Ulysses, in addition to being a fantastic actor, you also have an incredible social media following, and you do such fantastic content. Not only is this content very well liked and followed, but I think the quality is both amazing and somehow makes people laugh, people enjoy it, but it gives a little bit of who you are to anyone who sees it. Speaking about the numbers, you have 432,000 followers on Tiktok and 171,000 followers on Instagram. So Uly, before we get into talking specifics about social media, Tik tok, Instagram and all the amazing things you’ve accomplished… how did you come to SKS?
What brought me to SKS was actually Rachael Drummond, we worked together at the same restaurant, and although we didn’t have many shifts together, I knew that she was like, the booking actor at that restaurant. And I had heard about her and her success, and so I was like, I’m just gonna do what she’s doing. Since it’s working. And I’m gonna go to Stan Kirsch Studios, obviously, it’s working for her. And let me get a taste of, you know, something different. So, yeah, that brought me here.
Amazing. Without talking about specific bookings, or anything else that we can’t talk about due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, what has been the most valuable thing about the SKS style to your career?
Unknown Speaker 01:38
I think the biggest thing that has contributed to bookings for me was the warmth and community that the SKS studio brought. I had tried different studios, I was at another studio right before SKS that felt very competitive at the time and like everyone was out to get each other. I didn’t feel like I was in a space where I could actually let down my guard and grow. And I was just trying to be right all the time. So I ended up coming to SKS and just the community, the environment, the culture, that is there is set up so that you feel comfortable and you’re willing to work on things and you’re willing to learn. So because then I was able to let my guard down, I was able to grow as an actor. And I think that that helped me a lot, a lot.
Amazing… now you’re part of that community helping others, literally at this moment. Okay, let’s get into it. When did you first start posting on social media and when did you realize, “Hmm, maybe this is a thing that can be successful,”?
I started doing social media five years ago with my then boyfriend, now husband. And I think we had seen a couple of like, gay couple social media influencers, and we thought we could do something similar. It didn’t really take that much thought, I think we had one conversation about it. One night, we’re like, let’s just record ourselves and see what happens and so we ended up recording ourselves. And I think we both fell in love with the editing process and the creative part of it, and figuring it out. My husband is very much a research-based, Type A, loves ideating everything, so he was he threw himself into researching how you become a successful at YouTube and all these platforms. We’re both really creative, but I more enjoyed the ideas and figuring out how to make it funny and all these things. We started doing that and for some reason we both committed to doing one YouTube video every Thursday, and we did that for like three or four years. We both just dived deep into it. We both learned to edit and it really consumed us because we were having so much fun. In the beginning, we were just having a blast. What my husband discovered in research was that the most important part of growing on YouTube was consistency. So we decided, okay, let’s post once a week, we can do Thursday. I worked nights, so I would edit during the day and then he worked days so he would edit at night and we would come up with concepts together and it was a lot of fun. But then because of YouTube, and us gaining some traction, we decided that we should get an Instagram to help our YouTube page. We started doing a couple’s Instagram account and it was easier to grow on Instagram than it was on YouTube. YouTube is a oversaturated market, it’s really hard to start growing on YouTube when you’re brand new, because so many people have such a big head start. I don’t think that it’s impossible, so many people do it all the time, but we found that our Instagram was growing a lot faster. When we started growing on Instagram, brands started to reach out to us. Not a ton, small things. My husband was like, okay, we should just follow where the money’s coming. If people are noticing us on Instagram, then our focus should be on Instagram, and not on YouTube. That’s where things started to shift a little bit, we still did the once a week YouTube videos for a little longer, but then we realized that we should just put all our energy into Instagram. When TikTok came around, I was a little against it in the beginning, I didn’t want to have another platform to think about and have to make a whole other thing for this other platform. I wanted to concentrate on the two platforms that we were already using, not think about this other third thing that we had to figure out. But I changed my mind and thought, if YouTube is so hard to grow on because it is overly saturated and everyone wants to do it… what if we were one of the first accounts to blow up on TikTok? And TikTok helped us blow up because I think I do really well in video content, my humor comes out more. So because of TikTok and the way social media changed, everything became more about video content, short form video content, which is where I excelled. With Instagram, we found that we were stalling because it was photos. I did these like perfect photos of us being in love, but it’s hard to be funny when we’re saying, “oh my god, I love my fiance, my boyfriend, my husband,” TikTok allowed us to be humorous. And then Instagram got reels, and it made it easier for me to blow up on both platforms. Did I answer your question?
