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Paul Merrell – the third Merrell Twin

Our interview of Paul Merrell for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes. Paul shared the following takeaways:  

Jon: What advice would you give to somebody that wants to start doing YouTube videos? 

Paul: What advice would I give. In terms of a philosophical perspective I would absolutely 100 percent be yourself, love the content you want to create. If you don't like it, you're eventually going to hate it. You know, you got to love it. The second thing I would say is if you're going to do it, be crazy consistent, just be super consistent. Pick a day, pick a schedule, schedule it, do it.

Jon: Some people will talk to me about that and it sounds crazy, but I'm a huge podcast consumer. And if my podcast doesn't hit on the day it's supposed to hit, what happened to him? 

Paul: People freak out. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Paul: People freak out. We recently did a premiere because, you know, YouTube as these new premiers and all this stuff and so we normally post around 9:00 on Tuesday mornings and we’re like, okay, we're going to post this premier at 4:00 because everyone's out of school and all that stuff. And it was like, “Where's our video?” but as long as you communicate it it's fine. But yeah, consistency is the key and being yourself and just doing what you love. You're creating content you really love. 

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A transcript of the full interview follows: 

Jon: I am joined today by Paul Merrell. Welcome to the podcast. 

Paul: Hello. How's it going? 

Jon: I'm good. How are you? 

Paul: I'm good. 

Jon: You are a unique guest in the sense of you have your own social media presence.

Paul: Okay. 

Jon: You have 24,000 Twitter followers. 

Paul: Do I really? 

Jon: Yes, you do.

Paul: (laughter) I didn’t know that.

You have 14,000 YouTube subscribers and that was met with a nod and then 46,000 Instagram followers. 

Paul: Yes. 

Jon: And you're also the father of Vanessa and Veronica Merrell.

Paul: Correct. The Merrell Twins. 

Jon: And they have a few more followers than you. 

Paul: Just a few more. 

Jon: Just a few more. Their main channel has 3.7 million YouTube subscribers, The Merrell Twins Live has 283,000 and More Merrell has 570,000. Their Instagram accounts are at 1.3, 1.4 million. 

Paul: It's crazy. It's a lot of numbers.

Jon: It’s a lot of numbers. So, I want to ask you about your own social media presence and then I want to ask you about the roles, the role that you play in your daughters’ social media. 

Paul: Sure.

Jon: So first let's start at the beginning. 

Paul: Okay. 

Jon: Where are you from originally? 

Paul: Well originally from Kansas City. 

Jon: Are you born and raised? 

Paul: Born and raised in Kansas City. Yeah, go Chiefs. Sorry if you're a Rams fan. Go Chiefs. But yeah.

Jon: Go Chiefs, yeah. And you now live in Los Angeles? When did you move? 

Paul: We moved about six years ago. 

Jon: Why did you move? 

Paul: Well, we got to the place where the girls were—girls were doing some modeling and some acting and trying to. They were making their own home movies and things like that and they really wanted to try and try to make it in the entertainment business and we realized that there was no way you were going to be able to do it from Kansas City. The opportunities were here. So we literally, once we, once we felt like the girls were like, yeah, this is something we really want to do, and they were committed to it, we said, “Alright, let's take a risk. Let's, let's move.” And we sold everything. Sold my boat, which was very disappointing, but sold my boat—

Jon: Wait a second you’re in Kansas City with a boat and you sell it when you come to Los Angeles with that ocean. 

Yes, with an ocean. Well we could—the truth is, is we knew that we were going to have to, to move into a different economy and cost of living is so much more expensive out here. So we just streamlined everything, sold everything. I had a small production company in Kansas City. We got rid of our studio space and just moved out and I commuted back and forth for awhile, but we knew that if we didn't move, we were going to regret it the rest of our lives, you know, you got to go find out, you just got to go. What's the worst that can happen? You fail and just—

Jon: Move back to Kansas City.

Paul: Right. 

Jon: And you have to watch Chiefs.

Paul: Watch the Chiefs, which I do that anyway. 

Jon: So now in Kansas City you had a production company. What kind of production company? 
 

Paul: We did a variety of things, but mostly it was a—it was corporate production for like training and promotion of their new products and things like that internally. And then we also did a lot of sales meetings for these companies. And so during these sales meetings, we would produce opening sketches and things like that and we mostly, we do a lot of graphics and 3-D design, but we would do these opening, you know, sketches with CEOs and to—

Jon: Liven things up—

Paul: Liven things up—

Jon: Loosen things up—

Paul: Yeah, loosen things up and open the whole event, so that's kind of my background. And then we did some music production and things like that. So yeah, many different hats. 

Jon: You are a guitar player? 

Paul: I am.

Jon: How long have you done that? 

Paul: Since I was 12. 

Jon: And your daughters are also musically inclined? 

Paul: Yes, they are. 

Jon: Did you teach them or did they just pick it up? 
 

