On Kuaishou, a Chinese livestream app that targets all walks of life, you can get a glimpse of the life of powerline maintainers, tiger breeders in the zoo, tattoo artists, couple truckers, female workers in Foxconn factory, private hunting ground owners in Russia, Chinese entrepreneurs in Africa, hair stylists, takeover delivery guys who sing on Kuaishou at night etc. All these people are sharing their life and creative content on this Chinese livestream platform.
To date, there are over 2.1 billion videos that have been uploaded to Kuaishou, some of which are so “creative” that they challenge your current perception of the world, while some are using soft-porn content to attract viewers, and some simply just stories of the users. In the 61st issue of Photo Gallery, we found an Internet influencer on Kuaishou, a 19-year-old nurse who uses his spare time off duty to make short videos of pranks in the dorm. He has already garnered 800,000 followers on Kuaishou and treats it as an official job, broadcasting live show every night. This nurse has always wanted to become an actor. And he can exercise such dream at the lowest cost through Internet platforms like Kuaishou.
The 19-year-old Hao Kun comes from Heilongjiang province, a Northeastern region in China bordering Russia. Now he works seven to five every day at a hospital in Tianjin city as an intern nurse, responsible for cleaning the hospital beds, performing an injection, and applying medicine to the patients.
After work, Hao Kun would start making funny short videos with his roommates, Fatty (left) and Bo Wen (right) and upload them to Kuaishou. Hao Kun is the idea bringer, the scriptwriter, and the creative director. Fatty, on the other hand, is the supporting actor in the videos and Bo Wen is the camera guy. They have been making a video series called The Douche Roommate, in which each video is about 17-seconds long featuring Hao and Fatty who prank on each other in the dormitory. These videos actually have some really unexpected and entertaining jokes. With this video series, Kun Hao’s Kuaishou subscription has attracted 840,000 followers.
Hao Kun was going through the script with his roommate before the shooting starts. Hao Kun has been dreaming of becoming an actor since a very young age. Born and raised in a small town, Kun didn’t really have the channels to make his dream come true. When studying in school, Hao Kun noticed some people around him were using Kuaishou, and that’s how the story started. It occurred to him that Kuaishou could be an opportunity for him. He then started to really think about the idea of making videos on Kuaishou. At that time, he chose to approach his roommates Fatty and Bo Wen for help. “At first I feared that they would turn me down. So I just told them that it was my dream to become an actor since I was a child. I asked them if they would like help and told them that if they would like to have some fun with Kuaishou, I would also help them make videos,” Hao recalled. Although Fatty and Bowen weren’t really into Kuaishou at that time, they agreed to help Hao Kun anyway as Hao is their friend. The three started to make videos together then.
Hao Kun was explaining the composition of the video frame and the video shooting pace. The dorm was rented. It’s a small room with eight beds. Currently, there are only five people living in it. This is the temporary accommodation for the internship. In school, Hao Kun had shot nearly 200 short videos, in which he showed contents on emotional expressions, horror videos etc. However, at that time he attracted few followers. Despite the failure, he never gave up. After starting the internship in Tianjin, he didn’t have much time to think about video ideas like he used to do in school. That’s why he started to consider using his very dorm to come up with interesting videos. “I have to use what I have around me to shoot something unique. If I couldn’t even pull this off, then I don’t have a knack for making short videos.” After brainstorming, some interesting ideas for the video content and shooting methods were formed in Kun’s mind. “I forced myself to come up with contents that are unique and could be produced in such a small space. And I made it,” he said.
A simple tripod and an iPhone. These are the only filming equipment they have. They would shoot three videos maximum per day. Many might not know that a video as short as 17 seconds can cost them over five hours to make. In the summer this year, the water bucket prank had been the most frequent theme in their short videos. The pair would prank on each us, trying to pour water on each other’s head. They caught a cold for several times for filming that. Their videos are unpredictable. Each 17-second short video would have two or three jokes and a very creative ending. By mid-October, their prank video series had already produced over 100 productions, garnering 840,000 followers.
Hao Kun was demonstrating the postures for the video before the shoot. Many of the video ideas actually appear when they are doing the shooting, and that’s why Hao started to form the habit of recording creative ideas all the time. Hao told TMTPost that before shooting, he would explain the script to his partners as a director. “This requires a high level of EQ. You have to explain it clearly and make them willing to accept your ideas and arrangements,” Hao said, telling TMTPost that he would familiarize himself with the moves that his partners are expected to do in case they couldn’t perform them well and need his demonstrations.
