“I would like you to cast your mind back to the 4th century AD…”
Willie Gevertz is an expat-New Yorker with a flair for the arts. Via Bosnia, South Africa, Australia, and the UK he’s now settled in a small village on the Danube in Hungary with his wife Alexa.
For the past few years he has also run a successful history/travel YouTube channel with over 10,000 subscribers.
We stumbled across WithWillie in the dark days of the pandemic – when the closest thing we could get to a weekend away was a few hours curled up on the sofa with a travel vlogger in Eastern Europe.
We were immediately sucked in by his deep knowledge of the history and culture of Hungary – his videos not only took us to far flung places, but also far flung times as well.
We recently got in touch with Willie – to learn a bit more about his work, and how he thinks brands can learn from his journey…
Hook Research: How do you describe what you are doing with WithWillie?
Willie Gevertz: I am a multi-media artist who uses a variety of different mediums in an attempt to capture what is going on in the world around me.
I would say the most powerful tools I have at my disposal are the camera, my pen and my voice and I try to use a combination of all of them to deliver a message to my audience.
All of these skills are self taught and not things that I had any experience doing before 2016 or so. My creative efforts grew from making short Snapchat videos for my friends while I was exploring Europe while studying in London for my masters degree in 2016.
What began as a hobby has now turned into a profession of sorts.
Although there is no defined road map for where I should go with these creative talents, I enjoy the challenge of seeing where they lead me.
“I would say the most powerful tools I have at my disposal are the camera, my pen and my voice and I try to use a combination of all of them to deliver a message to my audience”
My ultimate mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire, and hopefully become masterful enough to leave behind some works that future generations can look back on in an attempt to better understand what was going on in our crazy age. Every generation needs to have its own artistic canon that is left behind as a time capsule, and I strive to be part of that legacy.
HR: You talk a lot about language and poetry in your videos – something that not many people have a passion for. In your opinion, why is poetry an important topic for us to still be thinking and talking about in 2022?
WG: When I first started posting consistently on Instagram back in 2016 the way that I captured my audiences attention was through poetry. It was a skill I never knew really existed in me and the rhymes and words just sort of flowed out of my fingers.
As I began to recognize this skill and received positive feedback for my work, I began to take notice of just how important poetry was towards world culture and civilizational history.
A lot of people think of poetry as verses on a page, but true poetry, in my opinion, is an auditory experience. That is why I try to infuse all of my work poetically.
Moreover, living in Europe, and in particular Hungary, has given me a greater appreciation for how powerful a role poetry can take in defining and spreading the collective soul of a language amongst those who speak it.
In Hungary the streets and statues and buildings are more often than not a tribute to poets. That is because lingustic survival has been so dependent on the power of poems.
I think that poetry is still important today whether it is appreciated to the extent that it has been in the past or not. Perhaps the poet is not as valued of a role, at least not in the conventional image of the word. But those who live poetically will always be treasured by society at some point. Perhaps sometimes it just takes a few generations to properly appreciate who exactly those figures were.
In my opinion, poetry is a way of life and those who live poetically – who strive to capture the beauty and the truth – will always have a valuable place in the world, even if that value is only properly understood in retrospect.
The true poet doesn’t care about applause, they care about the truth.
HR: As an influencer, you’ve had to learn how to market yourself online – do you think there’s anything that brands (or up-and-coming influencers) could learn from your experiences?
WG: Yes and no. The success of my marketing has been mostly because I have not marketed myself. At least not in the typical manner.
I haven’t really taken any sponsorship opportunities, nor have I sought them out, and I think that has allowed my audience to relate to my work a lot more, in the sense that I have not tried to sell them anything. That being said, I am trying to make a living from my work for myself and my family going forward, and will be actively seeking sponsorship in the year to come.
I have learned a ton of lessons about how to gain traction on social media and most of them have to do with having an authentic message and being enthusiastic about what you are doing.
Enthusiasm and passion are the most compelling things that a person can have, especially in the competitive digital market of today.
“Enthusiasm and passion are the most compelling things that a person can have, especially in the competitive digital market of today”
Obviously there are tricks and shortcuts to getting noticed – the most obvious example being physical attractiveness or going for shock factor. And that will always be the case – but even for those who rely on such crutches, there needs to be some substance behind the veil. Without substance the creator doesn’t really make art, they just make an advertisement.
So far the ‘marketing’ I have been most proud of was during the most acute phase of the refugee crisis at the beginning of the Ukrainian war. We were able to raise over 30,000 dollars in three weeks to help out the refugees from over 500 individual donors.
That instance showed me the truest and most meaningful power of social media.
Those who wish to be an influencer, should do well to remember that influence means nothing without a genuine community.
As far as I am concerned the best way to ‘influence’ is to be enthusiastic about a genuine passion and build a community through repetition, consistency and authenticity.
Talent is important of course, but talent is just a tool. The end product is emotion. And that is the so-called influencers job; to create an emotional transformation in those who they allegedly influence.
“Those who wish to be an influencer, should do well to remember that influence means nothing without a genuine community.”
But again, I don’t consider myself an influencer, I consider myself to be an artist who is able to influence with his work.
HR: What next for you and WithWillie?
WG: I would consider myself to be a pretty late stage creative in terms of my artistic journey.
I studied political science and did a master’s in political science and played football (soccer) my whole life. Growing up I barely believed I had a creative bone in my body. I knew I was energetic and had some sort of raw charisma that people related to, but never in a million years thought that I would be able to represent that with artistic production.
My story took a bit of a turn when I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2012. After five years of taking prescription amphetamines, I began to create fledgling attempts at art. But still, I never would have considered myself to be an artist.
In 2018 I quit those drugs and that is when I began to appreciate and value my merits as a creative. I no longer thought of ADHD as a diagnoses and began to see it as more of a superpower. I would say that the past 5 years have involved me throwing as many darts at the board as possible to try and fit the previous 25 years of subconscious artistic development into a hyper charged 5 year period of conscious manifestation.
As I head into my thirties I want to take all of these lessons to try and make something truly worthy. My somewhat manic and sometimes controlled productive passions have given my the blessing of an audience and a platform from which to speak.
“Education, entertainment, inspiration. That is what I will spend my life doing”
But, I would like to reach a more global audience. So that is what I would say is next for ‘withwillie’: to create something more compelling than a personal brand. I am striving to build something that can spread a global message and inspire as many people as possible.
I wouldn’t say that I aim to ‘change the world’, instead I want to say that I would like to capture our world as truthfully as possible and motivate others to do the same.
Fostering beneficial cross cultural communication is an incredibly important task, and I would never be arrogant enough to believe that I am the only one who is able to do such an important task. I am merely one link, and I will do everything possible to make sure that my link is as strong as possible.
Now, I want to connect with global chains and make sure that our age, our generation, our society is one that is worth looking back on and appreciating one day.
Education, entertainment, inspiration. That is what I will spend my life doing.
A huge thanks to Willie for taking the time to speak with us! You can learn more about Willie and his work by checking out his YouTube page, Website, and social handles (Facebook & Instagram: @withwillie)
For more insights like this, you should check out the rest of Hook’s Creator Conversation series – the CMO of Fandom share her thoughts on how to build compelling communities around content; we speak with a mixed-media artist about creating engaging experiences for consumers; or how YouTube can be used to distribute content for younger audiences.