On camera, Lucas Kult-Banout is anything but shy. He’s chatty, personable and unafraid to open up.
In his latest YouTube video, Kult-Banout, 17, captures the tail end of his high school’s homecoming week, stringing together the highlights from the fall spirit assembly, the football game and the dance. But it’s all the scenes in between – the parts when Kult-Banout faced the camera and showed himself getting ready for the dance – that make the minutes-long video fun, endearing and relatable.
“The thing that’s super annoying about being a teenager is shaving,” he admitted, as he stood inside his bathroom, grazing his hand over his chin. “If you wait long enough, the tiny, little bits of random facial hair are noticeable. They look super bad.”
With close-ups like those, it’s hard to imagine Kult-Banout as an introvert, someone who needed time and practice to get comfortable in front of the camera.
“It’s really interesting. In some of those initial videos, I just noticed,” said Kult-Banout, a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, how uneasy he was recording himself at first. “I don’t know if it was maybe a lack of self-confidence and also caring what other people think. There’s video clips of me just vlogging super awkwardly in public.”
Kult-Banout said he picked up his mother’s old camera almost five years ago and played around with it. He started taking pictures, first of his little brother, and messing with the camera settings. He became curious – even obsessed – with using the camera to unlock creative possibilities and learn about the world around him.
“That initial phase was just experimenting and having fun and was really important as a foundation – just falling in love with taking photos,” he said.
From there, Kult-Banout continued to explore. He began filming himself at home, talking about photography, and uploaded them to YouTube. He created videos, offering quick-fire photo and video hacks, listing budget-friendly equipment and walking through his own creative process. But somewhere down the line, Kult-Banout said he sought to take a step further.
He enjoyed watching other creatives on social media who filmed moments of their lives and felt inspired to do the same. The choice became clear to Kult-Banout: He wanted to go for it.
That kind of attitude and mentality is important, especially for creatives. Last month, Kult-Banout released a video titled, “A Day in the Life at an American Public High School.” That video was Kult-Banout’s first viral video, garnering over 5,400 views on YouTube. Like his homecoming video, Kult-Banout captured his school day from start to finish.
From eating breakfast to racing to class and hanging out with friends during lunch, Kult-Banout packed his long day into an 11-minute video. There are moments weaved throughout the video showing teens being teens. Like when Kult-Banout’s friends make fun of the music blaring from the PA system during passing periods, or when other Kult-Banout’s classmates ask him if his video will be featured on YouTube, shout out their own social media accounts or pose for the camera.
“I enjoyed the fun, spontaneous interactions I had with people while doing that. People react in a really funny way,” he said. “When they see a camera, they get excited and so hyped up, and I think that’s really fun, dynamic – that just watching the video clips, you see that. And it speaks to our generation and what we think of as cool and [exciting].”
Apart from creating content for his YouTube channel, Kult-Banout has also focused on building his photography portfolio. He recently scored an opportunity to photograph former presidential and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang on the campaign trail for New York mayor last summer in New York City.
Kult-Banout said he mostly finds work through social media, cold-calling potential clients and just applying. With Yang’s campaign, Kult-Banout said he sent “out a lot of emails” and even made a video proposal to “stand out a little bit more.”
“It was a lot of just waiting and being persistent, and there was a month, I think, there was just radio silence,” Kult-Banout said. “I was like, ‘OK,’ I just moved on. ‘It is what it is.’ And, then I don’t know, somehow I got an email [from Yang’s team].”
On Kult-Banout’s Instagram account, there are photos of Yang in a crisp collared shirt and dark suit, surrounded by people of different ages or amidst the chaos of media photographers. And, when Kult-Banout thought about that experience, he summed it up simply: “It was a crazy, new experience to me, and everything was new to me. Everything was a learning process [like] how to take the subway – which I failed at a couple of times – and how there’s a learning curve on the photography side of things, too, [and] how to get the shot.”
As Kult-Banout spoke more about his creative work, he also talked about his growing visibility on social media. He has found more and more people recognizing him, especially around the school and community.
“It’s really weird,” he said, laughing. “This is all very recent from making that one video. Like it would happen before, but in a much smaller circle of people that I knew.”
In his everyday life, Kult-Banout said he likes to run, read and do normal things like every other teen. In September, he dropped another video, advocating taking breaks from social media and less screen time. In that video, he remained candid about the constant pressure to create, to do, to post and to be, all of which takes the joy out of living.
For Kult-Banout, his work is part of an expression, and he is determined to keep it that way.
“Just go for it,” Kult-Banout said as a piece of advice for anyone else who might be interested in being a content creator. “… Don’t overthink it. Have fun with it. Go for it and include your friends in the process. That’s always fun. Just chase whatever dreams or goals you have.”