Paul: They at an early age they were harmonizing and singing and we, we were like, do you want—do you like music, they were singing all the time and at five years old we were saying, you know, let's do it right. I, I'm self taught and I was like, “Let's do it right. Let's get you guys in lessons. Classical training in piano. We’ll start with piano, the fundamentals,” because I started with guitar and then I started playing a little piano to try and get music theory and all that stuff and it was just a bigger struggle, but everything relates from piano to guitar and all other instruments, so they were classically trained for I think we did that eight years. They played piano and then they moved on. In the middle of that, Veronica start playing guitar, violin. Vanessa started playing bass and the cello in the middle of all of that. So they kind of mess around with everything. It’s really kind of fun. Christmases are fun because we get out and play a bunch of Christmas carols together with violin and cello. 

Jon: At what point did your daughters express an interest in YouTube? 

Paul: You know, it's interesting because they didn't really express an interest until I brought it up to them and said, “Listen, let's do something together,” but early on they started re-watching, this guy named Ryan Higa. I don’t know if you've ever heard of Ryan Higa, but just a funny, funny Asian guy, and I would—they would be downstairs laughing and watching these videos and I go down, these are the worst production—productions I've ever seen, you know, why are you guys watching this stuff? And this was 2006 or so when they were doing that. And then as I researched YouTube as just, you know, kind of the business model was coming up, you know, back in the day and they were like, we want to, we want to start doing entertainment and music and do some more things and said, well, you know, you have a full production company right here. Let's just do it together. Let's make a music video, let's do a sketch, whatever. But let's do it at the highest level we can. I mean, you have, $100,000 worth of camera equipment just sitting there and a dad who knows how to use everything, let's just go for it.

Jon: As opposed to an iPhone.


Paul: As opposed to an iPhone. Yeah. So, which was interesting, Veronica and Vanessa asked for their first camera back around 2004, 2005, somewhere in there. And they wanted a Barbie camera. Barbie came out with this little video camera shot in black and white and they thought that was the coolest thing. They were like, “Oh, you want this Barbie camera because it's pink and everything and we want to edit our own videos,” and I was like, “Well no, I mean I, yes, I understand.” So on their birthday I got them a Sony MiniDV camera, a pretty nice one. And I was like, “If you're going to do it, let's do it right.” So I gave it to them, they opened up the box and they were so mad at me, they were so disappointed. They were like, “We wanted the Barbie camera,” and I was like, “But you don't understand. This shoots in 16 by 9 format because HD really wasn't affordable at that point and you know, it does all of this great stuff,” and they were like, “No, we don't want it,” and you know, and so, but they finally figured out that it was a really great camera. So, and they started shooting videos with their friends and editing on iMovie and things like that, so it was kind of fun. 

Jon: Now I did some research and they joined YouTube in November of 2009. The first video is a February 2010 School Talent Show 

Paul: Yeah. 

Jon: Did you shoot that video? 

Paul: I did, I did. I shot that and just put it out there. That was one of the first videos, and I honestly did that just to share it with—

Jon: Friends. 

Paul: Friends and family, you know. And I was kind of proud of them. Played in little rock band and it was a lot of fun. But yeah, that was, that was our first video. Is it still up? 

Jon: It’s still up. 

Paul: Is it? 

Jon: I still—I watched it. 

Paul: I'm so sorry.

(laughter)

Paul: They actually didn't do too bad for what seventh graders. I think they were in seventh grade. Played some, some great classic songs.

Jon: And then the next video is a December 2011 Regional Cheer Competition. 

Paul: Yes. Oh the joys of—

Jon: And I confess I only watched about 10 seconds. 

Paul: I wouldn't, wouldn't watch it either. That was again, one of those, you know, because in the industry everyone's like, who's going to videotape? And they always would point to me, you know, all the parents were like, well Paul, and so I would be the one distributing—

Jon: But you also got the videotape too. 

Paul: Yes. Yeah. 

Jon: And I bring that up because it appears that they had a very traditional upbringing. 

Paul: They did, they really did. Traditional Midwest values. We just really emphasize family, and our community was really, really close. It's like a small town within the big city, you know, very tight knit community. 

Jon: We on the Missouri side or? 

Paul: The Missouri side. Yeah, definitely not Kansas. 

Jon: No, no, no, no. 

Paul: No not—there’s Kansas City, Missouri and there’s Kansas City, Kansas. That's a whole nother’ discussion. But yeah, traditional values—

Jon: I’m going to digress a second, but your dog's name is?

Paul: Tiger.

Jon: And is named Tiger, why? 

Paul: Missouri Tigers. 

Jon: Okay. 

Paul: So, there you go. So anyway, we always got beat by KU in basketball and they're just a better team of basketball but football, different story. Anyway. Yeah, so just, just kind of grew up traditional Midwest values and family and we did everything together and you know, my wife's from Mexico and so her mom loves to cook on Sundays. So after church we'd go over and have Sunday dinner and just kind of just good old midwestern family values was a lot of fun. 

Jon: Growing up—well first let's talk about you. Did you have an interest in film early on? I mean, how'd you get it into production? 

