Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
If you’re on TikTok, chances are you’ve seen–or heard–Laura Gouillon‘s work.
And you probably didn’t even know it.
Subscribe for daily Tubefilter Top Stories
Gouillon is the designer behind nearly 200 augmented reality effects, many of which have gone viral on TikTok. Collectively, videos that have used her effects have racked up nearly 12 billion (yes, with a B) views. She’s also the person who created the now-iconic “Today, I wanted to eat a croissant” sound.
Like many of our Creators on the Rise featurees, Gouillon didn’t really set out to do content. Her childhood interest in filmmaking took her to a major in computer science and a minor immersive film at USC, but she didn’t consider making stuff for the internet until she and a coworker started up a bet to see who could hit 500 followers on TikTok.
“I think he gave up really quickly,” Gouillon jokes. “I got to 150,000. I think I won the bet. Not sure on that one, but I think I won the bet.”
@lauragouillon Brb traveling to another multiverse I loved this film and added all 74 Evelyns @A24 #eeato #everythingeverywhereallatonce #a24 #evelyn #oscars #michelleyeoh #multiverse Here’s the video y’all tagged me in: @There Are Too Many Movies ♬ Clair de Lune (Pied au Piano) – Son Lux
Gouillon’s inspiration to start creating on TikTok was also inspired by other creators. While working as a product manager at Unity, overseeing teams building tools for creators, Gouillon found herself speaking to lots of them, listening to their stories and seeing what they needed from tools like AR filters.
“I was reaching out to creators, the target audience, to engage with them, understand their experience, motivations, and tools that we could build for them,” she says. “It was like in interacting with them, I realized how much I wanted to try being in their shoes, sit on their side of the table. That’s what encouraged me to take the leap without really much of a plan about what would come next.”
So, with all these creators in mind, she joined TikTok’s in-beta Effect House, where designers can make and launch AR tools for TikTokers to use. And she continued building her own channel, sharing comedic videos that are spiritual sequels to the croissant, as well as videos that show her filters in action.
Now, Gouillon has more than 800,000 followers (sorry, coworker), is one of the platform’s top AR makers, and was recently named one of TikTok’s inaugural Asian and Pacific Islander Visionary Voices honorees.
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: I would love to hear about you and your background, where you’re from, and your career path that took you up to becoming part of Effect House.
Laura Gouillon: Where to begin? Nice to meet you. I’m Laura Gouillon. I grew up in California. My parents are French and Chinese, so personally I speak French and English. Currently based in Montreal, but planning on moving to Europe soon. My background is computer science and immersive filmmaking. That’s what I studied at USC. After that, entertainment and tech has been my north star. After internships in software engineering and product management, I worked in the entertainment tech industry both for, let’s say, cinematic VR filmmaking, making filming a VR documentary in space out of VR studio, is what brought me to Montreal, to building AR tools as a product manager at Unity.
Then it was a year ago that I decided to attempt the independent creator path. I was really excited to combine my creative, technical, but also product management and filmmaking interests into experimenting with something like filters. That was the first thing I tried, was making AR effects on TikTok. I know that that’s early in the journey for TikTok effects in general, being available to anyone in the world to make. Since then it’s been a wild ride. I’ve been able to grow, following of 800,000 and make a career out of it. At least working both on personal effects, but also branded effects with companies and creators and beyond.
Tubefilter: Fascinating. Just out of personal curiosity, I want to hear a little bit more about this VR film and space. That sounds wildly cool.
Laura Gouillon: It’s amazing. The studio is called Felix & Paul Studios and it was a multi-year venture to capture the essence of life and space. It was a completely in-house, you could say, the endeavor of building a 3-D 360 camera, a couple of them that are space-proof, and then collaborating with NASA to send those to the International Space Station. Then my role on the project was, as a product manager, managing a team of engineers and figuring out how the heck do we do this, how do we remotely control a camera in space from Earth, and capture a documentary at a distance with astronauts? That’s the gist of it. It’s available to watch on VR headsets. There’s also an in-person traveling exhibition about it as well, The ISS Experience.