Absolutely. Absolutely. What makes a video go viral, or what makes a video connect with an audience?
Unknown Speaker 08:25
Hooking in your audience as fast as possible, and keeping them on the platform for as long as possible. Also, if it’s good content, that’s great. First and foremost, making great content, because it’s all about scrolling past really fast. So you have a limited amount of time to get people to stay on your video. This is something that I’ve learned in my process is that you don’t want a lot of lead up to the actual topic that you’re talking about, which is why a lot of my storytimes will begin with what they call a “hook,” something like, ‘this is the time I hooked up with a straight guy,’ and then I go into the story, but that immediate understanding of what this video is about. And it’s something that they’re interested in hearing about, then, you know, they stay on. A lot of my video content is list form. So I’ll be like, ‘these are the people that have supported me outside of pride,’ and then I started listing people like my dad and so people are then intrigued to stay longer – Buzzfeed famously does it all the time ‘lists.’ Another thing that helps videos go viral is if they just happen to be really good content. There are moments, especially on Tik Tok, that feel like they’re in they’re caught in the moment and caught off guard, but they just happen to be really funny, are really great. I think if you’re capitalizing on a trend, that is also a really good way to go, get views or go viral on Tiktok, you can capitalize on a trend. But I think overall, the biggest thing that you can do is you can hook people in really quickly and you can make them stay on the platform for longer, because those videos will be pushed longer.
Oh, so the goal of getting them on that platform for longer means that the platform will start sort of promoting or pushing your stuff?
I think so yeah, I think if they feel like people are staying on their app, for longer because of a video that you’ve created, that signals to them that people are watching your video for a longer period of time. So the content must be worth promoting out to other people on their page. It’ll first throw out your content to a small variety of people that they think will like it. And if it does really well with them, they’ll push it out to a wider group and a wider group and a wider group. So that helps things go viral. I also think, unfortunately, some videos go viral and you have no control over it and some videos that you’ve done, you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted all your I’s and for some reason it doesn’t happen. These are all things that happen on social media – you have a good hook, you have a list and everything, but it’s just like not clicking or the timing’s off for whatever reason. It could not go viral, even if you do everything you think is right.
Got it. Okay, you’re going by the playbook and it can still not happen. And one of the videos that feels like kind of a throwaway thing could just hit, because it hits. I’m making up those words, ‘hits, because it hits.’
Those are the technical terms. What’s interesting about this whole experience is I would rather have none of my videos go viral, if I had just had consistency within them. I almost think that it is better to cultivate an audience that has the same amount of viewership and likes and comments, than it is for like one video to have a million views, another video has 100 views. I think it’s so much better to cultivate a community that likes your content, no matter what. And that is hard to do.
So you said that some brands reached out to you and Ernesto, I would love to hear how you navigated that very first one, if you had anyone sort of mentoring you through that. I’m curious if you’ve ever turned brands down? And then what was the turning point where you were able to maybe leave that muggle job behind?
Yeah, I think, in the beginning, we were able to be guided by some social media friends. Luckily, that gave us a couple of names of like some websites that you can put yourself on. And it’s a way for like brands to see your profile. So you just put your profile on there and all your analytics and some rates. So I think that’s how we started working with brands. One of the websites is called FOR.CO one’s called INLUENTIAL, but basically, you put your profile up, kind of like actors access, you put your profile on there. And if brands like what they see or they’re looking for a specific kind of influencer, they can find you. There’s a lot of these websites that have you apply to certain campaigns that are going on at the moment. We didn’t have too much mentorship, we had some friends that were also in the same game as us and would guide us and tell us about rates and all these things. They were really helpful, but besides that, we kind of just figured it out on our own. A lot of these websites guide you, based on your following, what to charge in the beginning. So we just kind of started there and slowly started working with a couple of brands. Not too much, but one here there. It was helpful as supplemental income, but not enough to quit my day job. And then when we started growing on Tik Tok, which also helped us grow an Instagram, we got more eyeballs on our content and a company reached out to us for four Tik Tok videos, that would be also Instagram videos. And because of that campaign, I was comfortable going solo for a couple of months, based on the money that’s incoming. And I quit my serving job and gave it a try. I knew that if nothing else came from it, I can always go back to my restaurant. It gave me a cushion to give it a try that happened at the beginning of last year. And it’s really interesting, because I, luckily didn’t have to go back. And I think leaving the serving job gave me the opportunity to focus more on content creation and put my energy into it and I was able to continue booking with other brands and continue to grow without having to worry about whether I was going to survive, or have to go back. I will say that I was really reluctant in the beginning to do that, because I think it’s just so scary. Like it was just so scary. I was I was pulled so thin by the end that it was almost like I had no choice. I couldn’t do both. It was getting too consuming. But I was definitely like, ‘I don’t know if this is gonna work out.’ And I still don’t know how long this is gonna work out. But um, I was able to then be like, ‘Okay, I can do this for a while and see what happens.’
