Becoming a full-time creator is a dream of many, but few achieve this dream completely by accident. That is unless your video goes viral and garners Hollywood attention. Brian Hull went from performing impressions for his friends to a full-time job that supports his dreams. But this didn’t happen overnight, and according to Brian, it was far from easy.
We spoke with Brian Hull about how he took a viral moment and transformed it into a full-time career as a voice actor and impressionist.
Video views: 369,752,047
Channel type: Entertainment
User created: Aug 19th, 2009
Brian started his YouTube channel in 2009. His channel initially served as a place where he stored videos he created for work, school or church. He shares “…back in the day, you [couldn’t] go get a thumb drive that’s like two terabytes or something. I [also] didn’t know how to compress videos yet. I’d make something on iMovie and it would come out at like 12 GB or something ridiculous like that. So that’s kind of hard to bring to work or school or something like that. So I just put it up on YouTube … to store videos that I could access later.”
Additionally, his YouTube channel served as a place he could share his impressions with his friends. Elaborating, Brian shares, “… My friends would call me at all ends of the night, ‘Oh, I’ve got so and so over. And they want to hear you do Scooby-Doo.’ And I’m like, ‘Yo, I’ve got to sleep.’ So I’m just like, ‘No, go over [to my YouTube], just watch that and I’m going to sleep.’”
Brian admits his goal was not to build an audience. He was uploading occasionally and hoping to share his videos with friends and family.
In 2014, Brian saw a contest online: Sing your own cover of “Let It Go” and you could win a $100 gift card to the Disney store. He decided to put his cartoon impression skills to work and perform his rendition of “Let it Go” while singing as Disney and Pixar characters.
The video went viral, garnering over 33 million views. This came as a surprise to Brian, sharing that, “Nobody was meant to see that video.” Brian laughs, “Nobody was meant to see that. I honestly was embarrassed by it.” Critiquing his own video, he recalls, “I was like, ‘This is terrible. Half of these voices are horrendous. No, no. The world does not need to see this.’ I was just trying to win a gift card for a competition. I really wanted to buy ‘Frozen’ and ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ on Blu-ray. That’s all I really wanted.”
“I don’t know why, but my friends and family saw that video and they shared it to the utter ends of the earth … about a week after I had Hollywood agents reaching out to me.
Finding his voice
With his newfound attention, Brian decided to embrace his audience and focus his channel on creating voice impression videos. With all of the attention from studios like Walt Disney and Dreamworks, Brian decided to make the move out to Los Angeles to pursue a voice acting career. He shares, “… it has always been my dream to work in animation in any way, shape or form. So the idea of being able to be a part of animation in the realm of voice work was just too exciting to not try.”
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Brian quickly realized that the entertainment industry isn’t one you get into right away. Even with a successful viral YouTube video, and getting an agent, he observed that work is not guaranteed. The industry work Brian has received, he shares, has all been great, but he still has bills to pay.
Following the path of other online creators, Brian set his sights on YouTube. He shares, “I figured, I already have this built-in audience [on YouTube]. People can make a living off YouTube; I don’t really get how, but let’s just keep going. Let’s just see what happens.”
Today, Brian is a full-time YouTuber. This career is allowing him to pursue his voice acting dream. Though YouTube and online content creation isn’t what he strived for initially, it has essentially become his day job.
Because his day job and dream job are in the same industry, growing in either arena often serves the other. “Sometimes, I don’t even see the two as different anymore,” Brian shares, “… it’s just like, ‘Oh yeah, I got to do these auditions with my agent for the first hour of my day. And then I got to go make a YouTube video.’ It’s all just all part of the same work now.”
Brian has brought his voice to many film and television screens, “Tangled: The Series,” “Pup Star,” and most recently the voice of Dracula in the Sony Animation film “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania.” All of these projects, Brian credits, are made possible by the support he gets from his YouTube channel.
Brian Hull’s creative process
Brian has found several creative ways to make videos that captivate his audiences all over the world.
Some of his ideas come from watching online trends and seeing how he can put his own spin on them. “Other times, it just comes from sheer dumb luck,” Brian admits. One of his most successful ideas was Brian going to theme parks and talking to costumed characters as themselves. “I literally came up with that in the shower one day. Just like, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did that.’ At one point, that was the number one thing everyone wanted to see on the channel.”
A majority of Brian’s videos are recorded, edited and produced by himself. Additionally, he has worked with editors and other collaborators to bring his more ambitious visions to life. For most of his song covers, he will hire a composer to make a track for him. For example, Brian mentions his Pirates of the Caribbean impressions video, “I had so much fun with that. Honestly, the work that the composer did for me was so good; I almost didn’t want to sing to it because I’m like, ‘Can we just release it as it is? Because this is incredible.’ As someone who just loves film score, this sounds like it came straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and I’m all about this.”
Sounds like a plan
In the ever-changing world of online video, Brian has to not only keep his content relevant to his current audience but also keep it relevant to what the platforms are promoting.
“I’m lucky that I got in whenever it [was] more of the big, viral [era] of YouTube,” Brian observes, “Now it’s become a little more niche audience. It’s like YouTube wants to put each viewer into a little section of YouTube and just keep them there, which I get why, but at the same time, it also makes things a little harder to get a new audience.”
“So right now, it’s just trying to figure out what it is that my audience really enjoys and how can I bring that to them in new and exciting ways,” Brian says. “Like one of the things we just did, we just launched a questionnaire for them just to be like, ‘What is it that you’re looking for from a video? What emotion are you looking to get?’ And then I can take that and try to come up with some new ideas based around that.”
Something that Brian looks forward to doing more of is meeting more of his audience in person once events open back up, sharing, “My favorite part [about being a creator] is actually getting to meet the people that I’m having an impact on — because comments are nice and they’re great to see, but at the same time there’s nothing like when I go to a show or an event or I’m just at Disneyland and somebody finds me and I can see it in their eyes what it means to them.”
An event, in particular, he’s looking forward to returning to is a show at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. “It’s weird that a YouTuber goes and does a show at the zoo, but I kid you not that is where I get the biggest audience.” These events allow Brian to make a personal connection with his audience. He describes it as a transformation from “… being just words on a page to being a human being that you somehow had a positive impact on.”
Brian Hull’s advice for creators
Brian stresses aspiring creators shouldn’t let their fear keep them from taking the plunge. “Don’t limit what you can do. That’s something that is a huge deal to me specifically because if it wasn’t for that accident that was Let It Go, I had every intention of never stepping into a vocal booth ever. I was convinced I wasn’t good enough. And that was my own perfectionism; that was my own fear.”
Brian shares that the biggest obstacles in the way of success can often be yourself, admitting, “… I would be beside myself if I could see into the future and see, ‘Oh, I could have done this. If I just didn’t let fear hold me back.’ I’d absolutely hate that.
The world of online video is vast and sometimes it can feel like there isn’t much you can add to the conversation. But the thing is: you really never know until you try. Brian has had life-changing success on his channel and largely because he was willing to share his passion with his friends and then the world.
Though success and Hollywood recognition are not guaranteed, Brian believes that making a positive impact on someone’s day is worth the work. “I don’t know how I got so lucky. I guess I just work really hard to just make people happy … and I try not to stir the pot on anything, I guess it’s just because people are coming to my channel just to kick back and relax and unwind. So I don’t want to bring up all the troubles of today because they get it everywhere else. Let’s give them one spot where they can just go chill out and turn their brains off.”