Paul: Actually, I got into production—I was a musician. I'm still a musician, I won't say was, I was a musician, and I just loved writing songs and just the whole recording aspect of it. So I actually went to a local audio engineering school and got into auto engineering and thought I was going to record bands for the rest of my life. That's what I wanted to do because that was the coolest thing ever. And about that time, a friend of mine, they had a position open in their video duplication department and I was like, sure, I just wanted to get into the audio side of things with their company. But—and they didn't have any openings at that point. I had a recording studio and all that. So I was like, I'll just get into the video production side, or the video duplication side and ended up—long story short, they had editing suites there and I was like, hey, this is kind of cool and the audio side related to the video side as far as signal flow and how everything worked and I was, I was always interested in cameras and photography and stuff, but I just didn't think I would ever get an opportunity to do that. 
 

Paul: So I sat in an edit suite where it was A/B roll edits, you know, tape editing and all of that. And then, they got their first, nonlinear system which was an Avid, which was $150,000 computer system that you can now do on your phone. But it's nonetheless, I just understood it. I got it. And so all of the guys that were in the traditional tape editing couldn't make the transition. So I actually learned it while I was not even hired to do the job. I took it upon myself to teach myself. So it just progressed from there. I moved into a producer role and then eventually it was like, well, I'm going to go start my own company and started my own company. 

Jon: And then when your girls started to shoot videos, what role did you play in the editing? 

Paul: None. I said figure it out. I showed them how to plug the camera in and I said, this is kind of the general side of it, but I'm like, you guys figure it out because like with, with guitar and bass, I said, “You know the basics of piano and all that you teach yourself. If you really want to do this, you need to have passion and you have the drive to do it yourself.” And so they, they would come ask me some questions and things like that, but I was a very hands off when it came to editing. And even when they got into school, they, they took a broad broadcasting journalism class and they had to learn editing and they did this little news program at school and all of that stuff, and I would help them, but I would say, “This is your thing, you've got to learn it for yourself because if you want to be an editor, if you want to edit, you got to understand that.”

Jon: Got to know how to do it. What about shooting the videos?

Paul: Shooting the videos—

Jon: Did you help them set up the scene, did it talk about lighting?

Paul: We would talk about it after the fact because I, I'm a big, big believer in, you know, analyzing things and looking back and saying, what could you have done better? And I would show them my productions and then having compare them to theirs and say, “This is what I do, this is what you do, now how could you make it more like, what, what I do and think about your shots, think about your angles and all of that stuff.” Then as they got into broadcasting side in junior high and high school, I actually ended up becoming friends with the teachers and they would have me come in and teach editing in, in their classes. So I would give some like just instructional things at times. So I, in that way I kind of taught them, but I was very—

Jon: But indirectly. 

Paul: But indirectly. Yeah. But they, they watched a lot. They observed a lot too.  

Jon: When they were little, what did they say they wanted to do when they grew up? 

Paul: You know, I think Vanessa wanted to be a nurse. Veronica wanted to be a meteorologist, is what she wanted to do. 

Jon: And when did that change to entertainment? 

Paul: Actually it was one of their teachers, and I want to say fourth grade Ms. Howard for a talent competition just for their local class. They had them come up and sing, you know just sing a song for the class and so Veronica has to sing—

Jon: Which can be very intimidating.

Paul: Yeah, in fourth grade I would never have done that. And so they—the teacher was like, “Wow, you guys are good.” She took them to—she was like, “I want to take you—I want you to do this for our principals.” So she took them to the principal's office. She sang—they sang for the principal.

Jon: And I was never taken to the principal's office just to sing. 
 

(laughter)


Paul: Yeah. So they went and sang at the principal's office and then she took them to several other classes and had them sing and they really liked it. They enjoyed it. It was scary for them but they enjoyed it. And then as they, as they began to, develop that they were like, “This is really fun. I really enjoy the connection that is between the audience and us,” and did a lot of performances, did a lot of school plays and things like that. Just to kind of bridge the gap as to how I kind of moved into like, “Hey, they really have something,” because I—growing up in the industry, I've worked with a lot of like parents who—and children, actors and I would go, “Man, you don't get it. Your kid is not that talented. You're not, you're not—I mean, yes, they have talent and all this stuff but you think they're just the greatest thing since sliced bread.” 

Jon: Well, I have, I like to think of myself as a realist and I have two sons. The younger son I describe as an acquired taste. I love him, but he’s an acquired taste.”

Paul: I get it. That's funny. So anyway, we were like, it was like, “I don't want to be one of those dads or parents that are like unrealistic about my daughters and their abilities and all that stuff.” So, I started asking some of my friends, what do you really think, you know, don't—I mean like professionals and what do you really think of Veronica and Vanessa as musicians, as actresses, as entertainers. What are you thinking? They were like, “Yeah, there's something there.” And we went to this—

Jon: And about what age was that? 

