He is the Greek – American who “beat the system” of the entertainment industry. Like so many others, he could have been waiting for the day to meet the “right producer” or studio executive to start his career. Instead, Matt Koval took a risk. Although he was a “nobody”, that didn’t stop him. He decided to grab a camera and expose himself and his talent to the online world. The result? He has one of the most famous YouTube channels and is living his dream… online. In one year, his channel has grown from 50 subscribers to almost 60,000, with only 20 videos. Koval’s webseries ,The Fuplers, has grabbed the attention of a regular following audience on the online world. Some of his videos have received more than 1,100,000 views. His Greek family name is Kovalakides, but he goes by “Koval”, since it is easier to pronounce. His Greek half is from Thessaloniki, as he told us in an exclusive interview.
Where does your family come from?
My grandparents came over on the boat from the Thessaloniki area. My grandmother was from a small town called Neos Skopos, in Northeast Greece. They started a grocery store in Princeton, New Jersey, and had three kids including my father, Nick. My mother is Irish/Scottish.
Tell us how you got started in your career? Have you always been driven by the same passions?
It’s a cliche, but I was a bored teenager who found my Grandfather’s Super-8 movie camera in the hall closet. I experimented with it, then began making short films on video. I was extremely passionate
about movie-making, and became known in my neighborhood as “Little Spielberg”. I probably learned 70% of what I know from tinkering around with a crappy camcorder. I then studied film at Towson University near Baltimore. After some success at local film festivals, I packed it up for L.A.
Have you done any TV or movies?
I was the Director of Photography and Co-producer of an upcoming indie film called SMALL TOWN SATURDAY NIGHT, starring Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk). I’ve also shot and/or edited various TV programs for smaller networks like Discovery, CMT and GAC.
Do you think that dvds will be eliminated or movie theaters will become less popular in the future because of the internet?
I suspect that eventually, DVDs will fade away like CDs have. The technology is already here for video downloads — it’s just a matter of the big media companies deciding on how to mainstream it. As for theaters, I don’t think they’ll disappear. Going to the movies is an experience in and of itself, and people love it.
Are you doing the YouTube series full time? Can you support yourself with this?
The income isn’t quite steady enough. I’ve made great money producing sponsored videos, but the right deals are few and far between. Most brands want to hire me to produce an outright commercial, but I’m not willing to subject my audience to that. I’m more interested in product placement or sponsorship… but brands are still very nervous about advertising this way online. Colgate is one of the few who have really embraced it. I worked with them on a product placement deal, and they were fantastic.
Has your Greek heritage had an influence on your career or subject of your work?
I sometimes think of myself as a wanna-be philosopher, so maybe in that sense! But I can’t say its been an artistic influence. I try to boil my themes down to more of a basic human level.
Still Frame from the web series “The Fuplers”
You have a very successful web series on YouTube, “The Fuplers”. How did you come up with this idea? What is the inspiration behind the characters?
I made the first Fuplers as an entry into a video contest for Klondike Bar. I was so embarrassed to be wearing pigtails, I told myself that none of my friends would ever see it unless I won the grand prize of $100,000. I didn’t win, but was shocked at how positive the comments were (on the contest site). Months later, I began actively producing for YouTube. I uploaded that video, and people flipped. The Fuplers were suddenly in demand.
What character do you like to play the most?
My favorite character to play is the Mom. Her sayings and mannerisms are based on both my Mom and Grandma.
What is it like having such a large fan base on the Internet?
Bizarre, and a little unsettling. I’m an introvert by nature, so I really have no interest in celebrity-hood. But I’m thrilled by the fact that people have embraced my work as a filmmaker and storyteller.
What are some of the benefits of having your work broadcast through the internet?
Being able to completely cut out “the business” of film making is an incredible feeling. I can create anything I want – just as an artist would – and blast it out to tens of thousands of people. So, from the fundamental relationship between filmmaker and audience, it’s really frickin’ cool. It’s also been nice because my reel gets so much exposure. I’ve been offered a lot of opportunities from professionals stumbling across my
work on YouTube.
You do it all…write, direct and act! Which creative process do you enjoy the most?
By far, directing and editing. Everything else I do because I have to. I shudder when someone refers to me as an ACT-URR. The only reason you see me is because I’m the most convenient person around,
and I’m cheap to feed.
What are you currently working on? What are your plans and goals for the future?
I think my experience online could bring something unique to the TV world, so I’m writing a half-hour pilot. Of course, directing a feature comedy is also on the agenda. But honestly, if traditional showbiz doesn’t work out, it feels good to know that I’ll always have my own distribution platform in YouTube.