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.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to have a worm crawl in your ear? A tree grow from your face? What if you grew horns, or werewolf teeth? Maybe you’ve formulated an escape plan just in case a shark pops in on your totally chill pool time, or have figured out exactly how far you’re going throw a piece of fruit you’re eating if a giant bug is waiting inside it. Okay, so, maybe you haven’t wondered. But even for those who aren’t acquainted with these and other weird, wacky, and more than slightly uncomfortable wonderings, YouTuber brothers Jesse and Mike Garfield bring nightmares to life…and have a little fun while doing it.
The brothers’ punchy short skits featuring out-of-the-box (and possibly out of an eldritch horror void) situations have become their channel’s main fare. And while some of their videos are not for the fainthearted, starting right from the thumbnail, there are plenty of viewers out there who tune in for their weekly plastic prop and special effect-laden videos. And by “plenty,” we mean they receive hundreds of thousands of views each hour, adding up to a total of around 200 million each month.
Each of those views is the result of a dozen years of hard work on the brothers’ part. Back when they joined YouTube in 2007 as JesseAndMike, they hadn’t yet settled on their signature style, but one thing about their content has remained the same all these years: each video they post is a skit, and each video is meant to make each other laugh. There are some signs of their current content in their old videos — many skewed horror, and centered around nightmarish situations like terrible Halloweens and home intruders. But it wasn’t until 2014, with the uploading of Fingernail Comes Off!, that they really nailed down their particular brand of body horror humor blended with lo-fi, DIY special effects.
Now, five years later, Jesse and Mike (who still manage virtually everything for their channels themselves, include special effects and prop-making) have their style polished to perfection. And their consistency — in video content and quality, as well as how frequently they post — has just brought them across the 10 million subscriber mark.
While they’re waiting for their Diamond Creator Award to arrive in the mail, though, they’re not slowing down. They recently signed with Larry Shapiro’s Ensemble Digital, and, in addition to putting out their regular videos, are working on both a book and a feature-length film set in the same world as their YouTube content.
Check out our chat with these masters of horror below.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about each of you! Where are you from? What did you do in ye olde days before joining YouTube?
Jesse and Mike Garfield: Before we started uploading videos to YouTube, we would always make short movies using an old video camera we had. We’d film those movies in one take, no editing at all, and we always had a lot of fun. Then, one day, we decided to start taking it seriously, so we invested in some filming and editing equipment. We taught ourselves how to do everything, and started making comedy videos. That’s when we found YouTube. We created our channel and started uploading our videos, and have loved it ever since.
Tubefilter: What made you settle on YouTube as the place to share your content?
J & M: We chose YouTube as the platform to share our content because YouTube has the largest number of users, and that gives us our content the best chance to be seen, which is the whole purpose of what we do. If no one can see our content, then that takes away one of the most satisfying feelings of being a creator, which is having viewers smiling while they watch our comedy.
Tubefilter: You two have been on YouTube for more than 10 years. How have things changed over time for you and your content? Have you shifted your strategy at all to adjust to how YouTube has changed?
J & M: Since starting YouTube, we’ve seen huge changes to the way people create content, from video topics, editing, and the ways videos are filmed. Because of the changes always happening, we’ve tried to create our own style and look for our content that’s different from anyone else’s. With doing so, our content won’t have a dated look as video styles constantly change. When we first started, we made lots of different types of videos, just trying to get a footing. Once we found out what didn’t work and what did work, we went from there and built upon that.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
J & M: We received our first check from creating videos in July of 2009. It was one of our proudest moments, because we realized we could get paid for doing what we love. We were making comedy videos on YouTube before YouTube even had the option to place ads on content, so being able to earn money for what we already did was a surreal feeling.
Tubefilter: What can viewers expect every time they tune in to a JesseAndMike video? What’s “the JesseAndMike brand”?
J & M: Our viewers can always expect to go on a wild ride while watching a video of ours. We like to put ourselves in the most ridiculous situations — and the more ridiculous, the more fun the viewer has while watching our content. We like to leave out all the boring stuff and jump right into the excitement, getting to the point quickly. Never a dull moment for our viewers!
Tubefilter: How do you come up with ideas for your videos? Are they scripted/improved/half-scripted?
J & M: Coming up with comedy sketch ideas is always a fun process for us! We usually center the video around a situation so over-the-top that there is no way that you can watch it without a smile on your face. We’ll get in a room, start acting out and improvising then we’ll write it down and form a script. It’s always fun to see how the final video turns out compared to what we imagined originally in our heads.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were professional creators?
J & M: The moment we realized we were professional creators is kind of hard to pinpoint because of the way it happened. There was really no one defining moment, but more of a gradual build, and once we started to notice that happening, we made sure to keep the momentum going.
Tubefilter: Your videos involve lots of props and special effects, and we know the costs of those can rack up quickly. Do you have a budget for your videos?
J & M: There’s no set budget for our channel. Sometimes videos don’t require any budget, and sometimes they will require us to purchase certain props. But usually we make the props and do the special FX ourselves, which we really enjoy. Some content creators on YouTube will say they shoot and edit themselves, but what we think sets us apart is that we also make most of the props and do the special FX ourselves. It’s also really fun!
Tubefilter: What makes you passionate about content creation as a career? Why is this profession one that engages and excites you?
J & M: In the world we’ve created within our videos, anything you can imagine is possible. With that rule being established, we’re allowed to have so much fun creating content. It allows you to think big, and the bigger you think the more passionate you become. That’s where our passion comes from: being able to tell stories in our own crazy way. We absolutely love it!
Tubefilter: How long does it take you, on average, to put together a video, from scripting to filming to uploading?
J & M: On average, we usually come up with the idea and write the script in about two days, film for a day, and then spend about two days editing.
Tubefilter: How do you structure your work time? Do you take days off?
J & M: We don’t take many days off, because if we’re not working on a video for a day, then we’re working on a project or production off YouTube. We’re always busy, but doing what we do is the ultimate career for us!
Tubefilter: Do you have anyone else working with you behind the scenes? An editor or scriptwriter? What about a manager or network?
J & M: When it comes to making our videos, it’s all us. We write our scripts, film every scene, and edit everything by ourselves, just the two of us. That’s the way we’ve always done it. We started out that way and continue to do so to this day. Since it’s just the two of us creating our content, we can really make our videos exactly the way we want them. Our manager is Larry Shapiro (from Ensemble Digital), and we’re working on some awesome projects at the moment that are going to be really fun!
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
J & M: One of the most vital skills of being a YouTuber is having the ability to adapt, and being able to evolve your content and channel over time to suit changing trends, algorithms, and style. We pride ourselves in being able to continually change our content and style depending on what the time calls for.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? What are you building toward?
J & M: What’s next for us and our channel is more nonstop crazy videos that we love creating, and we’re also working some really cool projects that won’t be on YouTube. We’re working on a book, a movie, and more at the moment. They’re going to be awesome and fit in perfectly with the JesseAndMike brand!
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