Paul: 12, 13 years old. We went to a competition, they entered a modeling school and they wanted to do some modeling and just, they learned some etiquette and things like that. It was just good for their confidence to help them build their confidence, and they were like, “You, they should go to this acting modeling talent competition down in Florida.” I can't remember the name of it now. It was that the Gaylord Resort there, and there was like—a thousand kids showed up. I'm like, “Alright, well let's, let's go do this,” and they entered all these little competitions and I was like, “Let's go see what you got. Let's see what industry people say about you and, and your, your abilities.” And they won almost every category they were in and people were telling us they had it, you know, not just like, not, not people that are just paid to be there but like the actual agencies, and we got some call backs to come out to California and visit with some people and so it was at that point that we were like, okay, girls there, there's something here, you know, we're not crazy. We're not the crazy parents that are going to be like—

Jon: That stage mom or dad. 

Paul: Right, and I never want to be that, but I also want to be at the place where I'm like, you know, if there is something there you want to help your kid develop and just go into that. If you're going to go for it, you know, let's do this and let's help you get there. 

Jon: And I know the represented by an agent. 

Paul: They are.

Jon: How long has that been in place? 

Paul: Greg Goodfried, let’s see they, they've had a manager since we moved out here. It's through a friend that we met, a friend connected us to some friends, connected us to the manager and that's been in place for a long time, what three years ago, I think two or three years ago. Greg from UTA contacted us and there's a lot of—like in the Midwest, people have kind of a mentality about LA and like especially in entertainment industry, everyone's like, everyone's out to get you and they're going to make—they’re going to turn your girl's into, you know, I won't mention names, but you know, like the these actresses that have gone crazy. And I'm like, yeah, I get that. I can see where you think that could happen. But in reality people are—good people find each other and so we have a great manager, we have a great agent, so what, two, three years ago we hooked up with Greg from UTA and—

Jon: He’s been a guest on the podcast. 

Paul: Yeah and Greg's a great guy and I've told him that and we, we love what he brings to the table. He's just really smart. And what's great about when good people find each other,  Greg’s never been like, “Okay, hey girls, you need to change this, this, and this. You need to do this, this and this and this.” Now business strategy wise, yeah, but like from a personality perspective, things like that he's never said to change—“You need change everything about yourself, you know, just be who you are.” That's what's great is just be yourself.

Jon: That's also the great equalizer of YouTube. 

Paul: Yeah. 

Jon: Because if you're not who you are, you can't carry it off very long. 

Paul: Yeah. You really can't. It's, it becomes, it's a facade and that's where like, like the girls have a live channel and they do live broadcasts and so a lot of, lot of people that we've talked to who are influencers are like, I hate doing live, live broadcasts because I have to be on the whole time, and with Ronnie and Nessa they're like, well, we're just, we're just—

Jon: We’re just who we are.

Paul: Who we are, we don't have to change anything, and that's what's great about them is they don’t, they don't pretend to be anything that they’re not, which is fun. 

Jon: Now they are identical twins. 

Paul: Yes. Okay. 

Jon: I'm going to give you the Dad test. 

Paul: Okay.

Jon: First. Which one's your favorite? 

Paul: Oh yeah, that's an easy one. That is the dog Tiger. 

Jon: Yes. There you go. 

Paul: That’s easy.

Jon: But if you were to describe each girl in three words, how would you describe them? Because they're identical physically, but they're different.

Paul: I’ve never been asked that questions. That's a good. That's a good question. I would say that Veronica is the more serious, inquisitive and more of a risk taker behind the scenes. I know that's not a, not, it's not one word, but more of a risk taker kind of behind the scenes. Vanessa is a risk taker more in, in like I'll go do this, but she's creative and they both have a real tender heart for people. So that's one word. I mean, I'm trying—I’m goofing it. 

Jon: No, no that’s—part of it was to get you on this path. 

Paul: Yeah. I mean it's just, they're so different, but they're similar in so many, so many ways. But um, I would say they balance each other out very well. Nessa tends to be more, I know what I want. I, I know what it should look like now. This is what I want, this is how it is and daddy do it my way. And we just had this conversation actually this morning on the way here, actually last night. I edited a video that I thought was really cool and hip and stylish and she was like, nope, that's not what we want. You got to change it. And I'm like, oh, you know, so. But yeah, she definitely knows exactly what she wants on certain things. Veronica does too, but she's more of a writer. She writes things out in more of a planner, more detailed, she's more of a perfectionist. So she, she really thrives on the challenge of, coming up with scripts and just thinking about, you know, comedy and the way comedy is delivered and how we can do, do things differently and better. And then she bounces that off of Vanessa and Vanessa’s like, “Yeah!”, I mean they just make like the perfect team when it comes to that, so that's kind of it in—there's obviously, they're both very, very detailed, you know, very intricate people, but if I could sum it up that would be the best way I could kind of describe them. I think.

Jon: And I want to talk about their YouTube channel in a second, but I want to first talk about yours. 

Paul: Oh no. 

Jon: Oh yes. Oh yes. You joined in 2013 and you have four playlists. And my favorite by far and away is the Daily Dad Jokes series. 

Paul: No, sorry. 

Jon: No, I was, I was watching some of the new one, “What kind of pizza to dogs eat?”

