Michael McCrudden graduated from Humber's Television Writing & Producing program in 2012 and has since built up a multi-channel YouTube business which includes the incredibly popular Before They Were Famous series. We asked Michael a bit about how he made it all happen and how Humber helped him get there.
What inspired you to start your YouTube series?
Following graduation from Humber College I had three television shows written and/or produced that I pitched to Canadian television networks. One by one my shows were turned down and I found myself out of work. I began toying around with YouTube as I worked other various jobs (bartender, construction, actor, sales). I was certain that YouTube was just a creative outlet until I found myself work with a traditional media company. I also began writing my first screenplay about my idol Jim Carrey. The screenplay was another project that would fail to take off, but with all the research and passion I had poured into the project I had the idea of making a biography video on Jim Carrey for YouTube.
How did you get going?
This was my first Before They Were Famous video. Slowly but surely other Jim Carrey fanatics started watching and requesting who I should document next. I went from producing a few videos a month to producing 50 videos a week on multiple channels.
How did you build an audience?
Initially it was the audience's involvement in the series that kept them coming back. It was their requests that led me to choose who I would document next. As the show grew, so did my character, and I revealed more and more of myself to my audience. My own past projects and hardships attempting to be "famous" myself allowed me to be an ambassador for this kind of content.
How has it grown since you started?
I have been uploading original content to YouTube since 2008. In those eight years the landscape has changed dramatically, from cute babies and animal videos to having its own star system. I see YouTube as the future of television. YouTube has certainly changed over the years and things just keep getting bigger and bigger.
These days I'm often notified via Twitter or Instagram that the celebrity I've documented has actually watched the video within the first 24 hours of its upload. Deadmau5 was interviewed by Billboard Magazine and they asked him if my bio on him was accurate; he said it was. DJ Khaled tweeted out my video. Hollywood doesn't feel like a world away anymore. In the coming months I will have celebrities collaborating with me as I tell their stories.
What things did you do right / wrong while figuring it out?
When I started my show Before They Were Famous, it was built on sweat, tears and passion. There was no budget so the show wasn't exactly of a quality that I was overly proud of. There were errors in my reporting from time to time; some times it was my fault, othertimes it was due to my sources. With a budget and a team of employees, the quality of the show has improved and so have my efforts to get everything factual and confirmed.
What do you think when you look back on early episodes now?
My first reaction is disbelief at how fast everything evolved and how many people have watched some videos - I have one with over 14 million views. That's crazy! My second instinct is to critique the quality of my past work and celebrate the current quality and how far I've come.
What (else) are you currently working on; what excites you about the project(s)?
As I mentioned earlier, we are at a point now where celebrities are collaborating with me to help me tell their story. My most popular series is Before They Were Famous, but I twisted that idea to make other series including AFTER They Were Famous for those who may not be as popular as they once were or if their exit out of Hollywood was scandolous. There is Before They Were DEAD for those who have left us, which allows me to cover more iconic people from the past, and AFTER They Were DEAD, for those who changed the world.
I also host or produce other channels, MostAmazingTop5, Beer4Breakfast, CutestToyCollector, ScienceFACTionShow. I started my own multi-channel network, McCrudden Entertainment, where all these shows co-exist. I also manage other hosts and their channels. I do a lot! I hope to evolve my YouTube success into a late night show similar to The Tonight Show.
Any other projects you’ve worked on since graduation that you’re particularly proud of?
Initially I was an actor; when that didn't work out I became a writer/producer. My YouTube success is now opening up the door to work on my original goal of being an actor. I was recently cast in a Canadian feature film titled LAN, in which I play a game show host. My YouTube career certainly helped me with that audition.
What’s inspiring you right now?
The fans of my show reach out to me daily telling me that they love my content. The audience keeps growing and for the most part the feedback has been extremely positive. I'm excited to see where all this goes!
What does a day in the life of Michael McCrudden, YouTuber, look like?
I wake up at 7 a.m. and check my social media, email and YouTube analytics. I jot down any notes on requests/comments viewers have made and reflect on that direction as I get ready for work. My team of writers/editors and co-hosts meet me at work as we all gear up for a big day of making videos for our various shows. We have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs and work typically 12 hour days. From writing to filming, to uploading, social media, business calls. There is a lot going on! Then I go home and relax by watching others on YouTube. My life is YouTube, YouTube, YouTube ... I also have a dog.
How did your time at Humber prepare you for what you’re doing now?
My certificate from Humber in Television Writing & Producing gave me a lot of confidence that allowed me to excel at the work that I do.
The Humber program was intensive and broad, it covered so many aspects of the industry and although we focused more on television than digital content back then, it still armed me with many a tool that I use daily. As a YouTuber, you always start off doing everything yourself, from lighting to make up and wardrobe, writing, editing, music. I got great practice at Humber doing all of these things and I wouldn't be making the quality content I do today if the professors hadn't pushed me and praised me like they did.
What advice would you give to somebody wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If you want to get into YouTube make sure your concept is "You" driven. Dig deep and figure out what you know more about than 99% of people. For me it was the entertainment business and the highs and lows of success. I've always loved stories about Hollywood and celebrities. If things take off with your show, you will be doing this for a long time and working extremely hard, so you need to love your own content wholeheartedly. There is opportunity on YouTube. It's getting harder and harder to be discovered, but it's doable. I went from 100,000 subscribers to 1 million in 2016.
Find out more about Michael on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His website is MichaelMcCrudden.com and, of course, you can see and subscribe to his YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/MrMcCruddenMichael.
You can also read more about Michael's rise to YouTube fame in this OC Weekly article.