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One of Vine’s Biggest Stars Tells Us What Happens Next

"It's bittersweet."

Vine, the looping video platform that died today, was always a kind of an oddball in the new media landscape. It largely functioned on an highly insular culture of creators and fans who generated memes that would explode and burn out before mainstream culture ever noticed.

So you may not realize that the app was home to dozens of Vine stars, who earned money through branded content, toured the country to meet adoring fans, and launched their careers as writers and comedians.


Now that Vine is officially on its last legs, what will happen to these creators? I talked to Thomas Sanders, one of Vine's biggest stars, who has more than 8 million Vine followers and more than 7 billion loops of his videos. Sanders made a name for himself for his comedic stunts, like narrating strangers' lives, or pranking friends with gags inspired by Disney movies. The 20-something (he wouldn't tell me his age, but his manager said he's "old enough to party") won Vine Star of the year in 2015 at the Shorty Awards, which honor social media success, and Best Viner at the 2016 Streamy Awards, which focuses on online video.

I asked Sanders to ask about what's next and what the platform meant for him since he started making the six-second videos back in 2013.

Motherboard: Can you tell me a bit about the early days and how you first got into Vine?
Thomas Sanders: When I first started, I didn't really know what I was doing. I've always been kind of a ham in front of the camera, even when I was a kid I would make little videos with my brother with the camcorder. I'm a very theatrical person, so I was putting all of my weirdness and silly sense of humor into those videos and all of a sudden this audience just started to come out.

Was it a sort of gradual growth or did you have one breakout video?
It was almost this weird series of video that were just bursting in popularity and then it steadily grew in leaps and bounds over the summer of 2013. I was just trying new things and people were responding so positively. It was really a rollercoaster ride. It was so fast, I didn't know what was happening when I was doing it.


Were you able to start earning money at that point?
I had management reach out to me in November of that year. I was a little over 1 million followers and that was when they were like 'hey, you could be doing this stuff for money.' I had been doing it all for fun at that point.

You started doing some branded videos, how did you approach that?
I wanted to make sure the videos would still be funny but still serve the purpose of the people paying for that branded video. It was a really cool new world I had no idea even existed [laughs].

Were you looking at what other Viners were doing and taking cues from them?
Oh, sure. The whole community was this cool wild west of online humor. Everybody was trying something new and that new comedy was spurring me on. A lot of people at that point get competitive but for me it was this well of inspiration.

Do you know which is your most popular Vine of all time?
Goodness gracious. My most popular series has been narrating strangers' lives. The first time I did one of those, everyone responded so positively. Once, I narrated a guy proposing to a girl and the guy profusely said he was not proposing. That one really blew up. And they're good! The couple is all good, they had a laugh after I explained what was going on.

What's next for you now that this platform that launched you is gone?
I started a YouTube channel a couple of years ago and it's gotten great support. Now I get to focus even more energy onto that channel. I'm also going on tour this year because I had the honor and privilege, along with my team, to create an original musical.

Can you tell me more about this musical?
Yeah! So it's called Ultimate Storytime and it's instilled with its own comedy so that if you knew me from Vine, you'd love it, but it stands on its own so even people coming in with no knowledge of who I am would like it. It's all original music written by my good friend Jacob Fjeldheim and the cast is composed of all my wonderful friends who are equally as talented.

How do you feel about hearing the news that it's the last hurrah for Vine?
It's definitely, definitely an emotional day. It's kind of like that last day of school where people are reminiscing. It's bittersweet because I know these and how talented they are. They are going to keep on doing amazing things. But it's kind of sad that the app that got me started, that started this whole career, is shutting down.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.