In July 2011, Cozart released the video “Harry Potter in 99 Seconds.” It is what it sounds like: a musical video that sums up the seven-book and eight-movie plot of Harry Potter in a mere 99 seconds. The video went viral online instantly and launched him into the world of online fame.
Cozart, an RTF sophomore, transferred to UT-Austin this year from UTSA through the CAP program. He said since transferring to UT-Austin, he has already made more friends than in the two semesters he was in San Antonio.
“San Antonio was not kind to me, you could say,” Cozart said. “I prefer it here. The classes are just a higher level. It’s more challenging, but it’s more rewarding.”
Cozart said he has already been recognized three times since transferring to UT.
“It always shocks me that people recognize me from the Internet,” Cozart said. “They just approach me and say, ‘Are you Jon Cozart?’ and I say, ‘Yeah,’ and we have a conversation. It’s really cool.”
But often, fans may be surprised to find Cozart’s personality in real life is not as wacky as his YouTube channel’s character. He is more mellow and calm outside of his videos.
“It’s more difficult to be sporadic and spontaneous when I don’t have a script,” Cozart said. “I’m a theater kid at heart — I have to act. Of course, there is some level of my personality that is like that.”
Cozart’s YouTube channel Paint has more than 220,000 subscribers. Paint had around 7,000 subscribers the morning “Harry Potter in 99 Seconds” launched. By the evening, it had more than 12,000.
“I had been producing YouTube videos for six years, and I had always tried to see if I could make a viral video, if I could tap into that market,” Cozart said. “I thought, ‘I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I might as well try to dive in.’”
It took more than two months to create the concept, record and edit “Harry Potter in 99 Seconds.” In all of his musical videos, Cozart makes the beat and sings the words to his songs and then mashes the audio recordings together. Because he is a one-man band, Cozart’s videos often have many levels of audio. His most recent video, “Lord of the Rings in 99 Seconds,” has 20 layers of audio.
“I don’t know anything about recording – I record it and that’s it,” Cozart said. “That’s what I’m doing in college, I’m hoping to learn how to edit music and how to record myself, to make it easier.”
But Cozart does not just include multiple layers of audio — he often also includes multiple layers of video. Cozart often doubles in his productions, appearing as multiple characters. In one video he plays twins who are fighting over a current/ex-girlfriend. In his Harry Potter video, he plays both the singer and the a cappella musician. While Cozart is certainly not the only YouTuber or filmmaker to do this, his split personality technique is one of his trademarks.
“It’s not a very complicated technique,” Cozart said. “Basically you just film half of it, split it in half and then film the other half. It is difficult when you have music, because it’s just really hard to lip-synch.”
Cozart said it became more difficult for him to keep the channel updated once he started college.
“I had a tough time juggling work, school and a social life,” Cozart said.
Another barrier for Cozart has been the realization that his YouTube channel is his job. Ever since the Harry Potter video went viral, making videos is the way Cozart makes money to help pay for his education and living expenses. He sells his songs on iTunes, where they have been featured as the most sold comedy song.
“I’ve had a harder time coming up with an idea and making videos because now I have an audience to maintain,” Cozart said. “There is a lot of pressure. Because it’s my job, I have to keep that audience. It hinders the creative process for me.”
Cozart released his Lord of the Rings video this past July. It currently stands at almost 700,000 views. Cozart said he knew the video would not be as popular as the Harry Potter video was, which hit one million views soon after its release, but as a Lord of the Rings fan, he had to pay tribute to one of his favorite stories.
Part of Cozart’s success and another one of his trademarked techniques is his ability to ride on the waves of the Internet’s fandom. For example, he released his Harry Potter video the day the final film came out.
“Fandom is a huge thing on the Internet,” Cozart said. “Fan fiction and things like that have huge followings. Any way I can throw myself onto the wave is good for me.”
Which brings Cozart to his next project: “Twilight in 99 Seconds.” While he cannot guarantee that he can make the video while he is a full-time college student, Cozart said he would like to release a video summing up Twilight’s plot when the movie premieres in November.
“With the multiple personality thing, I think I want to make a Twilight in 99 seconds, and have one of me like Twilight and the other me not like Twilight,” Cozart said.
Cozart is not a fan of the popular vampire series by Stephenie Meyer. He said he went to see the first movie and has had nothing to do with the series since then.
“There are lot of people passionate about it, so I think it will get me views,” Cozart said. “It will appeal both to the people who hate it and the people who love it.”
Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Painting a YouTube masterpiece