Welcome to Carly’s Creators’ Corner, a beautiful place where you, dear reader, and I get the chance to pry into our favorite YouTubers’ lives and find out what makes them tick. Because if there is anything I love more than ice tea — and sweet Edgar Allan Poe, I love ice tea — it’s asking awkward questions to people I admire. So enter everyone’s favorite cat-loving filmmaker, Anna Akana!
Akana joined YouTube in 2012 and has since filled her channel with vlogs and sketches about everyday life. A traditional media actress by trade, Anna was compelled by the creative freedom YouTube allowed and has made her fans laugh until their sides split while inspiring them to pursue their own happiness through videos such as “How to be Alone,” “Dealing with Anxiety,” and “Feeling Sexy.”
Coming off the heels of her highly anticipated web series, “Riley Rewind,” Akana started this year with the goal of making 12 short films in 12 months. With four films already under her belt, Akana sat down to chat about balancing the demands of traditional and digital media, Jenna Marbles, and the thing she hopes to always give fans.
Carly: What originally inspired you to join YouTube?
Anna Akana: I think the first thing I ever did on YouTube — well a long time ago, I use to do music video parodies just for fun with my friends. They were always really morbid with people dying, like Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” I was killing someone. I was directing it, and it was so fun. But after that, I was acting and not getting auditions and waiting around and being frustrated because you’re — acting is more like waiting, like you’re always waiting around, so I did a sketch group, 10 Second Traumas, with a bunch of my friends. Things got really crazy about money and IP, and I was like we’re just making stuff! We eventually broke off, and I started doing stuff for myself because I still wanted to keep making stuff, and I was dating Ray [William Johnson] at the time. He encouraged me to do stuff on my own and just keep making stuff and figure out what I want to do. So here I am.
Carly: It’s been a huge year for your with your 12-films-in-12-months goal and a production studio.
AA: Yeah, I get tired of things very quickly, so with the vlogs, it was like I made a video every week for almost a year, a minimum of two years now. I feel like I’ve talked everything to death. You only have a certain point of view on shit, and I just wanted to tell more story-based stuff. I took [on] advertisers so I can have the money to support that, and I figured, I’ll do 12 short films so I can get a feel for how to run a set, and I’ll do a Kickstarter for a movie and then premiere the short films and invite people to come see them and stuff.
Carly: How do you balance all this and your auditions for traditional media?
AA: I’m auditioning a lot more than normal. It’s honestly really, really hard, especially with the personal stuff going on at the same time, but just last month has been — it feels like everything has been on hold as I was filming a Best Buy commercial and then I was moving to Burbank and I’m doing auditions and doing a weekly video. It sucks sometimes because you set up a deadline, but then you have your life happening so you feel like your video creation suffers because you don’t have as much time to devote to it, or as many fresh ideas, but I have a daily planner so that helps.
Carly: What inspires you?
AA: I think seeing really good content no matter what it is. I rarely go out of the house but when I do, to see shows or see a standup show or see a movie, it’s always so rewarding. I just saw “Edge of Tomorrow,” which was amazing for a Tom Cruise movie. I saw a live show called “Mattress Brothers” that my friends were in, and it was like the funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. I was laughing so hard I was afraid I was going to pee in the theatre. Just seeing everyone be weird and quirky in their own way is really inspiring.
Carly: Is it ever hard talking to fans about things so intimate such as anxiety and suicide prevention?
AA: I think it’s easier when you’re not talking to someone face to face. When I’m looking at a camera and just pretending it’s a person and then putting it on the internet and not looking at it. I’ve found that the people I liked watching the most were really honest about things and were kind of just like whatever, this is my life, deal with it. Like Jenna Marbles, as weird as she is, she has this weird sense of honesty about her where you’re like no, this is really who you are. You’re just a goofy girl who is drop dead model gorgeous; f*ck you, but I love you, you know what I mean? [laughs] I think seeing that example and seeing what I liked watching really influenced [me].
Carly: Is it ever odd to meet your fans and realize, oh man, you’re real people rather than a subscriber number.
AA: No! It was never weird to me until I hung out with another YouTuber who would feel so awkward when she was recognized and would get such anxiety about it she didn’t want to leave her house. And for me, it influenced how I approached it. I also have a very negative experience when I see someone I admire, and I tell them and they’re kind of like, get away from me! I was like, oh man, I never want to do that because the people that watch you literally, technically support you, especially on YouTube. I mean I always felt good when I saw someone who was famous, who was really nice to me, you know? Like that sense of fandom, oh my god, you’re better than I imagined! I always want to do that for people because they come to you already with a sense of liking you and who they think you are so I’m like that’s no work on my part. I just have to be nice and be a good, approachable person. I think it gets weirdest when little girls recognize me— 13-year-old girls— and they start crying, and I don’t know what to do. I’ll just be like, come here, come here child, let me hug you! But no, I’ve always really liked it, I’ve always really appreciated it.
Carly: What are your future plans?
AA: The 12 short films this year are to prep for a feature the next year. Eventually I want to do movies.
Carly Lanning is a YouTubeNation curator and blames Mountain Dew for stunting her growth as a child.