Josiah Brooks oozes authenticity and is so driven to protect what he’s created and do justice to the audience of followers. 12 months of preparation for meeting him involved watching many videos, vlogs and live streams. When I sat with his family in their lounge room, they were the exact same individuals you see on camera on YouTube. The interview was beautifully interrupted with their little boy wanting to play music and picnics. The chemistry and fun between the family of three was a delight.
Josiah never saw himself going to university or living a life following the status-quo getting a ‘regular job.’ By the time he finished high school he was generating an income as a freelance animator and game designer. His first game was released as one of the first with income generating advertising attached. This ridiculously talented and driven individual has a diverse skill-set and his YouTube channel has over 2.9 million subscribers and this number is growing by around three thousand, each day.
Working from his converted garage studio, he introduces himself as Jos. To his online community, he is Jazza. A name he gave himself as a teen when first venturing onto the world wide web “I was trying to sound cool, and it stuck.” He explains.
Growing up on a rural property in Moondarra, Josiah was the second youngest in a large creative family. Art has consumed his life and he has kept almost every piece of art he’s created since the age of 11. Expanding his skills in digital art, he began animating and creating games in high-school. A bit of a loner Josiah used his lunch-time at school to be creative. The self-taught artist, now 29 showcases the diversity of his talent from his online platform, inspiring others to give it a go.
An accomplished singer and award winning amateur theatre performer, Josiah joined the Warragul Theatre Company as a stage hand for their production of Les Miserables in 2009 before auditioning and attaining a lead role in Guys and Dolls the following year. It was in the theatre group where he met his now wife, Kate.
After 10 years working as a performer in the UK, Kate returned to Gippsland and turned to a career as a teacher. A strong friendship was formed over several years before romance blossomed. They are now expecting their second child together; a little sister for their toddler son. “My background in the entertainment industry is a real asset to our business now. This is the new entertainment industry.” Explains Kate. Creative content creation leads to sponsorship opportunities which fuels the business along with advertising and a diverse portfolio of other products. Josiah co-produced a TV show Cartoon it up, has authored books on drawing, he has an app for PC, IOS and Android called Arty Games and a range of T-Shirts as well as online courses fans can access through Skill Share.
Receiving more offers than they can say yes to, they are careful only choose to align with companies or products that line up with their own values. “If it’s not something that we would feel is a good role model to our son, we’re not really interested. Recently being asked to design artwork for a range of cigarette lighters was an easy one to say no to.” Explains Josiah. The same goes for growing their platform and reaching their followers. “Everything is potential content but what is shared is really deliberate. I always ask myself ‘is this adding value? Is this entertaining?’”
Basing life in regional Gippsland gives Josiah and his family the opportunity to live their life with more anonymity. But he still gets recognised. “Sometimes you can just tell someone has clicked that I’m Jazza. There’s a look of recognition and people often come up and say Hi.” Says Josiah. “I was recently I was at a local Subway and the guy serving me gave me a look. I talked myself out of it as I usually do, telling myself I’m being a narcissist. Then when I got home, I saw he’d written Jazza on my sandwich.” Laughs Josiah. “I’ve been back there and not seen the same guy again. But I’ll say G’day when I do.”
Living close to family is important for them at this stage in their life. Josiah often has meetings in the city and often travels overseas for work. His most recent trip was to Los Angeles for VidCon. A conference for Youtube and other video platform creators. Josiah was a keynote speaker and performer at this event.
If a new acquaintance asks the proverbial ‘what do you do?’ Josiah says his go-to reply is, “ ‘I’m an online content creator’ unless I know a bit more about the person it’s rare I say I’m a Professional Youtuber.” Explains Josiah. “It’s still largely mis-understood and people can be pretty patronising. People often presume one of two things, first that I’m wildly rich and successful or secondly that I’m in my pj’s all day bumming around mooching off my parents.”
When their son was born the doctor asked them both what they did for work. “Kate said she was a teacher, I said, ‘I’m a Youtuber’ and there was zero response. He turned straight back to Kate and asked about her teaching. Not even acknowledging my response.” Says Josiah. “People find it hard to comprehend that I make a living.”
Managing a small team of editors and assistants they operate with relatively low production costs by living and basing their life in Gippsland. “The day-to-day is much more like a mini TV studio but we do it all. It really no different than managing a small business.” Explains Kate who is also the company’s Business Manager. “I have 700 emails in my inbox today. It’s a full-time job for us both. Because we work from home people assume that Jos is available at the drop-of-a-hat. But our days are scheduled and full. We try to keep a 9-5 workday to make family time a priority but sometimes that’s not possible.” Says Kate.
“Enjoying breakfast out one Saturday we were looking forward to a nice quiet weekend when I saw an email from a sponsor who we’d been chasing for a while. The quiet Saturday turned into Jos working from 1pm to 1am in the studio creating content to send off for approval.” Kate reflects. “Had I not seen the email, we may have lost that relationship. We rescheduled the following week to take Monday off instead; it’s not always predictable.”
Josiah has been open in his videos about creative burn-out. “Kate knows when to push me to finish something that is really not going to plan and other times she’s great at encouraging me to call it a day.” Josiah explains.
“Our home is really our sanctuary, Kate has made a beautiful place where we love being but working here means we really have to go away to fully switch off.” Says Jos. “We have a place in the city and love a weekend of food and farmers markets. We call them our ‘Sunday Jumpers’. It’s our in-joke for the people wandering around art and food markets wearing wooly jumpers, pushing an over-priced pram with coffee in hand.” Josiah laughs “That’s us, we are now the Sunday Jumper crowd.” Adds Kate.
“Jos works so hard. He’s so driven and sometimes I know it’s just time for some sake and sushi, literally. That’s his happy place.” Says Kate. “He was in San Francisco for work and called to say he was going out for sake and sushi. When I saw the bank transaction I called him to check the amount. He’d spent a ridiculous amount sitting by himself in a sushi bar. He was so happy but had not factored in tax and exchange rate, I was less than impressed.” Laughs Kate.
“I’m meticulous making quality videos for my platform but many days I feel like I’m 12 years old having so much fun.” Recently Josiah modified a remote-control car to create a giant piece of artwork. He booked a local hall, spent 5 hours setting up his equipment and then created a video of him making the art. “It’s certainly different than many other people’s 9-5, I do love what I do.” Says Josiah.
Early last year after much deliberation Josiah and Kate decided to reach out to their audience to add to their own savings to renovate their shed into a better space to create a new studio. “The shed was flooding each time it rained. I was using electrical equipment surrounded by water. It was far from safe.”
The decision was a difficult one as Josiah feared asking for money, even the way he did, by selling original artwork and prints would damage his following. “I was hopeful we’d raise around half of what we needed in a few months. I had low expectations and was prepared to work hard to rebuild the following, but we needed to do something to get the studio upgrade.” Explains Josiah.
“The community matters so much to me and it was all for them. I really believed that building the studio was a really important for my audience to give them better videos and more creative content.” Says Josiah. “In only two hours we reached 50% of our fundraising goal. The support and messages of love and positivity was incredibly humbling and overwhelming and after just seven hours, we reached our goal.” Explains Josiah.
“Jos works so hard and he was so scared to step into the fundraising space but his audience responded with so much love and support and we were totally floored to have them back us like that.” Says Kate.
Written by Phoebe Rae.