During time out, the group was watching short videos from other video bloggers. Hao’s inspiration and understanding of performance came from his life experience and the Internet instead of any movie or TV shows, or textbooks related to performing. Hao Kun’s videos are extremely popular, with the most popular one attracting over three million clicks. Some of his jokes in his video had even been used by some variety shows on TV. This makes Hao very excited. “It at least means people like my content,” he said. However, Hao was also a bit upset about the fact that the shows that used his contents didn’t note the source. “There is nothing I can do. So that’s it. Looking at the bright side, it means they like my contents,” he said.
During the video shoot, Hao Kun was trying to prank on Fatty, who was sitting on the bed. Stephen Chow is Hao’s favorite actor. He likes the fact that after reaching a certain age, Chow becomes serious. “Chow is very serious. He must have done many things that he didn’t necessarily want to do. But this is our life. We have to make a lot of compromises to achieve something unique,” Hao said. It’s just like Hao had to do so many repetitive or even boring things in order to make a 17-seconds video. Every time he would need to put on the face for pranking. This is his acting professionalism.
In a video, Hao Kun was trying to use a fire extinguisher to spring a prank on Fatty, who was hiding inside a closet. Unexpectedly, Fatty pranked on him first with a bag of ink. What makes a video a good video? Hao believes that a good video should be unique enough to set itself apart from the crowd. That video should be so unique that you couldn’t find anything similar on any video platform or on social media around the world. “Only something that is completely new can be considered as good content.”
The pair had to reshoot the ink-spraying scene. It is always a great task to clean up the mess after the video shooting. Hao told TMTPost that although he is not an actual actor, he felt like he is at least an entertainer now. He shoots the video by himself and does it for himself. But he also stated that he is working for Kuaishou as well.
In a video, Hao got to Fatty by putting flour into Fatty’s hat. As a matter of fact, Fatty has helped Hao Kun quite a lot. As brothers in arms, Fatty sees Hao Kun as a flexible and smart guy. In fact, he believes Hao can be an actual actor. “We feel happy to be able to help our brother achieve his dream. If he could make it, we would be happy for him,” Fatty said. Fatty is very good at listening to Hao Kun and understanding Hao’s opinions. For a short video director like Hao Kun, Fatty is a good supplement to the production process.
After shooting a video, the group was watching the playback together. Hao dreamed that one day they could form a small team or studio. “Like Chen Xiang Six O’clock for instance,” they said. Hao has taken a major step in his actor journey on Kuaishou. “I am now only filming in a small dorm mainly playing water bucket prank you know? And my 800,000 followers haven’t got tired of me yet,” Hao said. Hao likes to vision the future. He said that if one day he is given an entire building or a set where he could film videos, he would be making more hilarious contents. But so far his goal is to amass one million followers through Kuaishou.
Hao Kun always edits the video directly after shooting and uses a portable sound card to add background music. Hao’s video editing efficiency is very high. He could finish the editing in three minutes. Like most WeChat subscription operators, Hao updates every day. Such standard has indeed brought much pressure on himself, but it’s also driving him to continue making videos. “If I don’t update a video, then my followers won’t get to enjoy a moment of joy for the day. It’s only 17 seconds. So even if they don’t get to see my joke, it’s ok, but if I could make them happy for a while, the efforts would be worthwhile,” Hao stated.
A few minutes after the video was uploaded to Kuaishou, Hao had already received tens of comments and over 20,000 clicks. Hao saw some followers said in the comment that the video made them laugh. “Good. You laughed,” Hao said, smiling.
On October 10th 2017. Hao Kao was chatting with his followers via livestream. Every night after uploading the video of the day, he would go on livestream platform and stream for about two hours. This is the way he connects with his followers. Every day, the livestream audience ranges from a couple hundred to three thousand something. He believes that live streaming is a way to test his popularity.
Hao immediately transformed himself into a host performer as soon as he logged into the livestream channel. Livestream challenges his performing skills and impromptu skills. He would have to interact with his fans and answer questions from them. This can’t really be prepared beforehand. To entertain the audience, this time Hao was wearing a green hat and green tanks. “Entertaining the audience on a livestream is also a form of acting,” Hao Kun told TMTPost, “The short videos and livestream content supplement each other. The short videos and the jokes in them are fixed. But with livestreaming we can encounter more unknown. We need both.”
