If you recall a YouTube video in which a man, after being ticketed for riding outside the bicycle lane, crashes his two-wheeler into trash cans, cones, and taxicabs, then you’ve been exposed to Casey Neistat’s brand of rebel filmmaking.
Since dropping out of high school at age 15, the 33-year-old creator of several popular short films and ads, as well as the HBO series The Neistat Brothers, hasn’t looked back. “Film school has its virtues,” he says, “but for me, not knowing the ‘right’ way forced me to find my own path.”
Perhaps the piece most illustrative of Neistat’s organic approach to media is the ad he created for the Nike FuelBand as part of the company’s 2012 “Make It Count” campaign. When Nike provided Neistat with a budget, he traveled the world until the money ran out. Upon his return, he cut 10 days’ worth of experiences into a video journal. While it wasn’t what Nike saw coming, after three days the video had 5 million hits on YouTube.
“Telling stories from my life comes naturally because I don’t have to search for a narrative,” Neistat says. “I’ve lived it.” Last year, 21st Century Fox gave him $25,000 to shoot a “Live Your Dreams” promotion for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This time, Neistat traveled to the Philippines and used the studio’s money to lead a typhoon-relief effort, delivering 10,000 meals and tools to 35 villages—which ended up being a perfect fit for the movie’s day-dreamer-turned-adventurer theme.
Earlier this year, J.Crew tasked Neistat with test-driving the wrinkleresistant Ludlow Traveler suit. The result: a short film that follows Neistat as he travels to California and Mexico, surfing, snowboarding, and fixing a motorcycle flat—all while sporting the J.Crew suit. Chris Giblin
FIT FACT: “I run 50–70 miles a week and lift five or six days,” says Neistat. “It’s my time.”