I’m sort of diverting for just a sec, because I was looking at your Instagram earlier, like a stalker, and everything that I looked at just feels so frickin on brand, Uly. Branding is a very hot topic, but I feel like it gets misused a whole heck of a lot. When I look at your stuff, I’m like, “Ah ha, that’s branding.” Your bio for @UlyAndErnesto is “temporarily married to my current husband. Fingers crossed.” I think it’s so funny. But then when I go to your shop for your merch, the sweatshirts and mugs, say “current husband,” right? Is that right? Current husband. And it says “use code DIVORCE for 20% off your order.” The bio is spot on, the merch is spot on, the discount code being DIVORCE, you have humor threaded throughout everything. It just feels so incredible. And that’s not really a question. It’s just that I frickin love it. And that’s an example where I’m like, “well, bam, I get it. I totally get it.” That was not a question, but do you have anything to say about that? That was just a little diversion that I took.
Yeah, well first, thank you. I think when you look at that, it seems like we had it all figured out. And it seems like it’s ‘oh my god this is so like it makes so much sense and it all lands together.’ But truly it is something that has come together with time and with putting our voices together and fine tuning and fine tuning and figuring out what people like about our content. “Current husband” came about because randomly in one video I said “current husband” and my comments were filled with how funny that was. And I just kind of like went with it. And it has become part of my identity and my brand and there’s so many things like that, like happy accidents that I’ve taken and ran with and it’s just so fun and fantastic. Like the reason why I started blowing up in general on social media was because I had this idea of rating – I know that rating things has been a proven format on TikTok and Instagram reels. I thought rating then my fiancee at the time, Ernesto, rating him throughout the week, I thought was really funny and could do well on this platform because these are something that people are used to seeing, but it’s a spin on it. And it has to do with my relationship and it’s just inherently really funny. So, yeah, it’s turned into this thing where I’m like, Okay, this is my type of humor. And I then have these happy accidents, where I say “current husband” and people find it so funny and I find it so funny that I then think “current husband” shirts makes sense. I think that within this process of posting and figuring out what I find funny, what my audience finds funny, I’ve been able to fine tune my voice, this character that calls their husband “current husband” and tortures their husband. I don’t think is again, revolutionary, I think there’s been so many sitcoms – when people ask me about my content, I always feel like Ernesto and I are like the I LOVE LUCY formula. There is the Lucy and then there’s the Ricky Ricardo, and I’m the Lucy that’s in my own world and doing all these crazy things. And Ernesto is reacting to my crazy antics. And so it’s not a revolutionary idea, but it’s something that works. And once I figured that out, it was so much easier to know what the next video was gonna be. But I definitely didn’t have it figured out at the beginning.
Speaking about branding as an actor, it’s been kind of fun, to see how I come off. In so many of my videos, people say, ‘Oh, you look like this actor or you look like that actor’, or ‘this is giving me David Rose vibes,’ ‘this is giving me Cam and Mitch on Modern Family’. And it’s fun, because it’s helped me fine tune my own branding, just because I have this pool of people that don’t really know me, and they just know my voice and the things that I put on social media – and they already have an idea of who I am and what I can play, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. Do you think your social media following has helped your acting career at all?