Paul: Oh. My cousin Isaac, or the girls’ cousin Isaac just totally ruined that. I was so excited about that but oh, he just ruined that one. 

Jon: Just if you haven't seen it, it is? 

Paul: Pupparoni. 

Jon: Okay. There you go. So how did you come up with the idea of a Daily Dad Joke series? 

Paul: You know, the girls had been talking about at some point I want to do something because, you know, I, I love to create content and for them and there are times when I'm like, man, let's do this, I have this idea. And they're like, “Ehh we shouldn't do that dad.” So we were in actually in Indonesia and we met these two guys. They're called skinnyindonesian24. You should look them up theyr’e, they're really fun guys. You won't understand everything because they speak in Indonesian. But we—they speak English and we just connected. They're Andovi and Jo, they're brothers and the girls were doing a video with them. So, Andovi thought he was funnier than me and could tell better dad jokes than me. And I'm like, “Dude, you don't understand. Here's what happens. When you become a dad, it's like the universe just says here, “I'd bestow upon you dad jokes and that's the way it works.” You just get them. And so he was trying to out dad—

Jon: As bad as they are.

Paul: As bad as they are. He was trying to out dad joke, me and I just, I took him to school and so we shot a collab with them and then afterwards we were still, you know, he was still lamenting about his defeat, and if you're listening to Andovi, “Haha.” Sorry. Um, and he, he came up with a brilliant idea. He said, he goes, “You know what you should do? I've got it. You should tell one dad joke everyday, just one.” And he said, “How easy would it be? It’s just one dad joke, just do it,” and so I thought about it, and I told the girls and my wife who is very, very behind the scenes, Wendy’s behind the scenes, I said, “Look, I think I'm going to do this. I think I'm going to tell one dad joke everyday and just see if I can do it. Just see if it's funny. You know, because I mean, I can't do anything else really, you know, I don't want to be, I don't want to be perceived as like, oh, I want to ride on the coattails of my daughters, but if there was anything I could do is that they can't do as I'm a dad and I’ll always be a dad and I, I tell really bad dad jokes all the time anyway. So why don't I just put it on camera. So that's kind of where it came from and I think we're at a dead joke with 31, 32—

Jon: 32 I think. The magic of it is the girls’ reaction. 

Paul: Oh yeah. It's so funny. And they did—

Jon: Because it's, it's, I'm seeing in their faces, my sons’, when I tell them jokes, it's like, Dad, stop it. 

Paul: Stop. Please stop it. Yeah. And that's, I get that all the time, but I've gotten them all my life. And you have to then you, you know exactly—

Jon: The very first one was your dad's favorite joke. 

Paul: Yeah. My Dad's favorite joke was always, you know, whenever I'd say, you know, “Hey dad, I'm hungry,” and he’d go “Hi Hungry, nice to meet you,” nd he just did it all the time and I actually posted it. My Dad passed away, but I posted it on his birthday. October 11th was his birthday, so that's when I actually started the dad joke channel in honor of Dads everywhere who unfortunately are gifted with very bad jokes—

Jon: Because your jokes “sock”.

Paul: They “sock” big time.

Jon: And that’s number two.

Paul: That’s number two.

Jon: Then you also have a, another playlist, which is your favorites playlist, and there's only one video that's there. 

Paul: What is it? 

Jon: It is Beautiful Disaster. 

Paul: Oh yeah. That was the first one. That was the second really big production we—

Jon: Tell me about that. 

Paul: Our production company was housed in the same location with a company called Show Me Audio Visual and they would do all the events side, like they would provide all the lights and all the equipment to do these big events. And, I called in all my favors, said, “Hey, doing a music video with my daughters. I recorded it. That's me playing guitar and bass and everything on there,” and I just, we just went for it and brought all the everyone in and just had an absolute blast doing it and telling my friends that helped, “Thank you.” But we basically pulled that off for very little money and it, it was just a lot of fun. And Veronica Vanessa were, really encouraged by it, you know, it didn't do, it was our, one of our first big videos, it didn't do that well it's done better since, you know, since—

Jon: People go back and look at it.

Paul: When people go watch it and stuff, but I think if the girls would go back and watch it now, which would be really interesting. We haven't seen it in awhile, I'd be interested to know what they—

Jon: Who wrote the song?

Paul: A guy named Greg Nicholson and he's a good friend of ours and he, he was in the eighties, he was a songwriter and traveled and toured everywhere and he said to me, he goes, “Hey, I got this song, what do you think of it?” And so I let the girls listen to it and it was very, very much eighties rock, you know, and we took it and transformed it. It really didn't change much, but we transformed it into something that the girls really like to put it in the right key and just went for it. So yeah, it's, it's important to have people around you that can provide resources like that. Work with some songwriters here and there and thing like that. Because you learn—you end up learning a lot by collaborating with, with people not in front of the camera but behind the camera as well, and behind the production process as well. So yeah. 

Jon: And you had your first collab on your Daily Dad Joke too.

Paul: I did. It was a great collab. And unfortunately he was just terrible. He didn't have a lot of subscribers. I didn't give him any subscribers, but, you know, it's fine. 

