Casey Neistat: The Original Lifestyle Vlogger

If there’s one thing Casey Neistat can’t live without, it’s his work.

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Anyone who has seen any of Casey Neistat’s hundreds of YouTube videos knows the man lives an active lifestyle. For more than a year, starting in March of 2015, Neistat posted daily video updates about his life in New York City, featuring his various creative endeavors, his impressive workout schedule, and his thoughts on things happening in the news and in his life. In these videos, Neistat frequently spoke of his love of doing creative work and his obsession with productivity, which has allowed him to amass a tremendous YouTube audience and successfully run his businesses. While Neistat has since retired from posting videos every day, the creator maintains an audience of millions, and his influence has had an indelible impact on the landscape of creative lifestyle videos on the YouTube platform.

Neistat was born in 1981 in Connecticut and raised in the reform tradition of Judaism. A high-school dropout, Neistat lived in a trailer park as a teenager and worked as a dishwasher and as a short-order cook to support his son, Owen, whom he and his then-girlfriend Rachel Harris had when he was 17. It was during the time he spent living in a trailer park that Neistat discovered his love of filmmaking; he would record videos on VHS camcorders, and maxed out his credit card to buy an iMac for video editing. As a young man, Neistat wanted to follow his passion for film making despite his lack of formal education in the subject, so he moved to New York City in 2001 when he was 20 years old after his girlfriend broke up with him. While in New York, Neistat produced a series of short films for the artist Tom Sachs, but it wasn’t until 2003 that he caught his first big break.

Although Neistat enjoyed producing his series for HBO, the creator felt that online video platforms, in particular YouTube, were a more exciting creative outlet

That year, Neistat produced a short film entitled iPod’s Dirty Secret, criticizing Apple for its lack of a battery replacement service for its line of portable music players. The film spread quickly over the internet, helping Neistat to gain notoriety and culminating in Apple’s announcement of a battery replacement program, addressing the criticism of the short film. The following year, Neistat collaborated with his brother to produce a series of short educational films under the title Science Experiments. Four years later, in 2008, he and his brother were approached by HBO to create an eight-episode series called The Neistat Brothers, which focused on autobiographical stories about the brothers’ childhood and upbringing and received positive reviews.

Although Neistat enjoyed producing his series for HBO, the creator felt that online video platforms, in particular YouTube, were a more exciting creative outlet as they provide creators with near-limitless freedom in the filmmaking process. So in 2010, Neistat posted his first YouTube video, in which he criticized the MTA for unclear labeling about when to use the emergency brake cord on train cars, and on Vimeo, Neistat posted a video about the then-popular website Chatroulette, which allows visitors to have a conversation with a stranger from around the world. But Neistat’s early success in the entertainment industry pales in comparison to his daily vlogging project, a genre he popularized, if not essentially invented.

The vlog functions as a kind of time capsule for this period in the creator’s life

Neistat’s vlogs were a kind of public diary project in addition to an opportunity for Neistat to show off his elaborate studio, expensive camera equipment, and other interesting aspects of his life. These videos were notable for their high production quality, as they often featured cinematic time-lapse videos of the New York cityscape and are skillfully produced and editing. The vlog functions as a kind of time capsule for this period in the creator’s life, and Neistat encountered many substantial life events during this time: he announced the start of a new social media app company called “beme,” which was later purchased by CNN for $25 million, and was named GQ’s New Media Star of 2016. These videos also revealed Neistat’s obsessive focus on productivity; Neistat was almost always working, and the videos themselves required several hours of filming and editing per day, both of which he performed entirely on his own. Despite his ongoing success, Neistat announced the end of his daily vlog on November 19, 2016, citing his sense that the daily videos no longer presented a creative challenge for him and a desire to move on to other things in his career.

Today, Neistat lives in Los Angeles, where he continues his daily long-distance runs and spends more time with his family. He has traded his signature electric skateboard for an electric bicycle, which he considers to be the most convenient way to get around the city, and has taken up an interest in surfing, as he lives close to the beach. Though the creator recently broke his collarbone, he describes his life in LA as “pretty good.” In LA, Neistat has spent some time reflecting on his relationship with his career, and has started to believe that his hardworking nature was more of an “addiction to work” that had a negative impact on his life. As such, while Neistat continues to enjoy what he does for a living, he is currently focused on taking a break from excessive working hours, prioritizing his relationships, his health, and the little things in life.

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