Bryce Langston and Melissa Nickerson are building themselves a ‘tiny house’ – and they’re documenting their journey and sharing other tiny home stories and DIY tips on their YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House.
The Tiny House movement is a big movement worldwide; and with coverage from New Zealand media and lots of interest from overseas, the couple’s YouTube channel currently sits as the 24th most subscribed channel in New Zealand, beating the All Blacks channel, and climbing fast. One video of a castle-type tiny home has over three million views alone.
Bryce, who has worked professionally in the Film Industry for over 10 years in front and behind the camera is the ‘presenter dude’ in the series, and Melissa, a videographer and photographer is the ‘camera chick’. Their YouTube journey started in 2013, and they now have 80k subscribers to their channel and 14k followers on Facebook, along with followers on other social media channels including Pinterest.
We talked to Bryce about the tiny home web show journey.
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION TO MAKE A WEB SERIES ON BUILDING A TINY HOME, WHILE BUILDING YOUR OWN?
I wanted to film our process of building the tiny house because I really wanted to help empower people. There are so many young people around the world who have given up on the idea of owning their own home because of the soaring house prices (especially in cities such as Auckland where I currently live). Tiny houses give an alternative to being stuck in the rent trap. They’re good for people as they give housing security and freedom from debt, and they’re good for the planet because it encourages people to check their consumption and become aware of their true needs. I’m really excited by movements that have the ability to create positive social change and so throwing myself into the filming of the series felt like a very natural step. Right from day one Mel was on board too and her incredible videography has been a huge contributing factor to the success of the show.
HAVE YOU BEEN INSPIRED BY ANY OTHER SHOWS ONLINE?
Probably the biggest inspiration so far has been a YouTube documentary called ‘We The Tiny House People’ by Kirsten Dirksen. It was my first introduction to the Tiny House movement and when I watched that I was incredibly inspired.
Prior to that documentary, I was planning to start work on a small earth house, but seeing these homes built on trailers and thus removing the problem of land ownership was like a lightbulb going off in my head. It made such great sense, and I just thought to myself “we need to be doing this in New Zealand!”
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE CHALLENGES SO FAR?
I would say the two major challenges are the build of the tiny house itself, and time. The build is complicated because we’re doing something that hasn’t really been done before. The criteria of our build, the materials and technologies are in many cases a world first, and so there have been a lot of challenges there. We’ve also had a lot of expert help though which has been great and in the end I feel like we are building something that will really be worth all the hard work.
The other big challenge with filming the series is time. We put a lot of work into making the videos and especially when working other jobs it does make it difficult to always create constant content. As the series has grown though it has got much easier as we’ve both been able to cut down on other work and focus more on Living Big in a Tiny House.
YOUR SUBSCRIBERS AND FOLLOWERS ARE GROWING RAPIDLY – HOW HAS THAT HAPPENED?
The growth was very organic. I think it’s a subject that is relevant for so many people, and there is just something incredibly romantic about the idea of Tiny Homes. They are cool, quirky, in many cases incredible clever designs and so the content is very sharable.
Later, as our channel started to grow we also had quite a big boost from larger international websites, many who now often feature our new videos. Networking with bloggers and writers has been a huge part of growing the channel.
Our audience is spread all over the world. Our largest following is in North America, which makes up about 40 percent of our viewing audience. That’s followed by New Zealand, Australia and then the UK. It’s very exciting to be filming a web series in New Zealand that’s getting so much international attention.
IS THERE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A FULL TIME INCOME FROM YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL?
We’re not fully there yet, but it certainly is possible. The YouTube partner program can be really great and it does generate some income. I think certainly for people who run successful vlog channels where maybe the cost of production isn’t so high it makes a lot more sense. I don’t feel that YouTube is currently set up in a way that production companies will be able to view it as a sole distribution method and rely on Adsense and the partner program alone to cover costs and generate a profit.
As it stands right now I think it’s important for producers to work with sponsorships in order to make it really work. Websites like Patreon (which is a bit like Kickstarter but for ongoing creative projects) may hold the key to being able to successfully crowdfund popular web series in the future. After all, who wouldn’t pay 50 cents or a dollar every time our favourite show put out a new episode?
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE EQUIPMENT YOU USE FOR THE VIDEOS?
We designed our equipment around the needs of documentary style filming. We needed to be mobile and able to quickly film stories in tight spaces. We film the bulk of our video on a Sony NX30. It’s a fantastic little camera and the balanced optical steady shot function helps to keep everything smooth and looking good while following quite fast action. For detail shots and our more artistic filming, we film on Nikon DSLR with some great lenses.
For lighting, we work mostly with natural light, but we do bring in an LED lighting kit when we need to boost light. Getting the sound right has been really important, and we do mostly use radio lapel microphones.
To help improve production we have also recently brought in new equipment like a mini jib and a camera drone. As the audience grows it makes more and more sense to get the right tools to do the job really well and (hopefully) increase the quality of the content for our audience to enjoy.
THE LIVING BIG PROJECT MUST TAKE UP A LOT OF YOUR TIME; WORKING WITH SPONSORS, FILMING, EDITING, TRAVELLING FOR STORIES?
It certainly does. It’s a labour of love though. We both really enjoy generating the content and being proponents of this amazing movement. A lot of it really doesn’t feel like work either. We get to travel to amazing places, meet incredible people and we are always learning new and interesting things. There’s a saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I think that’s really true and I have always tried to work jobs that I’m really excited about.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL? (AFTER THE BOOK AND FEATURE FILM!)
Our plan at the moment is to continue to grow the channel. We’ve got some great ideas for future design projects (although I won’t say too much about that right now). There is lots of room to explore some great untapped areas of small space design though. We also plan to begin doing some international videos. Most likely over the summer we will spend some time filming in Australia, and in some other areas around the globe where there are some great projects underway.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF MEDIA CONSUMPTION? ARE ONLINE SHOWS LIKE YOURS THE WAY OF THE FUTURE?
I think that the traditional forms of media consumption are unquestionably on their way out. Certainly all of the media that I consume is online and I see that being a major trend amongst my generation. People want to watch content in their own time, and in their own way. It’s very exciting because it makes shows like Living Big in a Tiny House possible. Without the internet, it’s unlikely that we ever would have got network support for the show. This way, the audience gets to decide what’s worth watching. Networks are no longer able to solely decide what people will watch. I think that’s great.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO MENTION?
When we started filming Living Big in a Tiny House we had no idea that it would take off like this. It’s such an amazing ride and I am so thankful to our wonderful audience who continue to watch and share our videos. It means so much that so many people have got behind this project and both Mel and I are very grateful.