Yeah, and I think in some ways, that I’m not really sure, yes. And in other ways, I’m thinking absolutely, it has helped me, understand more of the business aspect of acting. I find that there’s a lot of parallels when it comes to social media and acting because they’re both in entertainment and I’ve done a lot of the negotiations for my own contracts and understanding advertisement in a different way through entertainment. So that has helped me have an understanding of what what it feels to be less personally connected and think of it as a business and how to proceed as an actor as… I think of “Uly and Ernesto” as more of a character and something that I’m selling and it’s helped me remove my “Ulysses Morazan personal attachment” as more of a “Ulysses Morazon business” as something that I’m selling to people as an actor. Also, the more eyeballs you have on you, the better. I feel social media is another avenue to take, when it comes to putting yourself out there. There’s many avenues to take as an actor and some people choose to write content and shorts and film festivals and there’s stand up comedy, and there’s obviously auditioning, and social media is one of those many ways to just get people and eyeballs on you. No one has ever brought me in to audition and said, ‘I’m calling you in because I watch your social media,’ but I have been on set where people have recognized me from my social media. America Ferrera started following me three days ago, Chelsea Handler has commented on my posts and if these people are following me and seeing my content, their has to be a world out there where when my photo pops up or when my reel pops up, someone out there must be like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Let’s call him in.’ That’s like the best case example. But also possibly, someone’s like, ‘how do I know that guy.. I think I’ve seen him before, he looks familiar, let me just call him in.’ I recently signed with a manager who represents me for social media and as a tv/film actor, I signed with him right before the writers strike, so there is no way of knowing just yet. But I’m hopeful. And the biggest takeaway from signing with this manager was that he saw my content before signing me. So as you mentioned Colleen, he has an idea, a sharper idea of who I am, and the comedy that I do, and the voice and the brand that I have. So I’m hoping that becomes a reflection on the type of stuff that I go out on. I felt, with my old managers who I loved and who are the reason why I have all the credits that I do, they wondered, ‘how does he fit, where do we put him?’ With my new manager, hopefully, there is a sharper focus on who I am and what I can bring. And, yeah, we’ll have to see.
Did you seek him out? Or did he find you and was thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to read this kid.’
I was in the middle of looking for a social media manager, taking meetings. So I was hitting up a bunch of social media agencies, and I had a bunch of meetings lined up, but none of them were BOTH social media and acting. In my research of trying to find a social media manager, I came across a Select Management Group, and they represented a couple of actors that are also social media people. I thought it could be a great place for me, an agency that represents social media, people who act. They had very influential people, millions of subscribers, millions of followers. I was already taking meetings, I thought we might as well email them my stuff, who knows? On the website, it says, ‘We do not take unsolicited emails’. So decided not to contact them. I followed them on Instagram, and then started liking their stuff. And a couple of weeks later, I got an email for a potential meeting. And I was like, ‘Wait, what was happening?’ I took the meeting with them, and ended up signing with them. I was scared because it felt like it was too big of a leap for me, based on their roster, not just of actors, but influential content creators… people that I wish to be one day. But, you never know until you know, so I said yes. It’s been amazing. So far, we’ve only been able to do the social media stuff, due to the strike. But when things settle down, hopefully I can explore the other side, and I’m excited about it.
That’s amazing. I know that SAG has Influencer Contracts, have some of your campaigns been under that SAG-AFTRA contract?
That’s so funny, I was just talking to my manager about this today. At the moment, no. But I believe that going forward, it’s going to be more of a strict requirement. I think the SAG Contract with Influencers is relatively new too-
I think four months or something.
When the contract was first created, no one knew what that meant and was trying to figure out if this was necessary and how necessary, which projects… but my manager said today that he had a meeting with SAG and going forward, every brand contract that I do will be under that agreement. So at the moment, I haven’t had any experience with that yet, but I think I will.
That’s actually great because you can earn towards Pension and Health. From a complete outsider’s point of view, I think that’s gonna be awesome. If someone is starting today, what should they aim for doing within the next seven days? I would be inspired by this and feel like I have to start posting every day, and I gotta be on top of the trends… but just starting out, what’s the balance between showing up for this, giving a good amount of time and attention to it, but also not burning yourself out within the first week?
