Claudia Sulewski on Making the Transition From YouTube to Film: ‘It Won’t Be This Immediate Switch’

Since launching her YouTube channel in 2009, Claudia Sulewski has taken the digital world by storm.

At 18, the then-beauty vlogger was named the host of Teen Vogue’s official YouTube channel in 2015. Since then, she’s transitioned into acting.

Sulewski recently landed her biggest acting role to date, playing Becca in writer-director James Morosini’s “I Love My Dad,” starring Patton Oswalt and Lil Rel Howery. Oswalt’s character impersonates Becca online in order to get the details of his depressed, isolated son’s life. Things begin to spiral when his son falls for Becca and wants to meet in person. The film is set to premiere next year.

As the lines between digital, social and traditional media continue to blur, more content creators are crossing over into mainstream Hollywood. Influencers such as Addison Rae, who just starred in Netflix’s gender-swapped remake “He’s All That” and signed a film deal with the streaming giant; JoJo Siwa, whose movie “The J Team” premiered on Paramount Plus earlier this month and who will be appearing on “Dancing With the Stars” alongside fellow YouTuber Olivia Jade; and Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, who have their own Hulu reality series, have made the leap to Hollywood.

In an interview with Variety, Sulewski opens up about her YouTube roots, the transition into acting and what it means for the creator economy.

How did you land in the digital space?

I stumbled upon the creator space on YouTube back in 2009 when I was 13. No one had turned it into a career move; it certainly felt like this dorky hobby that I kept a secret for a long time.

How did it lead to acting?

I’ve always had so much respect for the art and the industry, and I sort of felt like, “Who am I? This YouTube digital internet girl who spent her hours editing videos vs. being in theater or taking any classes when I was younger.” I was very lucky to book my first Hulu series [“The Commute”] back in 2015, and that’s when I got hit with the acting bug. When “I Love My Dad” came around, I felt really ready, and I really felt like, “Okay I got this, I earned this, I’m excited for this and I want to be proud of this, and it was all of those things.”

Is it true that you got the role the day before?

Yeah! Chaos!

What was going on in your mind?

Girl, I think I blacked out. My first feeling was, “I’m in shock, I can’t believe this. Oh my gosh, my dog is gonna think I died, I’m leaving for six weeks.” I think it was a combination of just being in shock, excited, sad and realizing, “Oh my God, I need to pack.”

What was it like giving up the control and independence digital creators have?

I think because I’ve been doing YouTube for so long, I forget how much creative control I have in every aspect of it. I think that was the thing that intrigued me so much about acting — you have to kind of let go and trust the process and trust the team around you.

“I Love My Dad” tackles mental health issues, and you talk a lot about mental health on your channel. How’s your journey so far?

It’s been very, of course, scary, but really rewarding. The feedback and the comments clearly just storm up such an intimate conversation within my community. There’s something sexy about being intimate and vulnerable.

What’s the transition from digital to film look like?

I’m always trying to go with the flow with my seasons of life. My feeling is it won’t be this immediate switch transition.

How do you identify yourself in this industry?

The word I think of is storyteller. I think whether that be my own personal intimate stories or stories that I get to share through someone else’s eyes and writing, that’s kinda where I see it. Every single platform is just a tool, so it’s up to you how you use it.

You’re in a relationship with musician Finneas, what’s it like seeing the digital world, acting world and now music world? Any similarities? Differences?

It’s really fun having a partner that is so heavily involved in music because there’s so much about our creative process that feels so similar. I watch him produce and it looks just like my editing process. It’s fun and encouraging to be dating someone who is so different, but somehow there is that same kind of language.

What advice do you have for those wanting to make it in this industry?

Being true to yourself and your message and what you believe and your values — that will make you stand out the most. You can definitely be the second best version of somebody else, but you can be the best version of you. It’s all about consistency. I think that is truly what has disciplined me in every single avenue: consistency teaches you so much about how you work, your patterns and habits, and how deeply you want to get into your work.

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