Jon: Just to make it clear as you collab with yourself.

Paul: I collab with myself, I tried to do some really fun green screen and I thought it would look a lot better than what it, what it was, but oh well. It made me laugh, so I'm glad I made someone laugh. There you go. 

Jon: You also have a one, but it appears several times in the videos where you jump out and try to scare your girls. 

Paul: Yes. 

Jon: What is the word you use? 

Paul: Aboogasaki.

Jon: How did—what is that? How, where did you get that? 

Paul: I have no idea. I'd been doing that since they were little, like way before even YouTube was around. I would just jump up to them or we would just be sitting there and I'm just pull in and go, “Aboogasaki!” you know, I don't know. I don't know where it came from, but it's, it's my word. It's just how I scare, scare them. It works. 

Jon: Well, I don't think it works anymore. 

Paul: No, it doesn't. I have to be really on my game to get them, to get them now. In fact, I don't, I got Veronica. Vanessa was like, are you serious? And even Isaac was like, “What that wasn't even, even close,” but it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. 

Jon: I want to talk about your daughter's videos. What role do you play? Now as  opposed to when they first started.

Paul: In my mind it, it evolved. At first I was like, I was, I'm a producer and I'm an editor. I'm a shooter, and I also helped them write and create and so now when we talk about it, the girls joke around and say, you know, I'm the third Merrell twin, which is, which is kind of true, but not really, I'm not a twin, but I'm behind the scenes and all of this stuff. I do. I'm kind of like their third person. It's more of an executive producer role, because it, it, it evolved from, you know, just uploading videos and going through all the analytics and tags and making sure titles and thumbnails and all that stuff, all of the details, the details, that's all on me. It's everything behind the scenes is on me. 

Jon: Is it still on you? 

Paul: Yeah, and I don't think that's going to change because it's really hard to get someone that really understands the nuances of all that we've learned over the last six years of uploading. And we've only been uploading five. It's been five years. Every Tuesday. 

Jon: How did you pick Tuesday? 

Paul: Twin Tuesday. It just goes together. Twin Thursday doesn't work and then—

Jon: But Twin Tuesday or?

Paul: Twin Tuesday just seemed to work. So we were like—

Jon: Twin Monday doesn't have the same ring.

Paul: Yeah twin doesn’t have the same ring, doesn’t flow, so yeah we picked Tuesdays and let’s just commit to it and years ago I would produce a weekly show, weekly shows actually for a company that had a satellite network and they would broadcast to their affiliates all over. It wasn't anything that anybody could see, but it was via Dish network and all of that. So we had to, you know, have a plan and network, you know, understand what our production process was and how we were going to distribute everything, so I supplied all of that to the YouTube channel and the girls were like, “Oh, it's not a big deal if we miss a Tuesday at first,” I was like, “Yeah, it is. Let's not. Let's just not miss a Tuesday. Let's just see what consistency does for us. Let's produce our videos at the highest quality we can, but also deliver every Tuesday.”And well the results just started to happen. 

Jon: Was there a big moment where you saw a huge jump or has it just been a steady increase? 

Paul: It's been really steady and honestly, that's probably my proudest thing is that it's been, been steady. We get anywhere from 2 to 3000 subscribers a day, which that's phenomenal, and it stayed that way for the last three years. Just, just continual growth. Now we'll get bumps when we do collabs and things like that. But we have—there's a lot of their friends that will just go, “wooosh,” and then just it plateaus and then that's it. But for us, we just kind of keep climbing, keep going and keep going. So, there's never been really like that breakout video, where it’s just gone viral and everyone was like, “Oh my gosh, this is the greatest video I've ever seen,” and that's not really been our intent. Our intent is to number one, to entertain ourselves and have fun doing it because it's a fun job. I've always had the funnest job in the world, but even now it's way more fun. So we create content we want to make and there are some things that we've done that we've done that isn't our best, but really like just creating the things we want to create.

Jon: What's your favorite one so far? 

Paul: Honestly, it was this last video. It's been, well, there's been two. Two of my favorites was, It's Valentine's Day, the song and then this last one which was If Food Babies Were Real because—

Jon: Where did that—I watched that. Where did that idea come from? 

Paul: Honestly, we—we're kind of experiencing a little bit of a lull in our creative process and we sit down and started watching some videos and I feel really bad. I can't remember the, the channel's name that we came across and the production value was the same as ours. Their humor was the same as ours, but they did it in a different way and it just gave us a, it gave us a fresh perspective, to be able to come back and say what can we do, applying their techniques that they've done, what could we do to bring something to life? And I think Vanessa was like, “Food babies are a thing, like what if we make a food baby come to life, what if you were having a food baby,” and it just kind of snowballed from there. So that's been my favorite within the last, you know, year or so because it really felt like we turned a different corner creatively. I felt like the production value was really, really high on that as high as we could make it. 
 

