Gavin Free used to spend hours a day posting on the forums for Rooster Teeth, a production company that creates online entertainment. By uploading his own videos and frequently commenting, he became one of the most followed users on the site.
Millions of YouTube followers, several shows and a couple of feature-length films later, he's turned his fandom into a career.
Free now works for Rooster Teeth, directing and starring in projects for the company. His most famous work is "The Slow Mo Guys," a YouTube channel dedicated to filming things in slow motion. Its videos have been viewed over 1 billion times, and the channel currently has 9.7 million subscribers.
Far from his hometown of Oxfordshire, England, where Free was a high-speed camera operator working on commercials and movies, Free now lives in Austin, Texas.
"I used to shoot everything in England, where everything was cloudy and rainy," said Free. "Now I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt in the middle of November. The weather is great, and the people are chill."
Free is a member of Rooster Teeth's Achievement Hunter gaming division and stars in its "Lazer Team" film series. The first in the series was released in 2015 and raised almost $2.5 million on Indiegogo, making it the platform's most successful fundraiser for a film. The sequel -- "Lazer Team 2" -- recently had a limited theatrical release on Nov. 13, and was available on YouTube Red on Wednesday.
Free first heard of Rooster Teeth in 2003 through its science-fiction series "Red vs. Blue," which puts voices on top of footage from the "Halo" video game franchise to create new storylines. Free eventually became one of the most followed users on the website and caught the eye of Rooster Teeth executives.
"It was a slow buildup over so many years," Free said. "It was very flattering to be noticed. But that's one of the great things about online content. You have that direct relationship with the people you watch."
Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns, the company's chief creative officer, met Free at a New York screening in 2005, and asked him to direct the seventh season of "Red vs. Blue."
"Some of our best hires have been fans from the community site," Burns said. "They understood what we were doing and they had already come to appreciate it. Those two things made it very easy for us to work with people who were a part of the community."
Directing one of his favorite shows was "extremely surreal," Free said. He enjoyed the experience so much he wanted to work for Rooster Teeth full-time. However, there was one major holdup: he needed a U.S. work visa.
So he decided to start a YouTube channel.
He launched the Slow Mo Guys channel in 2010 with his friend Daniel Gruchy. The title is literal. For context, one 5.1-second video of glass exploding made up 19.5 hours of footage. The channel's popularity skyrocketed so fast Free was able to qualify for a visa by 2012.
Free is now working on "The Super Slow Show," which keeps the slow-motion theme but with a bigger budget. He also continues to post monthly for "The Slow Mo Guys," and works on a number of Rooster Teeth projects.
He is one of the regular hosts on the RT Podcast and stars in some game shows.
"Do what you enjoy doing," Free said. "If it immediately feels like a chore, don't do it. You want to be excited to wake up and do it."