Tubefilter: That is so cool. I love everything in space. What made you go from collaborating with NASA to taking the plunge and becoming an independent creator? I feel like that’s a huge leap of faith.
Laura Gouillon: It is different and it’s something I would say–I had never gone for it professionally, but personally, ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in filmmaking. I would make little short films. While everyone else is watching the Super Bowl, I’d be making rubber duck stop-motion animations with my little sister. I’ve always had this interest in filmmaking and engineering. I would take classes. I had more of a trade high school experience, so luckily a high school that offered things like mechanical engineering and drafting. That piqued my interest quite early on in both the technical side, but also the entertainment and artistic side.
At heart, I’ve always been a creator in my personal life, whether that’s filmmaking or painting and drawing. I’m also a classically trained pianist, so love music. I love music. That is my coping mechanism for when I’m stressed. I sit down at the piano, I serenade myself. It’s really the culmination of all of those interests that somehow makes this combination of AR filter creation on TikTok, but then also video creation to launch, promote, express, myself and those filters. It really combines all of those interests in a randomly beautiful way that I love.
Tubefilter: When you took this step and you became an independent creator, walk me through how you ended up at TikTok and at Effect House. Did Effect House come first and then you started making TikTok videos, or how did that work?
Laura Gouillon: That is a good question. I’ll first of all say, when I was working at Unity as a product manager, working on building an AR tool for creators, in my role, I was reaching out to creators, the target audience to engage with them, understand their experience, motivations, and tools that we could build for them. It was like in interacting with them, I realized how much I wanted to try being in their shoes, sit on their side of the table. That’s what encouraged me to take the leap without really much of a plan about what would come next. I started with Effect House, and I think Effect House was in private beta and very quickly public beta, really just as an experiment. I had no intention of this becoming a career. It was more of what is this thing? Let’s make stuff. Let’s just publish as many filters that I find interesting using every feature I can think of in the tool.
It was part learning, part experimentation. Then the filters, the effects just started catching on, really resonating with people and starting trends. I found myself in this extremely rewarding, fast feedback loop of a community that was building itself and that was also really engaged and enthusiastic about requesting and co-creating. I would get thousands of comments on my videos a day of people asking for very oddly specific effect ideas. No ideas are bad. I would take those as part of my inspiration for feeding the community while also learning and growing and experimenting on my own. That’s become, I would say, part of my innate creator style is really one ear to the community, one ear to my personal interests and pop culture and trends and new technology.
Actually, a funny story is that that wasn’t the first time I started creating on TikTok. When I started my, let’s say, independent creator journey, I already had about maybe 150,000 followers on TikTok. That was from an entire year prior when I made a bet with one of my coworkers to see who could get 500 followers first on TikTok.
Tubefilter: Just 500!
Laura Gouillon: 500. I think he gave up really quickly. I got to 150,000. I think I won the bet. Not sure on that one, but I think I won the bet. [laughs] At that point in time, it wasn’t about filters. I was just making short films and cinematic parodies. I like to say that I create experiences and videos with a theme of aesthetic sarcasm. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the audio that goes, “Today, I wanted to eat a croissant,” and it goes on and on and on.
Laura Gouillon: I made that. I made that audio.
Tubefilter: That was you?
Laura Gouillon: That was me. That was just for fun. It’s one of those things where the original video was about chicken tenders and it just seemed so simple and so silly and so fun. That one caught on and I started making every variation of every food possible. I have a playlist on my TikTok I can show you. Today, the croissant audio continues to live on as its own meme and I love that. I love that about media.
Tubefilter: I first saw it on Twitter. Not even on TikTok. It was on Twitter.
Laura Gouillon: Exactly. Twitter as well. It’s got a meme format, it’s got legs. It has its own life. That’s how I started on the video side. The two have blended to create what I would say is my channel now.
