very first glassblowing reality competition, it sought someone with a science background. The streamer was also looking for someone who could offer an outsider’s perspective — not a fellow glassblower, who would judge the participants’ works using their own blowing skills and experience, but a neophyte who appreciates glassblowing from a perspective similar to the audience’s. And it wouldn’t hurt if the prospective host and judge had previous experience with reality TV.
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Nick Uhas fits the bill to a T. But without YouTube, Netflix would never have found him.
Uhas’ journey to YouTube is a wild one. Born in the Midwest to two high school teachers, he first cultivated a passion for stunt rollerblading, which in turn led to a passion for creating and editing videos of his sickest tricks. Then, in 2013, he found himself in a college class where the teaching assistant happened to be no other than lauded YouTube video and music producer Kurt Hugo Schneider. Uhas ended up working with Schneider and his frequent collaborator, musician Sam Tsui, on their feature film College Musical The Movie, which later debuted on YouTube via livestream.
Inspired by his experiences with the pair, Uhas set out to create his own content. But he wasn’t out to make films or music like Schneider and Tsui. Instead, as a biologist and chemist, Uhas knew he wanted to step into the world of edutainment. He launched his channel with the educational series Nickpedia, addressing topics spanning why the grass is green to where chihuahuas come from. He soon expanded his content repertoire, adding in videos with cool science facts, experiments, and exploding (almost) literally everything with gunpowder.
Uhas’ increasingly wacky experiments caught the eye of Today show producers, and he was invited to recreate them live on the show. Appearing there was the start of an entirely new off-YouTube career for Uhas, who swiftly found himself cast on both America’s Got Talent and Big Brother. At the time, it stung that he was cut loose from both series in their second episodes. But now, with Blown Away about to premiere this Friday, he jokes that being the host of a series the only way he can kick it on reality TV, since he can’t be voted off.
As for how that hosting gig came together…While Netflix was searching, Blown Away’s director came across his videos. The streamer reached out to him, and that, as they say, was that.
Uhas, who has 228,000 subscribers and nets around 500,000 views per month on YouTube, will be seen front and center of the 10-episode series, which follows 10 glassblowing experts competing for a prize package worth $60,000. The winner will receive cash as well as a scholarship to sharpen their skills at the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York.
Ahead of the series’ premiere, Uhas sat down with us to chat about how YouTube fostered the rest of his career, how filming with Netflix gave him a new perspective on his YouTube content, and what pursuits he’ll be blowing away next.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in the days before YouTube?
Nick Uhas: I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, and grew up very standard Midwest way (outdoors a lot). Both my parents were high school teachers, and anything relating to Hollywood and the entertainment industry felt as far away as Mars.
Before I got into YouTube, I was actually a professional stunt rollerblader (like the Disney movie Brink)!
I really just loved everything about rollerblading — the sport, the culture, filming, touring, everything — and I think this is actually where I acquired the appetite for being a creator. Skating was very similar to making content for YouTube before there was YouTube. We would go out and film ourselves doing tricks at a skate park or a local handrail, and then make these clips into sections, which eventually got made into skate video VHSs or DVDs. (Yes, I said VHS.)
Funny story how I actually got into YouTube…I took summer school at Yale University, and my teaching assistant for the program was Kurt Schneider. At the time, he and Sam Tsui were making music for a webseries called College Musical The Movie, which stared Allison Williams from HBO’s Girls. At the end of the summer, Kurt asked me if I would come back to New Haven the following year to help work on making the webseries into a feature film. From that point forward, I got involved in the YouTube community through Kurt and Sam. Allison also got me my first job in digital media working as a van driver for College Humor, which eventually led to me doing this prank for American Eagle.
Tubefilter: Of course, you’re chatting with us because your first Netflix show, Blown Away, is out this week! Give us the show’s “elevator pitch.” What can viewers expect to see?
NU: Blown Away is the FIRST SHOW EVER to combine reality competition and glassblowing. It’s basically the sleeker, sexier, and prettier version of Forged in Fire.
People can expect to be truly impressed with what the contestant make with glass. Hot glass working and glassblowing is an artistic medium like no other. It’s honestly one of the most mesmerizing things to watch on the planet. I’m gonna say it…You’ll be Blown Away!
Tubefilter: Though you recently became an expert in glassblowing Jolly Ranchers, you’re not actually a glassblower. How did you end up getting picked to host and judge a glassblowing competition?
NU: When the show began casting for a host, they wanted someone with a DIY/builder/science background. They also wanted someone who was familiar with reality TV, and I can certainly check that box too — I was a contestant on season 15 of Big Brother and season 12 of America’s Got Talent. Perhaps the most ironic part about my stint on reality TV is that I was cut on the second episode of both shows! So doing this Netflix show was quite the relief knowing it would be tough to evict the host!
The creative directors also wanted the host to be able to relate to non-glassblowers and see each creation without the hyperacuity to what makes certain challenges difficult (things only a glassblower would know).
Tubefilter: So, you mentioned to us that the show’s director found your YouTube videos and knew you fit what they were looking for in a host. How did it all come together? Give us all the deets!
NU: He did! I started my YouTube channel as a reboot in 2013 making science and educational content. The only show on the channel is called Nickpedia, and we do wild science experiments and demonstrations.
And ever since I cohosted a show on Smosh Pit called Smosh Lab, my personal YouTube channel has been growing. Last year, we finally got over the 200K mark (now at 227K). From this growth, I’ve been getting a lot of offers to create in the edutainment world of content on and off the platform of YouTube.
