Jethro Ames uses the camera on his smartphone to take six- second videos on Vine. He's produced clips for various companies like GE Appliances and MTV.
Try telling a story in six seconds. With the social media app Vine, owned by Twitter, users are doing just that. They're creating everything from artistic pieces to random comedy sketches in six-second videos that loop endlessly.
Nicholas Megalis, a 24-year-old songwriter living in Brooklyn, recorded himself rapping as he pulled out a wallet full of gummy worms. The video titled "Gummy Money" has since become one of the most popular posts on the app, which launched in January.
"It's the most magical and ridiculous thing in my life," Megalis says.
Users simply press and hold their phone's screen to record and upload the videos to their account on the app.
"It's people sharing their lives and it's you entering somebody's mind through their phone. That's exciting to me," Megalis says. "That's why I do it."
With over 2 million followers, Megalis has become a famous user in the Vine community. Companies like Virgin Mobile see people with that kind of following as a potential venue for viral marketing. Virgin Mobile now collaborates with Viners to promote its brand through contests and product placement, says company marketing director Ron Faris.
"Vines, when you play them they auto repeat," he says. "Having someone sit through a Vine three times to see the beat of the message three times, that's frequency for us. That's worth something."
Faris doesn't anticipate Vines replacing TV and magazine ads anytime soon, but using the app is becoming a new way to reach a younger market.
"It's flirting," he says. "You're flirting with your prospect and it's as transient as the passing bus that has an ad for a summer blockbuster that captures your attention and then it leaves."
Don't underestimate these quick clips though. Some users are so in-demand they have their own agents, like 25-year-old Jordan Burt. He and his friend KC James are in Dana Point, Calif., finishing up their latest Vine.
James records himself walking in on Burt watching The Notebook on his laptop. After an hour of retakes, Burt uploads the recording to his page and feedback is instant.
"We're at eight minutes and it's at 1,023 'likes' so that's good," he says. "That means it's doing well."
For Burt, it's another successful Vine shared with his one million followers. But the app isn't all comedy.
In a quiet San Diego neighborhood, Jethro Ames is storyboarding his next video in a makeshift studio. He's sitting on the couch in his family room "and my studio is on my coffee table," he says.
He's an art director at a local ad agency, but Vines on the side. He's produced clips for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and GE Appliances. Now he's working on a stop-motion video for MTV inspired by a Snoop Lion song titled "No Guns Allowed." This one will take him all night, Ames says.
"I just don't sleep much," he says and laughs.
Ames only Vines after he puts his kids to bed, he says. But he doesn't seem to mind his new work schedule.
"It's nice to have the side money," he says. "I'm using this money to take the family to Hawaii."
Business is picking up this month too. Ames will Vine for a health and beauty brand and a Fortune 500 company.
"I know how to tell a story in six seconds. Brands are interested in people who can tell a good story within that format," he says.
Ron Faris from Virgin Mobile agrees. Stories shared on the app are what get people talking, he says.
"Vine is no different than Twitter, is no different from Facebook, is no different from Instagram. They're all water coolers," he says. "The more you're able to contribute to that community, the more that community will learn to consider your products and services especially if they've never heard of you before."
Of course, Vine isn't the perfect platform for all brands. Scroll through the popular Vines and you'll wonder how certain users have so many followers. Lots of videos are downright embarrassing. But some are as much art as they are advertisement. For those who have mastered the six-second story, they're just getting started.