And then, It's Valentine's Day literally happened three days before Valentine's. It’s a music video. I think it has, it's close to 10 million views I think. But we were sitting around and going, Valentine's Day's going to hit on Tuesday, what are we going to do? And like, let's write a song. And we literally sat down all three of us at the table with a Ukulele and we just wrote it out and then we recorded it that day, shot it the next day, edited it the next day and posted it the next. So within four days we delivered a show, a song, a music video that has just gone crazy, you know, every, every Valentine’s. It's just, that's my favorite one. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Paul: But all of them are kind of my favorite because you know, you're working with your daughters and stuff. 

Jon: How is it to work with your daughters? 

Paul: You know, it's great. It's great. I've had to learn to listen to my daughters. 

Jon:

Paul: Yeah. Take my Dad hat off and go into more of, like I said, that executive producer role and go—I'm not just trying to, I'm not trying to impose my will and my creative will upon them. I need to be able to listen to them and help bring out their creativity but also say this is how we do it, this is how we get it done. If you want to do X, Y, and Z, this is the process it’s going to take to make it happen and really learn to let them lead is, you know, like when you're listening to your 16 year old telling a guy in the industry that's been in the industry for 20 years at that point, that's not the way you edit a video. This is the way we should do it because it, it—you to fundamentally change the way people edit and from traditional editing and all the jump cuts, all the things that just go on to the—it just made me cringe at first. But to be able to listen to that and go and say to them, “You know what? You're right, that's—you're right. I did need to change that.” That's been a learning process for me to just, just step back and say, “You know what? My daughters know something. They know—they're professionals. I need to listen to them. I need to treat them as professionals.” And yeah, that's been the biggest thing that I've learned from them. 

Jon: What has surprised you about the process? 

Paul: What surprised me about the process? It hasn't surprised me that it's, it's fun because it is fun. You know, I have to think about that for a second because I think what's been so surprising about the process has been the bond that we've developed. I've always wanted to be like really close with my daughters and stuff, but just to be able to be like, this is something we've done together. I was telling the other day that I always wanted to build a car with my dad and we never got to do that because we didn't have the money and all of that stuff. I was like, I look at our YouTube channels, like our channels is like we're building this car together, you know, it's something we get to do together that, it's very, very rare thing. 

Jon: And you’re teaching them about business. 

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I think the most surprising part of this, now that you’ve said that, I think the most surprising part for me has been that those moments—those teaching moments where I've been able to say to them, especially when they were a lot younger when they're 16, we'd walk into meetings and they would say—I would look at them and I go, “Do you know what they said? You know what this all means, right?” And they went, “No,I don't know what that means.” And so I would explain to them and teach them the vernacular, teach them the ways that people speak and the nuances as a business and what people are trying to really accomplish and understand the process and understand how meetings work and just all those nuances of business and to help them develop as young business women, and then to let them lead inside of that. I think that's been the most surprising thing is that I've been able to really help mentor that side of it, and then to let go. Now to let go and be like, you know, you guys are doing your own thing.

Paul: I mean they've sat in, in meetings with CEOs of major brands and just held their own, and people—their manager will say, oh my gosh, you would not believe how many people just love your daughters that came out of that meeting and just absolutely in love with what's going on and who they are, and just they impressed them like crazy. I'm like, I did that. I helped with that. I helped them grow into that and it's really been the most surprising thing. 

Jon: What do you see going from here? 

Paul: It's interesting. Initially we, the girls would love to have their own TV show. I think, not think. I know that's what they really, really want. But the industry is changing so fast, audiences are going in so many different directions. And we have the viewers that come, you know, we're getting just as many views as some networks on TV are so—

Jon: In many ways, you have your own TV show.

Paul: Right, and that's the way we look at it. So, you know, I think going forward from here, we're really wanting to do more series. Girls want to do a movie, in fact they’re shooting a movie right now. It was, I don't think I'm allowed to say who it's with, but it's really, really cool. It's just a really small role, but they're doing that. But future wise I just see a lot more higher end production and creativity. We're building a bigger team around us to help support because across three channels it gets really, really tiresome for all of us. Not the actual executing like a live show or something like that, but all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, working with brands or you know, doing pre-production stuff, just getting things together, helping with scripts, all of that. We’re—we've hired—

Jon: The details of a TV show.

Paul: Right. Yeah. Because you can't do it alone. You can only do it so long at a certain level. If you want to go to the next level, then you have to do that, but future wise, long-term, and this is our long-term goal is to walk away with this because at some point it'll be done at some point, I hope not, but at some point you know Veronica Nessa will be like, okay, what's next? What do I want to do in the future? And for now, they've said that they would love to have a production company and be able to produce content and write and be behind the scenes too, not just in front of the camera, behind the scenes too, so that's what we've built. That's what's in place and we haven't done that. We haven't been reaching out to people to say, “Hey, we're going to produce content for you and for other clients, but we will eventually.” That's kind of the long-term goal at this point. 

Jon: Because I know for many influencers that is the struggle is that the team around them that they don't have. 