@lauragouillon Say hi to ELLA Today I checked out an immersive exhibit where you can draw a fish and then it will swim in this digital aquarium The exhibit is called “comme un poisson dans l’eau” or “like a fish in water” You can try it at Le Bon Marché mall in Paris #paris #immersive #lebonmarche #lebonmarcherivegauche #commeunpoissondansleau #fish #aquarium @lebonmarcherivegauche ♬ The Little Mermaid (Marimba Remix) – Harry Goes Boom!
Tubefilter: Did you keep that same channel when you moved into doing the effects thing?
Laura Gouillon: Yes, it’s the same. It’s all under just @lauragouillon.
Tubefilter: What is your mix of things currently in terms of you creating?
Laura Gouillon: My focus, for sure, for the last year has been really AR effects. I will say one thing that is really important to me–or always has been–is not just creating the AR effects, but anticipating and thinking about how I want to use those for storytelling purposes. That’s how I would say my experiments have been both on the filmmaking side with AR, but then also creating AR effects both for fun, engaging purposes, as a game or around holidays, like I made an effect for Valentine’s Day recently, which predicts your love life. It had over 1.2 million videos posted with it. It was just so fun seeing people start with an effect and then bring their own story to it and have fun. It’s like a co-creation process through storytelling. For me it’s been AR short films and different facets I would say within AR and combining the music and storytelling element.
I really want to explore AR fashion next, since it’s one thing to have a dedicated AR game. That’s cool. That’s one thing. But I’m also curious into really blending AR into, not necessarily the real world, but kind of. Trying to make recreations or parodies of things like streetwear videos where it’s like, “What are you wearing?” but incorporating AR elements as if we can see them in real life and saying, “Oh, my AR glasses are AR glasses,” but no one can actually see those in real life. Other than personal AR effects, branded effects, those been my main focus for the last year.
Interviewer: How did you get into branded effects? Was that through Effects House or was that outside of Effects House?
Laura Gouillon: It was really that first month and a half when I started just pumping out effects, really engaging in a tight circle with the community that part of that community was brands, and maybe brand representatives would see my videos show up on their for you page and they would DM me, send me an email. I know this is also relatively new for brands. Part of it was them coming and saying, “Do you do this for brands? Can you make something like this for us and our audiences?”
I had no experience as a freelancer or a sole proprietor, as an independent business entity before. I really just took it one collaboration at a time, but after a year now, it’s 20-plus brands and going. Some brands, it’s ongoing relationships of how can we reactivate your audiences and either make effects that align with existing campaigns. You might have to promote music, movies, TV shows, creators, products, apps, but really trying to bring that fun angle is, as much as we want to promote something, how do we make it fun and engaging and audience first?
Tubefilter: Very cool. You mentioned having this split between what you want to do and then what the community is requesting. Can you walk me through designing and effect from start to finish?
Laura Gouillon: Yes, totally. I think I still have my product manager hat on when I approach this creation process, but I think it helps me structure and think about what to consider every step of the way. For me, I would say there are four steps. The first one is finding inspiration. Number two would be designing. The third would be making it, so developing. Then the fourth one is launching. I can’t omit the fourth one, because I know that’s a big part of my strategy of getting an effect out there and showing it to people.
I find inspiration, yes, from a community, yes, from pop culture and trends, but also other creators, my own interests. I love architecture, I love fashion, I love painting, music. Sometimes I’ll hear a song I want to make an effect to pair with, or maybe there’s a holiday coming up. I want to think about how to start a conversation around a certain topic or movie or things like this. Finding inspiration.
Sometimes the inspiration’s also like there’s a new feature in Effect House. Let’s say, it can make you look bald and then you can put something on it. I would say that really in a really satisfying way challenges me to think I want to learn how to use that new feature. What would be an interesting idea of an effect to leverage that feature? That would be the finding inspiration stage.