Hao was livestreaming. There were some props and tools on the desk near him that he used to interact with the audience. On Kuaishou’s livestream channel, some livestream hosts would ask their audience for ‘gifts’. Some female hosts would even state that people who purchase certain gifts for them would be able to add their WeChat. “I would never ask my followers to send me gifts,” Hao said, believing that livestreaming is an acting exercise for him. Hao could make a monthly income of around one thousand from livestreaming. He would use this income for purchasing props for video shoot, and some necessities like sound card, hardware, and 4G data etc. “Most of my followers are students. I would remind them to not buy me gifts on the platform because they are still students and that would cost their meal money,” Hao said.
It’s not like Hao doesn’t want to make money from livestreaming, he just doesn’t think the time has come yet. “I don’t want to be bounded by Kuaishou and become the platform’s worker,” Hao said, thinking that the fans purchase gifts for the live host out of affection, but not an obligation. According to Hao, he would rather spend more time in coming with ideas for videos or livestream interaction activities instead of how to gather more gifts. “People who aren’t familiar with Kuaishou might tend to think that 840,000 followers are a lot, but that’s not the reality,” Hao commented. “There are many people with more followers. Look at Tianyou, he has tens of millions of followers on Kuaishou. And Tianyou still treats his fans with a genuine heart.” Besides gifts, advertisement placement is also an income source for live hosts. Hao told TMTPost that some people have approached him for placement, but he turned them down. Hao doesn’t want to make fast money and be stranded by this fad. He wants to gain recognition through shooting more videos and gaining more followers. “When my follower base grows from 800,000 to 8,000,000, it will be natural for me to make money,” Hao said.
When Hao was livestreaming, his roommates were playing with their phones. These guys are at the similar age, around 18. Hao’s enthusiastic livestream performance didn’t seem to bother them. “I don’t use Kuaishou. But I understand that it’s something Hao likes,” one said. In their eyes, Hao has a high EQ, since he could entertain the audience on livestream even though he doesn’t know them. “He can make strangers laugh and keep the conversation flowing. This is not a simple task,” he said.
Fatty was making a guest appearance in Hao’s livestream show. Fatty was playing an interactive game with a fan using the microphone and lost it. He had to draw funny patterns on his face as a punishment. Fatty’s performance in the short videos has earned him some fans as well. Sometimes during livestream the fans would ask Hao if Fatty was there as well. Fatty would show up in Hao’s livestream show out of entertainment. Hao often askes Fatty to look out for him. “I told Fatty that if one day I have gone out of control on Kuaishou, he would need to guide me back to the right track. He would need to scowl at me and keep me on track. At least he would need to make sure I don’t lose my head,” Hao said.
The two-hour livestream had come to an end and they turned the light off. Hao was collecting the props, calming down from the excited phase. He felt exhausted from working by the day and filming and livestreaming by the night. Hao didn’t really have a fixed topic with his fans during livestream. But he wasn’t just faking a conversation though, but did something different. During the two-hour livestream show, he talked to five fans directly, played three interacting games, had Fatty featured in the show, and rapped at the end.
Hao knew he looked like a poser when he was dressed in green to entertain his audience. But the feedback he got from his fans was good. It made them laugh. Among all things, he knows where the line is and makes sure he doesn’t cross it. “Nowadays people like sex jokes. It’s something that makes you laugh. But in reality, I am not like that,” Hao said.
Hao has been waiting for opportunities. He waits for his videos and hard work to be recognized and acting opportunities. This year a media company was producing a video and then approached Hao Kun after coming across his videos on Kuaishou. But eventually Hao didn’t become their pick. Hao is hoping that one day his reputation wouldn’t be limited to Kuaishou. “If one day I am recognized by people on the street, and they told me I am good. Then it’s a success for me,” Hao said, showing a high appreciation of Tianyou. “Tianyou has a high EQ and radiates a positive personality. But I do hope one day I would surpass him.”
Hao knew deep down in his heart that Kuaishou is an arena where people compete with each other. He often reminds himself that he has to be aware of his own strength and weakness and not dwell on small progress. The internship at the hospital is coming to an end. Hao Kun is planning to study for a bachelor diploma to make his families feel proud. He knows that it’s very hard to become an actor. It’s just like caring for a patient, which requires great preparation and patience.
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Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.