"Most things on the Internet are negative, but people want to see happy videos, too. They want that kind of escape."
You may not recognize his name, but you've almost certainly been sucked into one of his massively popular online videos—"Word's Largest Roping Swing," "The Human Slingshot," "Zipline Catapult." To date, Graham's YouTube channel, Devin Super Tramp, has racked up more than a quarter-billion page views, making him by far the most successful of a new breed of YouTube auteurs—filmmakers who pump out viral video after viral video. Born into a conservative Mormon household in Provo, Utah, Graham, 30, originally wanted to make features but fell in love with online videos while studying film at BYU. "I'm my own boss, and it's only my audience that determines how I do," says Graham, who dropped out during his senior year and has been supporting himself through YouTube ever since.
There's a reason for that: while his videos have a carefree air, many of them are actually commercials. "Human Slingshot Slip and Slide" (12.3 million views), in which a crew of twentysomethings on an inner tube whip down a hill and off a greased-up jump into a lake, is actually an ad for Vooray, an apparel manufacturer. "Zipline Catapult" (2.1 million views), in which kids zip from a 100-foot cliff into the water near a houseboat on Utah's Lake Powell, was done for Bluehouse Skis. Graham has become so adept at viral marketing that he's now working for the likes of Ford, Google, and Mountain Dew. His secret? Keeping it light. "Most things on the Internet are negative," says Graham. "But people want to see happy videos, too. They want that kind of escape."