Then for designing, when I say designing part of it is visually, flow-wise, what is it going to look like? But really the underlying question is, who am I designing this for? An effect doesn’t have to be made for all 8 billion people in the world. You might have a target audience in mind, like people who love anime or people who love playing games or are very competitive or pop culture references. Thinking about, how do I make this effect easy to use? Fun? What content do I want it to have, what flow, what’s the satisfying part, what’s the goal?
Then developing is really just like testing, iterating. I really like to share previews of my effects to my audience through Stories. Sometimes it’s like user feedback. It’s like A/B testing. It’s saying, “Hey, version A, version B of slightly similar things, what resonates with you?” Sometimes my hypothesis of what people will like will be completely off. It’s really awesome getting that development feedback to then say, “Oh, okay. Well then, let’s go with version B. Easy.”
Developing goes until we get to a point where I’m ready to launch it. That’s not only publishing it to TikTok for anyone to be able to use it, but then also incorporating it into videos on my channel where I’m using it, I’m showing you how to use it. Maybe I’m using it with music to help it go viral or try to start a trend.
That’s the beginning of it, but at the end of the day, as you’ve probably seen, AR effects can go viral for any number of reasons, and a lot of them are out of, I would say, the AR creator’s hands. It’s really, does it resonate with the community at the right time, with the right context, maybe with the right song? I have to be open to the chaos of the internet.
Tubefilter: Which is a very concentrated amount of chaos.
Laura Gouillon: Yes.
Tubefilter: This may be impossible to answer a question, but what does the average day look like for you or the average week look like for you in terms your balance between creating AR and creating content, that kind of thing?
Laura Gouillon: That’s a good question. I know that creating content, for example, alone, is for sure a time-consuming creative and technical task for a lot of creators. That alone takes time and energy. Then on top of that, creating AR effects is another technical beast. You’re coding an interactive experience. I will say that the turnaround time for an effect in my experience is longer than making a video.
I would say the cadence of content and effects is naturally a little bit slower than maybe a traditional content video-based creator. That’s how I would segment it might not always fit into a within a week, but more within the life cycle of an effect. Those four steps I mentioned you might have multiple effects that you’re working on at any given time.
I know that, as a creative, I like to say I love being in my inspiration phase, going on walks watching pop culture, movies, TV shows, listening to music and soaking up inspiration to recharge myself for maybe a sprint of creating a bunch of stuff. It’s not always a consistent everyday making something, but part of it is what do I want to learn next? What do I want to experiment with? What are some tried and true experiences videos or ways of engaging with my audience that I want to produce so I can keep in touch with that community? Then what effects do I want to make?
I can say, for example, some days I’m making just videos all day and then some days and nights, I’m so invested in the outcome of a new effect idea that I have that I’ll just be making an effect or two. I forget to eat, I forget to sleep, because I’m just so excited about seeing it come to life.
I will add, I think that, just like you know and just like we see about trends online, there is a time-based seasonality to trends where if you jump on a trend as early as possible, there will be a different outcome to jumping on it months later, for example. Sometimes I see inspiration opportunities that are a bit more time-based and I challenge myself to leverage those.
One example would be my most viral effect yet is the emoji word challenge. It has 2.2 billion impressions, views on all the videos that have been made with that effect alone, which is insane to me. When I first saw this trend start, it was people manually adding emojis to their screen and adding a word. They already had the trend format, the song and everything, but the barrier to create was pretty high, because people had to think about what emojis they wanted and what word.
I thought, “Well, let’s take something people are already having fun with and boom, let’s put out an emoji word challenge effect that chooses the five emojis for you. They’re categorized to like guarantee you’re going to have fun. Normal, crazy animal superhero, wacky, categories of emojis, 30 interesting words that are going to spark some controversy with somebody, resonate with somebody.”
I really worked to get that one out immediately, for example, knowing there was that time-based element and it really paid off. Before I could even post a video about it, it was just trending and picking up and even today I still get tagged in videos of new people posting with it. It’s really fun seeing people use it, because it’s so authentic and genuine. People are having fun with it.
