AB brings in Casey Neistat for Geek Week talk

This past Friday saw the conclusion of “Geek Week,” an Activities Board-organized celebration of geek culture meant to “let your inner-nerd shine.” Kicking off the week of events was a Monday lecture in the Cohon Center by renowned YouTube creator Casey Neistat.

Casey Neistat is a figure who has seen massive success in a few spheres: as a filmmaker, commercial advertiser, technology start-up entrepreneur, and YouTube vlog mogul — the latter being the field where he has gained the most recognition.

His career has taken a series of fascinating turns, which has led to a unique life story that many have found inspiring. He traveled from his home of New York City to talk at Carnegie Mellon about this uncommon lifestyle and the tumultuous path he took to get to where he is today.

Neistat showed up a few minutes late to a crowded McConomy Auditorium due to two plane cancellations, but wasted no time getting into some dense life lessons. The goal of his lectures, he said, is to “walk you through my life in a way that doesn’t work with videos.” Though his videos offer interesting perspectives on his life, his lecture was a more all-encompassing and reflective look at his experiences.

He started from the very beginning, saying, “My whole childhood was about fighting to be heard.” He explained that after getting his high school girlfriend pregnant and living in a trailer home, he was desperate to get people to hear his “loser” perspective. While working for minuscule wages as a dishwasher, he discovered that filmmaking was the perfect means to do so.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, he, as a single father, maxed out his credit card to buy a Macbook to make videos, and moved to New York City. He worked odd jobs and made videos for art collectors, successfully gaining enough credibility to earn a decent living. This credibility led to him making a video about New York’s over-ticketing of bicyclists titled “Bike Lanes.” Posted on what at the time was a relatively new format, YouTube, Neistat’s channel exploded.

The success of “Bike Lanes” led to an HBO show with his brother titled The Neistat Brothers. He is most notable for his daily vlog, which was a challenge to himself to “make a movie every day.” His vlog skyrocketed his popularity and gave him a steady fan base. Meanwhile, he started a technology company Beme, which sold to CNN for $25 million in 2016.

The lecture covered this miraculous path to success, but was also rich with advice to the mostly-student audience. One of the biggest things Neistat wanted to stress was the notion that “no one knows anything,” that the tempestuousness of life could not be predicted by anything or anyone.

His talk focused mostly on telling his life story as a means of inspiring others to realize their dreams, and to figure out what those may be, though he himself conceded to sounding a little cliche.

The crowd was teeming with fans and admirers, and with such exuberance in the room, the questions were varied and interesting.
Neistat was able to elaborate further on how having children and a family has motivated him, how he deals with stress, and what his future plans look like. Activities Board members had to cut him off from answering more questions, and afterward, he hung around to chat with students and take photos.

This lecture was organized by the Activities Board as a part of Geek Week, an annual observance to “celebrate being the geeks that we are.” Other activities included Harry Potter Trivia, laser tag, and showings of Thor: Ragnarok.

The Activities Board strives to “represent a variety of topics and genres” with “all of the committees work[ing] together to present a broad range of events to meet the needs of the campus community.”

Though Geek Week was catered towards proud campus “geeks,” the Activities Board continues to organize events for all, from comedy shows, to concerts, to lectures. If Geek Week wasn’t your cup of tea, keep an eye out for the next Activities Board event. You might not want to miss it.