[By: Saba Hamedy] [Mashable] [Read More]
LOS ANGELES — YouTubers Tyler Oakley, Bethany Mota, Meghan Rienks and Connor Franta can now add camp counselor to their growing list of accomplishments.
The four top digital influencers became the first digital influencers to participate in Camp17, a series of themed camps designed for fans — ages 10 to 16 — to interact and learn from their favorite YouTube stars.
All three separate camps took place in August, with the final one wrapping up on Aug. 27.
Creative Artists Agency and Mills Entertainment announced the launch of Camp17 in February. Mills Entertainment, the producers behind YouTubers Lilly Singh and Oakley's respective tours, said the idea was to really give fans an "immersive experience."
"In our business we talk about immersive events but honestly not all events are immersive," Michael Mills, President of Mills Entertainment, told Mashable. "For us, this is breaking ground on the live format. We produce variety shows, musicals, parties for club events — so to say we are now doing a summer camp is so different and so out of the box."
Different indeed, especially given the unprecedented intimate interaction with top digital influencers in such an intimate setting.
When the camps were announced, thousands of fans freaked out on social media, expressing their interest on Twitter. Many begged their parents to pay the camp fees, which ranged from $1,095 to $1,995. Scholarships were also available to one in every 10 campers.
"There’s always risk of what are people’s expectations when they spend money on this," Mills acknowledged. "It’s not cheap to spend a week with us, but what was so cool was we definitely exceed expectations."
Mills said hundreds of teens traveled from everywhere across the globe, including Russia, France and Australia.
Rienks, a 22-year-old YouTube lifestyle vlogger, was in charge of "Camp AIM," which stands for Authentic, Inspiration and Motivation. It focused on self-empowerment and helping girls look and feel good from the inside out.
Rienks said she and the campers ate dinner together, made friendship bracelets, talked about everything from their homecoming dresses to the boys at school they have crushes on. One of her favorite moments was baking a peach cobbler with the girls.
"It wasn't like one massive Q&A session, it was just a bunch of girls talking and building friendships," Rienks said said. "It was so important to me to actually get to know the campers ... I had the idea to do a camp with viewers just to really build a positive space for fans across the world to not only meet a YouTuber they've watched for years, but to meet likeminded people and try things out of their comfort zone. As social media grows our dependence on screen to screen relationships does too, I wanted to break that down and bring those friendships to real life."
Now Rienks is just sad it's over.
"I felt like I was a 15-year-old leaving all my friends," she said. "10,0000x yes I want to do it again."
Oakley and Mota, who were co-counselors at #BestCampEver, engaged in mostly classic camp activities like ceramics, swimming, soccer, color wars, yoga and cooking with the campers.
"There are a lot of events that you can go and meet your favorite YouTubers, but I’d never heard of anything like going to camp with your favorite YouTubers before and that’s why I wanted to be part of it because it’s such a unique idea that isn’t being really offered anywhere else," Mota said. "I do a lot of meet and greets where I get to see my viewers for 10 seconds, I give them a hug and we take a photo, and thats it. But what I personally love most is creating bonds with people."
The camp experience was especially fun for Mota because she never got the camp experience growing up. Plus, Oakley was a great partner in crime.
"Getting a chance to spend actual quality time with viewers has always been a priority," Oakley told Mashable in an email interview. "Between conventions and tours it always felt rushed and impersonal. Camp17 gives me a week to form real connections and friendships. Sure, you'll have time with your favorite creators, but the best surprise will be the lifelong friendships you'll make with the other campers. Seeing so many familiar faces from the internet come out of their shell and make new BFFs is what it's all about."
Connor Franta's Creator Camp at Camp Beber in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, gave attendees the opportunity to learn the creative and technical secrets to content from Franta, who has over 5.2 million subscribers.
He said the camp was a "perfect fusion of a traditional summer camp (archery, kayaking, hikes) and a modern creator camp (photography, filming, editing)."
"Rarely do I get more than a few minutes with my viewers at organized events, so to be able to spend literal days with them was amazing," Franta said in an email interview withMashable.
Overall, Mills said the camps went so well he hopes to add more sessions — and YouTube stars — next year.
"We want to figure out how to scale it a bit and get more creative," he said. "The goal is to build on this summer, and add speciality camps that focus on specific genres and subject matters — from baking to gaming."