After releasing "Forecast" (2005) and "Proof" (2009) skateboard videos, filmmaker Nigel Alexander realized the way people were viewing skate media was quickly changing, so he adapted and started his own YouTube channel, which has become one of the premiere sources of skate footage on the internet. At the time of this interview his channel had around 100,000 subscribers and since then that number has gone up over 20 percent. Some skaters say that YouTube practically eliminated skate DVD sales and that the internet's thirst for footage ruined today's skate videos, but Alexander found a way to make the internet and skateboarding work for him, and earns a nice living from both. While Alexander wouldn't indulge exactly how much he earns, he did tell XGames.com what led him to turn down industry jobs so he concentrate solely on his YouTube channel, the best way to get the internet to pay you too, and the story behind his accessories brand Markisa.
XGames.com: After being a sponsored skateboarder when did you pick up a camera and start filming?
Alexander: I started filming after two years of skating. I realized that if I wanted to take skating seriously I needed to get stuff filmed and document my progress. My first camera was an 8mm. It wasn't the best, but it was enough to show people that we could shoot stuff and get it done. I started shooting members of the 118 Boardshop team and then from there everything kind of took off.
After a while I met a young skateboarder named Paul Rodriguez. Upon meeting him I realized he was the first skateboarder I had come across who could end up going pro. I knew other guys but they just didn't have the natural talent that Paul did. Plus he was super young like 13 and any trick you told him to do he would figure it out within that day.
Is that when things started to take off for you as a filmer?
Not really. For the next two or three years I helped film Paul and I got a better camera. I filmed some stuff for a video magazine called Logic. I helped Paul film that part and I helped him get sponsored by City Stars and Axion. After that I stopped filming for a wile because I wasn't that into it because there wasn't much money in filming. In the meantime Paul kept doing his thing and got sponsored by Girl Skateboards.
We linked up again when he was 18 and I was 21 and Paul suggested that I move in with him and we just figure things out, so I did. Soon after we started working on a video called "Forecast." That video featured Mike Mo Capaldi and we finished it in 2005. The video did really well and "Forecast" was the first thing in my career that people began to take notice of.
So you weren't going to put the camera down at all from that point?
From that point, no. We chilled for a year and then started working on our next video "Proof," and in the meantime we started a website called Sk8site.com with Terry Kennedy. It went really well and we got notoriety out of it but it died around 2009 due to differences with one of the creators.
At that time though, being involved with Sk8site blew up my YouTube channel. The videos on the site were pushed through my YouTube channel, which we didn't do purposely but thank god it worked that way. I noticed my YouTube subscribers were up to 8,000 and we didn't try to make it that big, so that was kind of an accident. After "Proof" came out I started doing freelance jobs. I got lots of jobs from Mountain Dew, Gatorade and Nike and some jobs with other people in the industry.
Then I worked with the guys at Street League and they were the ones who told me that I should really start pushing my YouTube channel. Working for Street League was awesome. They were great guys and taught me a lot about being professional. Rob Dyrdek and Brian Atlas helped me a lot. Just the fact that they pushed me into doing what I'm doing now with YouTube, that's what I'm most thankful for.
How did taking their advice work out for you?
When I started working for Street League that's when I started getting a pretty decent-sized check from YouTube. I realized that if I really went hard with my YouTube channel that I could make more from YouTube than what I made from Street League. The difference wasn't that big, but it made me realize I had an opportunity to work for myself, which is way cooler than anything. After my first year with Street League I saved enough money to put all my time and energy into my YouTube channel.
Before I would go out when I had free time on the weekend and I'd film something then upload it. I'd get 5000 views and that would be cool. Instead I started to upload something everyday and those videos would also get 5000 views and my subscriber numbers exploded because they realized I was posting something everyday. It came off more as a TV station and it changed the paradigm of what a YouTube channel could be. I went from 7000 subscribers to 25,000 subscribers in two months. After that it just kept growing because I understood the more work I put in, the more money I made. Now I'm up to 116,000 subscribers and it's my full time job. It's all I want to do. I turn down jobs all the time because of my YouTube channel.
That's insane because a lot of people will say that YouTube ruined skateboarding.
It's pretty nuts. For a lot of people and a lot of companies I feel that it has but they have to realize that this is the time and the age that we live in and if they don't change with it then I'm sorry but this is the way it's going to be.
What are three things you would suggest to make it on YouTube through skateboarding?
It's really easy. The first thing is to put up good content. The second thing is to put it up every single day. The third thing is to blow it up through your Facebook page so it can spread all around the internet. If you can do all three of those things you're going to do really well.
How did your accessory company, Markisa come to be?
Markisa came about from my good friend Jason Wakuzawa who came to me first and said "I really think we could do an accessory company. If we do wallets, there's not really a company that sells accessories, so we could have a huge team and do awesome things with it." The two of us and Paul decided that it was a great idea and we started Markisa Co. Markisa is actually all three of our middle names put together. "Mar" is from Paul's middle name which is Martin. "Ki" is from my middle name which is Kedar, even though it's spelled differently, it makes sense because it sounds the same. "Sa" is from Jason's middle name Sakai.