Paul: Right. Yeah. So Veronica and Vanessa has been very lucky to have a father that can do all the behind the scenes stuff because a lot of their friends are like, I've been up since, you know, 1:00 editing videos, you know, and I'm still not done or I had something fail, I didn't get audio on my shot or whatever. And then we've had it happen once or twice, but never as frequently as so many people, but they don't have to deal with a lot of that. But yeah, building, building a team is important at this point. 

Jon: Tell me, shifting gears just a little bit, tell me about the first time someone recognized your daughters in public. How was that for you?

Paul: Trying to think when that was. What's weird is Veronica Vanessa, even before they were influencers and and had some notoriety, they would get attention. 

Jon: Because they're identical twins. 

Paul: They're identical twins. So to have someone come up and say, “Oh my gosh, I watch your YouTube videos.” Yeah. That part of it's cool, you know. It was like, “Okay, yeah, you guys are are making it,” and that's part of the whole process. So there's a certain satisfaction in someone recognizing you. But we were really kind of used to it, you know, just, they were really kind of used to just getting like, attention. Now it's gotten—I was walking the dog the other day and someone stopped me in, the little girl stopped me and said, “Hey, can I take your picture with you and Tiger?” and I was like, “Okay, that's fine. You really want to take a picture with me and their dad?” and she was like well, “Veronica and Vanessa aren't here, so you're gonna have to do.” I'm like, great. So yeah—that’s part of it, me getting recognized was weird. That's weird because I never expected that, but part of the reason why, just one of the reasons why I'm in the videos and I'm around because they're—having daughters, there are a lot of weird people out there and you know, we knew when we started it that there was going to be safety concerns. 

Jon: Well tell me about, tell me about that.

Paul: Yeah, kind of transitioning into that, I was like, you know what, if I'm on a few videos, so be it and if I'm in a couple of your vlogs, so be it. People see me in some of the background pictures and I have a little, I have a presence on the—

Jon: They know there’s a dad around. 

Paul: They know that at some point if they're going to do something to either, they’re going to have to deal with me, you know, I'm going to be there, I'm going to be around. I can't be around all the time, but they'll question whether I'm there or not. So that was, that was my mentality I just being around, it's like, yeah, you need to know who I am because you know, as a father you’ll do anything for your kids, especially keep them safe. And that, that's been a big factor in me being around, it's just like, “Hey, I'm here, don't mess with my daughters. I might be a little dude but—” 

Jon: But tough.

Paul: But tough enough, to protect my daughters, so anyway. 

Jon: And how do you feel about them living their lives so publicly?

Paul: You know, there's a certain, there's an aspect to it that's really, you hear celebrities talk about, you know, oh, it's just, you know, so hard, you know, being in the public eye and all of that stuff, there's a certain element then when I think about it, I go, you know, you really have to think about where you're going, you girls have to think about where you’re going. Like we went on vacation and we went to Hawaii and Wendy was like, “Let's um—let’s just, we can just hop in the public transportation and go wherever.” I was like, “No, we can't. We can't do that. We have to think about the girls’ safety.” So that's changed the dynamic and so to think about that and go, yeah, is—there's a trade-off, and that's the unfortunate side of it. But at the same time it's also a really cool side too, you know, it's not, it's not bad or it's not—

Jon: It’s just different.

Paul: It's just different. 

Jon: What advice would you give to somebody that wants to start doing YouTube videos? 

Paul: What advice would I give. In terms of a philosophical perspective I would absolutely 100 percent be yourself, love the content you want to create. If you don't like it, you're eventually going to hate it. You know, you got to love it. The second thing I would say is if you're going to do it, be crazy consistent, just be super consistent. Pick a day, pick a schedule, schedule it, do—

Jon: Some people will talk to me about that and it sounds crazy, but I'm a huge podcast consumer. And if my podcast doesn't hit on the day it's supposed to hit, what happened to him? 

Paul: People freak out. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Paul: People freak out. We recently did a premiere because, you know, YouTube as these new premiers and all this stuff and so we normally post around 9:00 on Tuesday mornings and we’re like, okay, we're going to post this premier at 4:00 because everyone's out of school and all that stuff. And it was like, “Where's our video?” but as long as you communicate it it's fine. But yeah, consistency is the key and being yourself and just doing what you love. You're creating content you really love. 

Jon: So how can people find you? 

Paul: Me?

Jon: You, if they wanted to do business with your daughters.

Paul: You know, merrelltwins@merrelltwins.com. They can just email, contact. We—my wife just quit work. She's handling all of the details with email and all that stuff. She was a school administrator, so she really, really understands the organization side. So I will say that's been our biggest change, has been having her around has been like all of a sudden we're like, we're organized. Because we're creatives. I'm a creative, you know, I'm not super organized about life and things like that, but she's really, really helped us with that. So yeah, merrelltwins@merrelltwins.com, or you can follow me on Twitter.

Jon: For the Daily Dad Jokes. 

Paul: For really Bad Dad Jokes. 

Jon: Thank you. It has been a pleasure. 

Paul: It's been a pleasure too.

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The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them. 

  • The Creative Influencer , Podcast , Influencers | Social Media
  • Nov 21, 2018

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