By Michael Varrati
“A lot of people are like, ‘Vine’s just an app.’ Well, you can think what you want, but it’s changed my life. It’s pretty powerful.”
For digital megastar Brittany Furlan, this proclamation of the power of Vine isn’t just conjecture, it’s an empirical fact.
With 7 million subscribers (and growing), several key partnerships, and a slew of lucrative branding associations, Furlan’s become a veritable force of nature on the scene. Furthermore, her celebrated comedic skills and admirable business savvy have all but ensured that, unlike the app that made her famous, she’ll be sticking around for much longer than six seconds.
To an outsider, it almost reads like a definitive tale of overnight success. In actuality, Furlan reveals that her discovery of the app that would change her life came in the midst of a time when she was struggling to make her voice heard.
“I came by myself to LA to act when I was 17 years old,” Furlan tells me. “I struggled for a really long time. I did theater and improv comedy around town. I did two TV shows before Vine: I was on a show on E! called ‘Reality Hell,’ where I pranked people, and I did a show on Lifetime with Vivica Fox, which was another prank show. I had a background in comedy.”
“I was between auditions and things were rough,” she continues, “and I saw Vine advertised on Instagram. I was like, ‘Oh cool, what’s this? Another app? Well, I have time.’ I think the creators of Vine had intended it for people to take one or two second tidbits of their day, and then the full six seconds would be a way to show your whole day in six seconds. But, I was just like, ‘I’m gonna be myself.’ I wanted to do goofy characters and things, because that’s just who I am. So, I got on there, and I did these little posts…and people just started following me. It was weird and shocking, my following went up about 10,000 a month! It just grew and grew, and now I’m at 7 million.”
Simply by sticking to her guns and being herself, Furlan majorly contributed to changing the face of Vine into the growing digital entertainment platform it is today. Her rapidly increasing audience propelled the audacious performer to become, for a time, the number-one most-watched personality on the app, and her quirky brand led to key partnerships with ICM Talent Agency and Endemol Beyond.
Initially teaming with Endemol for their “SNL”-esque sketch comedy show “SHFTY,” Furlan further parlayed her deal with the company into a separate deal for herself, proving her ability and understanding of an audience who just can’t get enough.
It’s a quality that also caught the attention of noted star and “Buffy” alum Seth Green. An early advocate of Furlan’s, Green had been adamant about working with the Vine superstar, and she reveals that his support is now potentially leading to the next phase in her career.
“One of my friends was also friends with Seth Green, and they showed him my videos. He called me and was like, ‘I love your short form comedy, I think you’re really good at it, why don’t you come write for ‘Robot Chicken?’’ I thought it was a great opportunity. This was before I was making any money off of Vine, and it was an amazing offer, but I didn’t think I was ready to go into a 9-to-5 job yet. He said, ‘I totally understand, and I respect that choice, just keep in touch with me.’ Fast forward to a few months later, I’m at 5 million followers. I reached out to Seth, and said, ‘I haven’t talked to you in a while, but things have gotten crazy.’ I really wanted to do something with him, but I wasn’t really sure what we should do.”
From that conversation, Furlan now has a TV pilot in the works with Levity and Green’s production company Stoopid Monkey, which sold it to a major network, says the star. “I’m not allowed to say which right now, but it’s a big network,” says Furlan. “I’m really excited.”
With new programming via Endemol Beyond and now a new TV show on the horizon, Furlan continues to find new outlets with which to share her talent. Unsurprisingly, the ever increasing reach of her voice has also caught the attention of advertisers, many of whom are eager to court the star for a mention or an endorsement.
“I’ve worked with Trident, Reebok, Wendy’s…I’ve worked with so many huge brands, because they know the exposure, especially to the age group online, is good for the people they want to reach. But, I only promote stuff I believe in…like, I don’t promote alcohol, because my audience is pretty young,” Furlan says. “Every day, I become more and more impressed by the reach of it. That’s why companies like Paramount, Universal, etc. are hiring me. That’s why all these brands are hiring me to promote things, because they see the power of it, they see how it reaches people.”
Taking a moment to recall the days she fought so hard to make an impact, Furlan tells me the branding is an organic part of her world, because it helps her maintain the dream she chased for so long.
“Some people on Vine, they’ll call you a sell-out, but they don’t understand, I’m just trying to do what I love and not starve,” she says. “I was struggling for so long without making any money, it’s just kind of nice to be able to do what I love and be able to make money doing it.
Above all, Furlan’s work to continue to maintain and expand her dream job is admirable. By merely taking a chance on herself, the comedian has launched a career never before seen, conquering multiple facets of the digital space, and with a TV pilot and a role the latest Zac Efron movie, she’s on the verge of taking over the traditional space, too.
“It’s kind of funny, because I remember really struggling before I got on Vine, and I got a fortune cookie, and it said, ‘It’s going to happen for you when you least expect it.’ I saved that fortune. It’s true. It’s when you’re not expecting things that they really happen for you. If you go into things with your heart and you do them because you love them, not because you want anything else out of it, that’s when it happens…and it did.”
This article is part of VideoInk’s special issue on mobile video and Vine, “Video on the Go.” Come back all week as we highlight issues and stars of the mobile and social video space.