Andrea Feczko: The Road from YouTube Sensation to Television Star
Andrea Feczko graduated from NYU with a degree in broadcast journalism, and like most college graduates, believed the real world would be easy to navigate with a degree. At the time, only digital venues were hiring, so she accepted a position at Next New Networks (which Google has since bought and now goes by YouTubeNext), one of the leading independent producers of online videos and channels. The network needed a blonde girl for their videos, so they hired Andrea to act on their channel, The Key of Awesome, which consisted of political comedy skits and music parodies.
"I can't act. But they started calling me in to do different skits and these music video parodies. One of the guys thought I looked like Kesha, so they asked me to do a parody of her 'Tik Tok' music video." And that video ended up going viral.
To give you a sense of how well Andrea has done on YouTube, her parody videos have garnered over 250 Million views combined.
Right away, the producers suggested she create her own YouTube channel. "I thought it was going to be a collaboration with the network, but it wasn't," Andrea tells Beyond The Interview. "It worked out great, because whatever I wasn't getting hired to do, I would do on my own YouTube channel to show buyers... hey, I can do this."
Her channel, How 2 Travelers, has accumulated over 63,000 subscribers to date. Yes, the same channel she started back in 2011 when her video went viral.
Soon enough, digital media companies were reaching out to Andrea, offering her an array of hosting opportunities.
"When you have a YouTube channel, people are always reaching out to you, even if you're not getting a lot of hits." says Andrea. In 2012, Ultra Music Festival reached out to her to host live-stream videos.
"It was crazy, because the director of the live-stream actually lives in Amsterdam. That's the power of the internet. Anyone from anywhere can find you and hire you."
Even though she was getting paid for hosting jobs, she continued working on her YouTube channel, which, still, wasn't helping her financially.
Four years later, Andrea was hired to co-host Vacation Chasers on HLN, after the network rebranded as a social media channel.
"The industry is constantly changing. And my YouTube channel was one of the few dedicated YouTube travel channels with a following. Still, keeping up is hard." Since then, Andrea acknowledges that some people have been able to exceed her on YouTube while she's been busy with TV. And realistically, it wasn't until the last 2-3 years that people started looking at YouTubers and influencers as talent.
Andrea attributes her success to her passion for hosting and traveling. "I didn't start or continue my channel with the expectation of making money," Andrea says.
"It served many purposes beyond simply dollars or fame. It was a way for me to challenge my brain, create stories, stay busy, and, above all, give me an outlet to share the world and my passion for travel with people. That passion is why I was able to do it for so long and why I continue to do it. Even when I could barely pay rent - or now, when I have my dream job - I love making YouTube videos. I love making my own content. If people are pursuing digital media or social media as a get-rich-quick scheme, they’re going to be very disappointed.”
Many have also expressed disappointment with how time-consuming it is to shoot and edit their own videos. Andrea has been doing it for years. And even now, it takes her between 3-5 days to create a single video. "If you're doing the math, that means you're working 12-14 hour days, just so you can do everything else."
Shocked by how many television-star aspirers are pursuing the industry for the wrong reasons, Andrea warns those who come to her for advice:
"If you're one of those people who secretly thinks: 'I just want people to love me and give me constant likes and comments on my photos,' then I'm afraid you're in for a rude awakening."
Like many others, Andrea's career trajectory underwent several unexpected phases. "That's why my story is a little convoluted. I didn't start with a travel channel. I started with a comedy sketches, and then with a series called 'Hot Mess' because I wanted to be a host on E!"
When Andrea started getting hired by digital outlets like Clevver and Hollyscoop to write, produce, and host entertainment stories, she began to look at other ways to use her YouTube channel, which had already accomplished her goal of standing out to outlets that would later hire her as a host. That's when she decided to focus on travel.
"Many agents and managers told me, point blank, 'You are not a man and you are not an ex-green beret (alluding to Bear Grylls). Travel Channel will not hire you, and they are the only ones doing travel content.'"
With that in mind, and after having a conversation with Michael Stevens, the creator of VSauce, she decided to pursue her travel channel full-force. "Michael and I both worked at Next New back in the day. He had tremendous success with VSauce. It was his side channel, his passion project, and now he's one of the biggest YouTubers in the game. I was always afraid of failing or of people not taking me seriously as a travel expert, because of the way I looked, and after that conversation, the fear went away and I decided I was going to make videos. "
With all this experience under her belt, Andrea's biggest piece of advice is:
Stop trying to predict the future.
"Everyone said I should go into something besides travel because it was the most saturated market, but it was somehow able to sustain me."
Now, Andrea Feczko is a co-host on Vacation Creation, which premiered last year on the CW network, and has since moved to weekends on ABC. On the show, Andrea and her co-host Tommy Davidson take deserving families on the cruise of a lifetime, anywhere in the world. "For me this is very different because it’s a network show—it's 26 episodes—so it's a full-time job. Most people don't realize that in the entertainment world, you shoot out an entire season in 2-3 months. So you're not getting paid for the whole year."
