Peter Heacock never imagined that six-second video clips on the popular app Vine would make him a star one day, but that’s exactly what happened.
In May 2013, a few months after he began using the app, a fellow Vine user that goes by the handle Nick Mastodon contacted him with an invitation to join a private chat group named “Super Mario Bros. Climbing Plant.”
It turned out that some of the best-known Vine users had been chatting there for weeks. Some celebrities and comedians like Andy Milonakis and Bo Burnham had participated in the chat room.
“It was like being added into the cool kids’ club,” Heacock said in an interview with Jerry Iannelli for City Paper. “It was sort of like the first day of school, where you’re picking all your new friends. The 80-plus members of the community were sort of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Vine for the first 2½ years. Some of these kids have gone on to be mega-famous.”
The group also included popular Vine users like Frenchman Jerome Jarre who has amassed more that 8 million followers, Rudy Mancuso who records clips with Justin Bieber and Brandon Bowen — the 17-year-old from Georgia — who collaborates with actors Josh Peck and John Stamos.
Heacock who has over 85,000 followers is by far the most popular person to use an app in Philadelphia and potentially the biggest driver of “youth culture” in the country just by posting six-second videos.
But just two years ago Heacock — who has a film degree from New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts — was working as a waiter at Sancho Pistola’s restaurant in Philly when a friend of his told him of Vine. He then started cutting his own comedy skits many featuring his son who was three months old at the time. Clips like him explaining the birds and the bees to his infant son took him out of anonymity and turned him into the Internet phenomenon he is now.
He soon realized that the chat group was sitting on a potential goldmine with all the videos posted and wanted to see if he could make them go viral. He went on to post a series of Vines from his friend Ridd Sorensen, in which Siri — the voice of iPhone — insults him.
“I went on the Facebook page and was like, ‘Let’s make Ridd famous today,’” Heacock said. “So I put the video on Reddit. Within an hour, it was on top of Reddit, and two days later it had close to a million views.
Dom Hoffman and Rus Yusupov launched Vine in 2013 with the concept that it would simply be “Twitter for video.” But after an update let users film with a smartphone’s front-facing selfie camera, teens began to use the app to film themselves instead of what was happening around them.
Twitter then began to connect Vine users with brands and during that time Heacock decided to found UnPopular Now, a collective of the most popular stars in social media such as David Lopez who has 5.7 million followers and Batdad with 3.4 million.
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Once word got around, a representative from Twitter contacted Heacock asking if he knows anyone willing to put some stuff together for Budweiser.
Vines stars who get advertisers usually can get paid anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the product and company.
Some stars and members of UpPopular Now decided to move out into Los Angeles to try their luck at turning their Vines snippets into acting gigs or recording deals.
But Heacock who has turned the venture into a full-time endeavor just wants to create enough to sustain an entertainment business from Philly and take care of his wife and son, with another child on the way soon.
“I have no interest in being a celebrity,” he said. “Just in making good work. I wish Vine was around when I was 23, sure. But I’m not really interested in turning my family into Vine characters.”