Brittany Furlan was up for multiple 2014 Streamy Awards on Sunday, including Viner of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. Furlan won for the former category; in her acceptance speech, she thanked Vine’s creator, jokingly suggesting: “Without you, I’d still be living in a Fed-Ex box with my dogs.”
A few weeks earlier, Furlan spoke with The Comic’s Comic about her wild six-second ride into Internet fame, and what it’s done for her comedy and acting careers.
Furlan, who turned 28 over the weekend and celebrated with Birthday-related Vine videos, had 6.9 million Vine followers when we spoke. Now it’s up to 7.2 million. Her numbers also keep growing on other social media accounts — her Instagram following grew in the past few weeks from 789,000 to more than 875,000; and her relatively new YouTube channel (started in June 2013) has 142,000 subscribers; and her Twitter @BrittanyFurlan is up to 187,000 followers.
Her success already has translated into a successful YouTube series, TV pilot deals, a featured appearance on TBS’ Funniest Wins as a mentor, and roles in major motion pictures. She also just showed up in Anjelah Johnson’s latest Bon Qui Qui music video.
Today may not be a typical day for Furlan. Neither was the day we spoke. “My dad’s been with me,” Furlan explained. “So I’m going to have to make a Vine later.”
Any popular YouTuber has known for years about how to become so, via the YouTube Creator Playbook.
There may not be a similar structure or even coherence to much of what’s seen and shared on Vine, but Furlan did learn the importance of consistency.
“Yeah. Like I literally have posted a new Vine every day for the year and a half that I’ve been on Vine, and I think that’s highly attributable to where I am on Vine,” she said.
“A lot of other Viners wont put out a Vine if their Vine is not good enough. People just like to see something. So. I post every day pretty much.”
How do you fit that into a typical day, then?
“I stay up until about 4 a.m. every night. I’m a total night owl. I don’t know why. I’ve always been like that. So I get up at 10 and post the Vine that I recorded the night before…I’ll go to auditions, meetings and things I need to do. I have so many of them. I won’t break the wheel while I have these opportunities. I’m really busy running around all the time.”
What was the moment that your Vine took off?
“I grew really slowly on Vine. I grew naturally and slowly. I don’t know. It wasn’t like most people, where I had one Vine that catapulted me. I don’t feel there was a defining moment. I just consistently got followers. I get about about 10,000 new followers a day now. It’s pretty crazy.”
True enough, Furlan’s Vine following grew by 300,000 since speaking with The Comic’s Comic in August.
She can cite a few Vines that may have helped.
“I mean, maybe my twerking at Goodwill was a big one,” Furlan said.
That series appeared amid her Vines of June 2013:
“I collaborated with Simon Rex and Andy Milonakis pretty early on. They were pretty popular early on,” she said. “People had to get to know me and these characters. I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve. I didn’t follow a bunch of people and then unfollow them. I didn’t hashtag. I didn’t do all this bullshit that people do now to get popular.”
“I got the app to goof around.”
So just having fun and consistently sharing that attitude on a daily basis fed into viewers’ needs for new content to consume. Nom nom nom.
When did advertisers start approaching you, so you could actually make a living from your daily Vines? Which company first gave you the hookup, and how did they sell you on the idea?
“When I hit about 500,000 followers, Benefit Cosmetics reached out to me through my friend Simon Rex, and wanted me to do a Vine for them. They were the first company to grasp the power of Vine. Then after I did one for them, the floodgates opened and everyone wanted a piece. It was miraculous. I never dreamed that I’d be able to actually make money doing something I love.”
Before Vine, Furlan’s acting credits included E!’s Reality Hell in 2009, Lifetime’s Prank My Mom in 2012, and some short films and TV projects in between.
“I was a typical struggling actor. I was selling stuff on eBay to help pull through when I wasn’t getting jobs,” Furlan said. “It was really hard, and then I discovered Vine.”
That discovery taught her to create her own content. “I didn’t have to audition for anyone to get to perform. That was really freeing to me. I took advantage for it,” she said. “That app changed my life.”
Do you have any fun and/or funny stories about the Hollywood audition process since becoming “Internet famous”?
“As far as acting and auditioning, it was stressful because I had poor representation before Vine and so I wasn’t getting seen by the people I needed to be seen by. It was like years of dragging my feet through mud, hanging on to the sight of that teeny tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Then through the years the light got larger and larger, until one day it filled up my entire sight, and I couldn’t see anything but light. And that’s where I am now. I’m in a light place :)”
A few Viners competed this summer on the first season of Funniest Wins for Marlon Wayans on TBS. Furlan didn’t compete; rather, she appeared alongside Wayans to mentor the contestants in a Vine challenge.
“Initially they did reach out to me to see if I wanted to be on the show,” Furlan said.
She was simply too busy with her own development deals already on the table to compete for another potential deal.
“I’m doing a lot of my own stuff with Endemol,” she said. One deal: “My own personal project, like ‘Adults Say the Darnedest Things’ talk show with little kids asking ridiculous questions. It’s going to be too funny.”
Another was SHFTY, aka “Super Happy Fun Time Yay!”, a sketch show with a cast made up of “Vine’s biggest stars.” Here’s Furlan with KC James in a parody of The Bachelor called “The Single Guy,” released last week.
“All the top people on Vine just sort of reached out to each other on Twitter and became buddies,” Furlan explained. “I know Christiano (Covino) who was heading the project up. He said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this fun little thing?’ I had a lot of fun with that. That was a fun thing to do.”
On the other hand, she’s opposed to joining one of the several viral video sensation tours that have popped up over the past couple of years, collecting groups of YouTubers and Viners for live stage shows and meet-and-greets.
“I mean, no,” Furlan said. “I think it’s messed up to charge people to meet you. I know if you’re performing, that’s one thing. What I heard is you show up and say hi to fans.” That’s it? So yeah, no. “I’ve passed on all those opportunities.”
It can be a conflicted place to be.
Furlan is the Viner of the Year, but she was an aspiring actress before Vine, and still aspires to put her theater studies and abilities to greater challenges and opportunities.
Making them allowed her to realize “I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. That was the best feeling in the entire world,” she said. Hundreds of Vines and a Streamy Award later, though, a different kind of pressure may arise.
“People think it’s so easy to come up with these 6-second Vine videos. It’s so hard. It’s a lot of work. I basically have to come up with that idea in the midst of a bunch of other things,” she said. “It’s been hard to make the time to make good Vines. Still. It helped me get to where I am, so I’m not going away. I’ll always post as long as Vine is relevant.”
What advice would you give to other aspiring comedic performers?
“I don’t know what I’d say in terms of advice, because I think I got on (Vine) in the right time. I had all this creative energy to use and put it out there,” she said.
“There’s not a method to it. I feel like people now collaborate with the bigger Viners, and that’s the way to get popular. I believe in doing things to enjoy them. If you do anything with your heart and the intention for really enjoying it, then there’s no reason you won’t be successful.”