The budgets for shows are also becoming smaller and smaller, so Andrea does have to do her own make-up and hair on set. She also writes all the travel tips on a segment called "In-the-know when you're on-the-go."
Andrea is said to be one of the most versatile female hosts on television—perhaps because there were several ancillary benefits of previously working in the digital media realm. In her early years, she learned how to edit, how to adjust lighting, how to use audio, how to use manual and auto focus lenses—which helped tremendously when she began working for big networks.
"I treat my film crews differently because I'm not just talent, I am also producing in my head. So, in that way, I am more aware of the set, of each person's important role in it, and also of what people need from me. I can appreciate that it takes 30 minutes for lighting before we shoot, because I know how important it is and how difficult it is, especially in outdoor settings."
Andrea says she has been told many times she "gets it," meaning that she "gets" what the production as a whole is trying to achieve, instead of just being focused solely on her own performance.
"When the DP tells me to hold still, I know he's focusing the camera. Other people might not be aware of this, and they'll move. I know how frustrating it can be when I'm trying to focus my camera, and one little movement of my eyes can mess it up."
From a business angle, having all of these different skill sets makes Andrea harder to replace. She draws her inspiration from the New England Patriots' famous motto: "Do your job." Andrea Feczko says Wide Receiver Julian Edelman really hits the nail on the head, when he said in America's Game 2016, "Do Your Job, but be able to do many jobs...and of course, do them well." Andrea proudly admits to working harder because of the constant reminder that there is always someone more talented, or perhaps, more privileged, that may come along and audition for her spot someday.
"Why I love the Patriots is that most of the players are spare parts or left overs," Andrea says. "They got there not because they were the stars, but because they worked hard and got a shot at the Patriots. And in the entertainment industry, I feel like I am that way. I don't have famous parents, a ton of money, or model good looks. I have to work harder to prove myself and get onto a team (in this case, a set)."
This business is never going to be linear.
"The days of going to college, working in the mailroom, then working up and becoming CEO and getting a severance package are long gone. And the beauty of digital media is that it broke down the barriers of distribution."
Before digital media, you had to be on TV or in the movies for people to see you. Now, all you just need is a YouTube channel and a strong delivery. "If your passion is strong, you can start working right away, because everyone has an iPhone and it's free to start your own channel. But it's also harder because everyone's doing it, there's a lot more competition, so it's going to take more work and more energy to stand out."
These days, everyone wants to be an influencer, but they want it to happen now. "When you are a social influencer, you have to start thinking like you are the CEO of your own company, and most companies take about 5 years to become profitable. You have to go in expecting the hours and the setbacks."
Andrea is candid about her gradual success rate, and often cautions those who come to her for career advice.
"I think one of the myths people believe is: "I'm gonna make a bunch of YouTube videos and post Instagram pictures, and then I'm gonna be a millionaire," and that's like saying: "Oh, all you have to do is call yourself an actor and make a film like one of ANGELINA Jolie's, and then you’ll be famous."
For those who are looking to make the switch from YouTube to television, Andrea recommends heavy preparation.
"YouTube is a very different style of being in front of the camera. As an audience, you consume both media and expect different things from the talent. There have been YouTube stars that have had shows way before me, but not all of them translate because TV is a different performance and style than YouTube. Digital is faster, and specifically YouTube, is really about a good edit." Essentially, you can’t control your image on TV like you can on YouTube.
Andrea says that when she works with big networks, they'll only give her—or any other talent—one or two takes, so there is no room for messing up or re-taking a shot because time is money. "I'm lucky if I get 3 takes, so I better have it down on my first," Andrea says.
As of today, Andrea says she lives out of her suitcase. "It sounds exhausting but it's actually very exciting," she tells BTI. "One of the cool things about traveling is that even T-Mobile and the best international plans aren't 4G, so I've gotten less addicted to my phone. Now I'm living and traveling and meeting people and actually getting involved through my interactions. It's kind of ironic that my job has been built by social media and I'm on it less, and mostly just for work."
It's baffling how so many influencers are able to garner endorsement deals after posting less than, say, 200 pictures. But Andrea has a different take on this popular phenomenon:
"Switch off that mindset of 'oh, it's just a video, it's just a picture.' That one picture and that one video takes A LOT OF time for an influencer to edit and create. Yes, this process takes time and hard work, but you don't need money and you don't need other people to begin anymore, and that's the beauty of it."
When she started out, Andrea concedes that she didn't know how to do things quickly, and her path was a relatively lonely experience. Now, she's able to do an entire photo shoot in five minutes because she knows exactly what she needs. With her success on the rise, she has hired a team to help her with editing and shooting, "so it's not as anti-social when you've finally reached a certain point in your career."
Andrea says she has been preparing for a long time, but she has also been very fortunate.
"They say luck is when preparation meets timing, but I've been preparing for 6 years, and while I do land great jobs in television and digital media, I still don't make much money off of my social media."
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