When One Direction split up, expect wall-to-wall media coverage of tearful fans, career-montage clips and speculation about which of the individual band members will be most successful as a solo star.
The split of YouTuber supergroup Our2ndLife in December 2014 didn’t raise quite as big a rumpus in the mainstream media, but the response from fans was just as heartfelt. Yes, of course there was a hashtag for that.
It was no surprise, given that a survey commissioned by Variety earlier that year found that online stars were often more influential than traditional pop, film or TV stars for American teenagers.
In Our2ndLife’s case, each individual member already had their own solo career underway through their own YouTube channels. Now, two of them – Kian Lawley and Jc Caylen – have teamed up for a new one which they hope will be a launchpad for new kinds of videos.
“On Mondays, we do challenges – a fan favourite – and sit-down videos where we talk about specific topics. We also write and direct our own cinematic short films and sketches, which usually air on Fridays,” Caylen tells the Guardian.
“We’re really excited to be working with a full sound and film production team to create higher quality videos. We’ve already learned a lot about the production process and we can’t wait for our audience to see what we have in store next,” adds Lawley.
Its blend of painful stunts, chat about girls and dressing-up skits follow the now-classic YouTube dynamic of being irresistible to teenagers and baffling to their parents, although the step up in production quality for the Friday films is noticeable.
The pair have heavyweight backing for their ambitions. Their new channel is part of the Fullscreen multi-channel network; they’re managed by Andrew Graham from another MCN, Big Frame; and they’re clients of Hollywood law firm Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof + Fishman.
Hence the ability to work with a professional crew for their Friday short films. The new channel – which already has more than 780,000 subscribers on YouTube – is also likely to lure in a few brands, given the roll-call (MTV, Axe, Hulu, AT&T, Universal Pictures etc) associated with Our2ndLife.
YouTubers are the new teen celebrities as that Variety poll showed, although Caylen still sees differences between the two worlds. “While the lines are definitely being blurred a bit, there is definitely still a difference between YouTube celebrities and mainstream celebs,” he says.
“Through YouTube, we’ve been able to create a personal connection with our viewers. We’ve been told by fans that when they watch our videos they feel like we’re talking directly to them. It’s really the connection with our fans that make us love producing videos so much.”
Lawley adds that Twitter has been important to the pair’s rise so far. “We can talk and get feedback about our videos directly from some of our biggest fans,” he says, mirroring Caylen’s views on the benefits of this interactivity: “We can’t stress the importance of that connection enough.”
Like a growing number of YouTubers, the pair are also setting their sights on feature-length films, even if the results are more likely to be distributed via iTunes than cinemas. Lawley has just finished shooting his first film, The Chosen, and is enthusiastic about the experience.
“Working with a full Hollywood team has been an awesome learning experience, and I definitely want to pursue acting more. Jc and I love our YouTube audience, and we’re going to keep producing videos, but we’re also really interested in learning what other opportunities are out there,” he says.
“We’re currently talking with Hollywood producers about new projects and also learning how to produce our own videos. We love trying and learning new things, so I’m excited for all of our upcoming projects,” adds Caylen.
Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart’s film Camp Takota sold hundreds of thousands of copies on iTunes and other digital stores in 2014, while fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson and Cameron Dallas also saw their films rank high in Apple’s sales chart.
Fullscreen recently announced plans for a slate of new films including vehicles for comedy studio Rooster Teeth and YouTuber Nash Grier, as well as a documentary on Our2ndLife’s final tour called #O2LForever.
Lawley and Caylen are hoping that their partnership will pay off across all screens, fuelled by the new channel. “The key to a successful collaboration is definitely chemistry. Kian and I have been making videos together for years now, and I couldn’t think of a better friend to collab with,” says Caylen.
“We took our experience from the past few years and really tried to add to it and differentiate ourselves from other collab channels,” says Lawley. “To all of our viewers out there - expect the unexpected.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th February 2015 14.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010