Around August last year, after a super wild 24-hour video where we launched ice cream to outer space, I got the final go-ahead that I would be hosting Blown Away. That’s a funny story. This ice cream video actually was supposed to take just one day, where we were going to launch this weather balloon in Bishop California to test if ice cream would melt on the way to outer space. Once we launched the balloon, the wind picked it up and sent it over a mountain range and into DEATH VALLEY! This then led to me and the whole production crew to drive 4.5 hours down and around the mountain range and into Death Valley to recapture our “payload” (our GoPro cameras and sensor recording device). We got to the payload at 2 or 3 a.m. and finally got back to LA at 7 a.m., which meant we had actually worked a full 24 hours for this video!!!!
I came back and basically napped the day away. At 2 p.m.-ish, I was woken out of a dead sleep by my girlfriend, who told me I’d need to pack my bags because I was going to Toronto for 45 days to host Blown Away!
Tubefilter: Back to our usual questions for a moment…When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
NU: I believe this was March of 2014, and it was a few bucks. Definitely under $10.
Tubefilter: Have you had any sponsorships or partnerships with brands on your channel? How did those come about?
NU: Yes, quite a few now. Most of them reach out through my business email (email@example.com), and we’ve got a pretty standard way of making branded content. In fact, most of our branded deals do really well as videos, because there is a budget behind them. More budget translates as more pre-production time for cooler creative elements, and more funds for bigger and better experiments.
Tubefilter: What was filming with Netflix like? Break it down for us. How long did the series take to film? Where did you film? What was the set like?
NU: Filming with Netflix was amazing. I actually thought before I went out to the set that things were going to be super different than all of the other shoots I’d been on (I was pretty nervous, actually). To my pleasant surprise, shooting a full-scale reality TV show is actually a lot like making YouTube videos. Now, granted, the budget and scale is way larger for Netflix, but the core concepts are the same. I actually felt totally normal and comfortable on the set of Blown Away, but I completely 100% attribute that to the years and years of making YouTube videos and getting extremely comfortable talking to camera.
The series took 45 days to film from beginning to end, and it was all shot in Toronto (technically in Hamilton, which is outside of Toronto).
I’ll admit, for someone who grew up in Ohio, working in Toronto during the fall was so epic. I got to see the seasons change for once (totally not like that in LA), and the town of Hamilton is very akin to Williamsburg, New York. Lots of coffee shops and up-and-coming restaurants.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realised you were a professional YouTuber?
NU: Sept. 25, 2015. I went on NBC’s Today show to do some science experiments I had done on my YouTube channel. I think I only had 30 or 40K subs at the time, but they called me a YouTuber on air, broadcasting to millions of people live. That endorsement set me up as a professional science creator. I’ve since been on the Today show nine times, and that’s how I ended up on America’s Got Talent.
Tubefilter: What made you decide to join YouTube in the first place? Why did you decide to make science shenanigans the focus of your channel?
NU: After my time with Kurt and Sam, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I always wanted to be a creator, but at the time the only real track was TV hosting. As for science, I graduated college with a bachelor’s in biology and became a published chemist in the field of organic chemistry at The Ohio State University. So, I’ve always loved science, and when I decided to start a YouTube channel, the perfect fit was to make science content.
In the beginning, we made explainer-type content filming solely out of the YouTube Space LA. Then, eventually, we got more into science experiments and demonstrations.
Since my experience with Blown Away, I’ve actually had the chance to work with the Corning Museum of Glass, which is like ground zero for all things science and glass. We’ve been creating glass-related content leading up to the show, and I have to say it’s some of the most interesting content we’ve produced!
Tubefilter: Who else works with you behind the scenes on your channel? Do you have an editor? Any employees? What about a manager or network?
NU: My whole crew is freelance, but we work so often together it feels like staff. Here are the key roles I pretty much go to for every video:
Director of photography: Sam Mosco
Editor: Griffin Louis
Producer: Kathy Sue
Analytics: Matt Gielen (Little Monster)
Marketing: Jeanann Grubbs (Hour One Agency)
The whole team can be found here, actually.
I’m repped as a host through The Gersh Agency. I don’t belong to an MCN or any network like that.
Tubefilter: Has your experience with Netflix changed anything about the way you approach your own content?
NU: This may sound crazy, but not at all. Doing the Netflix show has actually just proven to me that the way we produce our YouTube content is the “right way” or is “good enough.” Going from the set of a Nickipedia shoot in my garage to the set of Blown Away felt so natural, so I feel like whatever we’re doing, we must be doing something right. We’re obviously always open to adapt and change, but I feel really proud and good about our content because we put a lot of hard work into it.
I would add, though, that doing the Netflix show has kind of supercharged my eagerness to make more YouTube content. I feel like a character in The Wizard of Oz, where now I’ve gotten the blessings of the Great Oz and now we can create freely knowing we have the Netflix badge of approval on our resume.
Tubefilter: When did you feel like you’d really found your audience on YouTube? Was there one particular video that just saw a crazy explosion of traffic and subs? How have you grown your audience?
NU: For sure, 100%. Our first video to hit one million views was this video, where I throw a foam glider off the Santa Monica Mountains with a GoPro attached to it.
After that video, we basically stopped doing all greenscreen videos and totally focused on DIY/builder-type videos. I feel like this was actually a much better and natural fit for both my personality and just how my curiosity wants to know, “What will happen if I put X in the giant vat of chemical Y…Let’s find out!”
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? What are you building toward?
NU: I’ve been looking forward to the days where I can create content at a much faster pace. We’re really building toward a larger crew and channel. We love what we do, and we just want to do more of it…Bigger experiments, further destinations, and crazier ideas to come!
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