Friends since elementary school, James Phyrillas and Christopher Schaffer created a YouTube channel after taking a digital media class together at Antietam Middle Senior High in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The pair never intended for others to watch their videos — they were only using it as a place to upload their videos for storage.
Now, Phyrillas and Schaffer are the creators Schaffrillas Productions, an entertainment-focused YouTube channel with videos garnering up to five million views. Titled after a mash-up of the producers’ names, Schaffrillas’ videos cover a variety of topics from live-action recreations to comedic movie reviews.
“If I had known the channel would be successful, I would have fixed it to something easier to spell,” said Phyrillas, a senior economics major.
After five years, the channel has more than 600,000 subscribers.
Their first video to gain popularity was a live-action reenactment of a SpongeBob SquarePants episode they originally produced for a class after finding the script online. It took four months to film, and after uploading it in 2015, it got 500,000 views.
“It started to become interesting to be working at a grocery store and someone comes up and be like ‘Hey, you’re Patrick from the SpongeBob live-action thing, right?’” said Schaffer, 22. “I don’t know why it was a hit, but people just liked it.”
The pair uploaded more live-action videos based on trending topics, like Disney movie reviews. Their videos frequently analyze fandoms, like Star Wars and Marvel, as well as cartoons.
“My favorite part about it is probably just getting messages from all sorts of people who like say how much my video really moved them or like made them laugh,” Phyrillas said. “It just like makes me really happy that they’d like something I wrote.”
The channel secured sponsorships with Skillshare and Squarespace last year and now have made profits up to $300 per video, Schaffer said.
Joe Magro, a senior film and media arts major was impressed with the channel’s movie reviews. He found the channel as a way to see another voice of film criticism from somebody who wasn’t from a large media corporation, he said.
“All of these famous YouTubers, they have a lot of negative reviews of these films and [Phyrillas] put a positive spin on a lot of these films, making it a very enjoyable experience,” Magro said.
Magro then recommended the channel to his friend William Lewis, a senior media studies and production major, in 2017.
When watching one of the channel’s videos, “Why Shrek Forever After is an Underrated Gem,” Magro recognized Main Campus in a musical number scene.
“He’s through the sky tunnel between the Fox School of Business, so I texted [Lewis] and I was like ‘Hey this guy goes to Temple,’” Magro said.
Soon after, Lewis posted a screenshot of the video on Temple’s Reddit page, Phyrillas responded and the three of them met. Magro and Lewis admire how Phyrillas balances creating videos and being a full-time student, they said.
“I’m very proud that he is from here,” Lewis said. “Owls like to support other Owls, so it’s very inspiring.”
The best part of creating the channel is the dynamic between him and Phyrillas, Schaffer said.
“It’s one of those odd success stories you hear, you know like two best friends come together and do something and after that it spiraled out of control,” he added. “We are still the best of friends, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.”