Tubefilter: That’s why I was so interested to speak to you. I think sometimes there are creators who don’t think about the people behind these tools or effects where literally billions of people are experiencing them. That’s really interesting to me.
Laura Gouillon: That’s true. Sometimes it can be difficult to bridge the gap between, like you said, the effect and the creator. I think that’s a challenge that many effect creators face.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans or goals for the next year or so?
Laura Gouillon: I didn’t even expect to be where I am today a year out. I really thought this is going to be a gap year for me. Let me just have fun, but it snowballed in the most amazing way possible. My strategy has really been to just be open to new opportunities and keep growing, keep adapting to new technologies, and following my curiosity. Honestly, I’m really excited to lean into some of those things I mentioned, like AR filmmaking, AR fashion, longer form content, and also blending some of those interests that are more off platform like music and filmmaking, and comedy back into the content, or even into other channels that I haven’t been exposed to yet.
@lauragouillon Replying to @a.po.l.l.o no ur hawt #candyhearts #conversationhearts #valentine #valentinesday ♬ Watermelon Sugar (Cover) – XD Project & Xavier Dunn & Eluera
Tubefilter: Perfect. Is there anything else that you would want readers to know about you?
Laura Gouillon: Yes. I know I forgot to mention this at the beginning, but one of my favorite things to do, and I think this is part of the, just taking a step back and living life is just discover new coffee shops and get a latte and a croissant. That’s really how that croissant audio started. Literally, it’s not even, because I’m half French, guys. It’s because genuinely I love them, but what I do and what I’ve started doing recently, and it has been so rewarding for me is, as much as we are digital creators and we have easy access to thousands of people who can see our work, but it’s been really refreshing to me to create analog, and for me it’s going to a coffee shop, latte, croissant, sketchbook, and drawing with a black pen, and I could sit there for hours.
Just as much as I like creating online, I think it’s really important to balance that with your creative endeavors offline. I think that’s what I would say, and what else I would say is– I don’t know, I’m just, I really am grateful, I will say for effect House, for the TikTok community for the opportunities I’ve had in being able to, let’s say attend conferences like the Augmented World Expo last May, speaking on a TikTok panel about AR effects to traveling to VidCon for the first time as an AR creator, and even getting the chance to win an AR hackathon that TikTok hosted at VidCon. That was like an enormous honor.
Then from there, we’re just talking one month apart with all of these events to being invited as a guest judge for an AR challenge that TikTok was host with the Toronto International Film Festival. Getting to go to Toronto and host a future of filmmaking AR challenge, to me that really full Circle brought it all together for me, knowing that I strongly identify as a creative director, filmmaker, and AR creator. Being able to blend all of those elements and strengthen my reputation and credibility in that space is extremely rewarding.
Tubefilter: One last (but not least) thing: You’re one of TikTok’s 2023 API Visionary Voices. Tell me about that!
Laura Gouillon: Yes. I am so honored for that. I’ve looked to these– This is actually a true story when I went to VinCon last year and I was able to go to the TikTok Creator event and I remember seeing a table of creators and I recognized all of the creators and when I went up to them, because I was really motivating myself to just go and be the first one to say hi. From that, I made so many new friends and connections. That table was last year’s API Visionary Voices. [chuckles] Nominee list, and it was just so cool seeing them, obviously them being further along in their journey than I was at the time, but that was really inspiring. To me, again, it’s a full circle moment, even being considered and nominated for a category-like industry to disrupts as well, it’s really rewarding and I’m so proud to be half Chinese.
I don’t think I necessarily, let’s say, catered to any audience in my content, but it is surprising and fascinating that while I do have a U.S.-based demographic primarily, or English-speaking, so U.S., Canada, U.K., when I look at my audience demographics and sometimes even for specific effects, Southeast Asia, just off the charts, it really resonates with Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand audiences. It’s just really exciting to know that multicultural creators, they can have an impact in ways they don’t expect, and I’m really excited to see this community be thriving, engaging, and coming together, and celebrating our heritage.