I think it does feel really overwhelming, in the beginning, it is a lot to take in. For me, I would look at the things that I enjoy watching on social media. Find the top five people that if I was a social media creator, I would like to emulate, and start looking at their content and what they do and what makes them successful. That’s a nice, easy way to get started. That’s how I did it, I looked at the people that I thought were funny, content that I wanted to do, and from there, you can can decide what kind of content you want to do. Figure out your version, your example of that kind of content. And you figure it out the more you get into the habit of posting, even if it doesn’t get views and doesn’t get traction, you’re sticking to the habit of putting yourself out there. It can take a lot to put something out there, you’re putting your voice, you’re putting your image, you’re putting your personality out there and it can be kind of daunting. So if you just start posting something, and just ripping the band aid off, you’ll feel that it’s not that scary, it gets easier and easier. You figure it out. I fail so many times and I still fail today. Even if I posted a video that has no views, but I am gonna continue posting because he beauty about social media is that it’s 10 seconds, or 30 seconds or one minute, you get to retry and retry and retry as many times as you want. I don’t know, if that’s helpful. But that’s what I think.
That’s so helpful. That might actually be a good practice in life anyway, because I can get very precious with my auditions. So if I practice being less precious, and just think of it as one foot in front of the other, it’s just a 10 second clip after a 30 second clip, after a 10 second clip, I can sort of foresee that it might help me wrap my mind and my heart around the idea that we can make mistakes and we could just get up and do it again and try again.
It’s like a lot of us in our acting journey, that first audition you practice and you do it again and again, you get better and you figure things out. The more you do anything, the better you get at it.
100%. That’s funny because I say that all the time to my students, but still I have this fear of posting something.
What I’m finding with social media content is Gen Z, specifically, has started the trend, but now everyone in general just wants some authenticity, and feeling like you’re not faking it. And that can look many different ways, but there is an authenticity to social media that has become very popular and has made it possible for people that aren’t the usual Instagrammy models, to grow. There is a need to connect and in an authentic way. Posting content that you find enjoyable, and that you’re comfortable with posting is the most important thing. There’s so many videos out there when it comes to beauty and makeup, glossy, beautiful videos that do really well, too. And it’s just because that person, it’s authentic to that person. You can’t think of authenticity as this thing that is the same for everyone. But if it’s authentic to you, then it will read well on social media platforms. My jokes, a lot of them are predetermined and calculated and edited, but what I try to do is capture these funny moments that I do have with my husband, that are authentic, and that or hitting a chord with other people.
Absolutely. When I look at your stuff, it’s never jumped out at me that this is edited and processed. I I’m thinking, “Oh, my God, hilarious, amazing, his mom is actually there!” I’m noticing all the other stuff. I think that’s what’s good acting is, as well. When we looks at acting, we may I see that beat that they took, see them do a little bit of an exhale before the monologue… but if you’re just really moved by someone’s performance, you don’t see any of that until you’re looking for it. I think you and Ernesto do such an outstanding job.
It’s really fun and the best part about it is the community and the humor that I’m able to cultivate, even with my own audience, everyone’s in on the joke. And that is so fun for me. I do a lot of storytime videos where I’m cutting an already cut sandwich and it drives people up the wall. I did it once and comments focussed on me cutting an already cut sandwich. Now we do it all the time, to the point where one time I cut an uncut sandwich and the comments were, “oh, thank God you’re cutting uncut sandwiches!” It’s so fun. Now when I say “husband” and I don’t say “current husband,” people comment that I must be in trouble with the current husband. It’s really cool and fun to see people enjoying my humor and trolling me back as much as I troll everyone else in my life.
Oh my gosh, you have inside jokes with people you’ve never met before. Yeah, that is so cool!
The community of it all has been the best part and I talked about this in my SKS class before but my husband asked me sone day – if I never grow into a series regular, do I think that what I do on social media fulfills that part of what I do as an actor? And I said, I think it does. I do really love acting so much and will continue to love acting and continue to pursue it as hard as possible. But social media hits that chord of being creative and funny and storytelling and entertaining and community – all the things that I love about acting. That has been really fun to discover as well.
Amazing. It really is so special to hear something so uplifting when things feel sort of so uncertain in this particular moment. Thank you so much, Uly.
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