Quinta Brunson made history in 2014 with the first Instagram video series to go viral("The Girl Who’s Never Been on a Nice Date"). Since then, the 27-year-old comedian/actress/writer has partnered with Buzzfeed to become an internet video star, racking up millions of views for funny, relatable fare like "9 Perks of Being Short" and "When You're Forced to Hang Out With a Child." Together with the digital publisher, she's sold shows to YouTube Red and Verizon's Go90 and is currently at work on a Facebook Watch series. Below, we catch up with the LA-based Brunson to talk about the merger of web and Hollywood, internet celebrity and the time Scott Toilet Paper once gifted her in bulk.
Hi Quinta! We hear you're really busy these days. What have you been up to?
This week was a really fun one. I pitched a movie to a big studio so that was really cool. I also worked on pre-production for my new show that will be on Facebook’s Watch platform. Besides that, I made some travel plans. Next week, I’m going to Seattle for a meeting with Amazon. And the following week I’ll be going to a girl’s coding event in San Francisco.
Do you code?
I started out coding on MySpace. But I haven’t done it in a long time. I don’t think it’s like riding a bicycle, I’m pretty sure you forget.
What’s your Facebook show about?
It’s called “Quinta Versus Everything” and it was inspired by some popular videos I’ve done where it’s me versus something inanimate or abstract. It’s based on the concept that every human problem is a “versus” scenario. Any action you perform throughout the day is like, “Can I accomplish this? Can I get over it? Will this thing define me, beat me, help create the person that I am?” So it ranges from everything from “Quinta Versus Feminism” to “Quinta Versus the Curb” where I just trip on a curb one day.
When it does it come out?
I don’t think we have a release date yet. We’re shooting later this month.
So many of your videos have gone viral. Do you think you’ve discovered a secret sauce?
I actually think it boils down to a principle I learned in college in an advertising class. Basically, to make a successful commercial, there are these different emotional strings you can pull—empathy, shock, vulnerability, etc. The same is true for a viral video. You need to make people feel something. What's the human connection? What will it evoke?
Where do your ideas typically come from?
Things that happen to me and to friends are really inspiring right now because I think that personal stories are a huge catalyst for change in our climate. So, I’m taking a lot of things that happen to me on a daily basis and using them to create these stories.
Of course, there are other times when I think a completely fictional world is a better way to do storytelling. Recently, I’ve been watching this show called “The Good Place” on NBC and it inspired me to try and create something with a moral compass.
So you want your videos to have a social message?
Sometimes yes and sometimes I just want to create things that are very stupid. Sometimes I can’t decide what to do —is it more important to have a message or more important to give people something they enjoy where they don’t have to think?
Do you ever read your comments section?
I do, although as I’m sure as you’ve heard, it’s not good to do that. But yeah, I’m guilty, everyone is. I still think there’s good feedback in there.
Have you ever taken a commenter’s notes?
One of my shows, “Broke,” we wrote without knowing what platform it was going to be on. YouTube Red ended up buying it. And one of the comments was like, “This is very simple. I wish there was more meat in it.” And I remember thinking “Wait! This person is right.” And I realized it was because I wrote it as simple as possible because I had no clue where it was going to wind up. So that feedback helped me to be like, you know, in the future, I would like to try to know where my content is going so I can format it properly.