OCEANSIDE — If you are one of tens of millions of viewers who have seen the light saber-armed Jedi Kitten on YouTube, then you are familiar with the video shorts of Zach King and Aaron Benitez.
It was the first post that put the pair of student filmmakers on the viral video map.
“We got a million hits the first day,” King said. “We woke up.”
The two college buddies have been at it for more than two years. They have 300,000 subscribers, 71 million viewers and have appeared on “Good Morning America,” “20/20” and “Good Morning Australia” to talk about their work.
King and Benitez, both 23, each earned a bachelor of arts degree in cinema media arts from Biola University this year.
To kick off their summer they packed two cameras, two laptops, several hard drives, and a few changes of clothes and took off on a U.S. tour July 14 to meet fans and make video shorts with them.
An online post announced their trip and asked if anyone would like to meet up, make a video short, or host them overnight. Fans’ replies mapped out their route for a 35-city tour.
The planned road trip still holds a lot of uncertainties.
“In every city we don’t know if we have hosting until the day of,” King said. “We’re playing it by faith.”
From Los Angeles, Oceanside was the first stop to meet up with movie enthusiast Christopher Amparo and film a short. No film plans beyond the confirmed meet up were made.
Upon their arrival, Amparo showed King and Benitez around the family home he shares with his parents, the three held a brainstorming session to come up with the film plot, Amparo dressed in a self-made “Ghostbusters” costume he wanted to feature in the film, and shooting began.
In the action-packed short the three attend Ghostbusters class.
“Everything explodes in the house,” King said.
Behind the scenes the acting got so involved a fall put a hole in the wall. King said he felt very bad about it especially because it was such a well-appointed home.
“This video we shot in less than three hours,” King said. “It takes the two of us 15 hours to edit. Compared to other directors we’re pretty fast.”
Back in the car after two days in Oceanside, King and Benitez took turns driving while the other edited.
King said carsickness is not a problem while editing in a moving vehicle as long as the roads are straight.
King and Benitez divide the filmmaking work of shooting, directing and editing, with King doing more of the directing and Benitez taking on more of the complicated effects work.
After a brief stop in San Diego the next stop for the filmmakers will be Fort Worth, Texas, where they plan to film a western.
Then it’s onto Boston, Detroit and Chicago before they loop back to Los Angelos via Kansa City, Denver, Seattle and Portland.
King said they drive between four and 14 hours a day.
Two stops King said he is especially looking forward to are face-to-face meetings with a composer in Atlanta and sound effects guy in South Carolina who they have collaborated with online for two years.
King added that each stop is memorable. Fans who requested meet ups and volunteered to host them have treated them like family.
During the first week of their tour they have been put up in guest rooms or slept on the host family’s couch.
“We’re definitely not sleeping in the car yet,” King said.
The end product of the U.S. tour will be new shorts and behind-the-scenes footage of the trip.
King said it would take about two weeks after filming to post new shorts while they are on the road.
After the five-week U.S. road trip the two filmmakers plan to take a worldwide tour in spring. Exact plans have not been made, but another online post will alert fans and help them set their route.
For now, King said they are enjoying the moment.
Updates on their trip can be found on youtube.com/FinalCutKing