Nick Kazden wrote from Wondercon 2017….
Tony Kim founder of CrazyForComicCon and CEO of HeroWithinInc moderated a spirited conversation between a few hardocre fans who have launched nerdy careers of their own. Kim was joined by Chris Gore, founder of Film Threat and an old regular on G4's Attack of the Show, Andre Meadows the man behind BlackNerd Comedy (which hit 600,000 subscribers on Youtube early Friday morning) and Stella Chuu, an international cosplaying sensation with over 200 patrons on Patreon.
Kim has hosted panels like this in the past at other Cons. He said its one of his favorite Con experiences because he recognizes how hard it is to make it as a creative content producer and wants to help connect fans to good information.
One of the things all three panelists immediately spoke about was their excitement to turn a passion into a career.
"It feels great to turn something I used to be made fun of into a business," joked Meadows.
Meadows revealed to the audience that the first video he uploaded on youtube, titled "I'm a BLACK NERD" was actually an audition video he put together for the old CW show Beauty and the Geek. The clip features Meadows showcasing his Gremlins collection and sick DDR skills.
Gore emphasized how important passion is at the end of the day to establishing a space in the pop culture sphere. He described himself as someone who never really had a regular job, instead always having passion projects going on in the background of his life. In his own words, Film Threat, which he started as a fanzine during his high school years, is still not a "profit center" but his passion keeps him coming back and excited to continually develop it and push himself forward.
Chuu, who was an enthusiastic, happy force on the panel showcasing her new Iphone microphone, recently quit her graphic design job to fully commit to the cosplay/con industry. Chuu credits crowd-funding websites like patreon for allowing her to dedicate more of her time to her projects and completely changing the art scene. She even describes crowd-funding services as the start of a new renaissance that more intimately links artists with their audience.
While each of them had different experiences forging their creative identity, they all agreed on the most important ingredients: persistence and hard work.
The panelists lamented the amount of time they spend working and stressed to the audience just how much work is involved in forging and maintaining a personal brand. After an audience member described his difficulties with self-promotion, Gore said that anyone who wants to establish their own brand should understand and be able to do every aspect of a job. Meadows, who said a lot of people underestimate the amount of work involved in producing and editing a five to fifteen minute long video, described the work as a lifestyle not many people understand. "I always joke that people's impression of my life is so different from what it really is," said Meadows.
Even in the middle of the panel, Chuu, who said she works anywhere from 16 to 18 hours a day, was stressing about her next costume and its impending Thursday deadline. "If I don't make it, I think I'm gonna cry."
Each of the panelists highlighted how important it is to develop and maintain your own voice. There are so many people out there doing similar things, so it's really up to the creator to distinguish themselves from everyone else.
"I consider myself like Bobba Fett," joked Chris Gore when discussing the importance of preserving his identity. "I'm freelance and I'll work for whoever. If you want to hire me to write something, I'll do it, but you're gonna get my personality."
When Meadows started his channel, he said the general impression of nerds were "glasses, a scrawny white guy and the big pocket protector," so he wanted to show off a different type of geek. He said one of the best things to come out of his channel is the fact that so many people come up and tell him how his videos have helped make them more comfortable with their own nerdom.
The panel also had some nice words for people who feel a little overwhelmed at the start of establishing their own brand. You shouldn't aim to immediately earn 100,000 fans. Instead, Kim says "you just have to find a platform where you can reach a handful of followers and be dedicated to them as they spread your work." Don't be afraid to fail and experiment because if you don't do it when you're small, you'll never feel comfortable doing different things when you're more established.
As someone who's trying to establish their own brand right now (I started a Youtube channel last July) this conversation was really informative. Crafting an identity in the crowded pop culture space is pretty damn hard, but hearing other people's experiences about making it inspires me to keep moving along with the goal of being on one of those panels in a few years.