How Renegade Filmmaker Casey Neistat Breaks Rules, Reinvents Himself, and Gets Thanked For It (#116)

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” – Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat (@caseyneistat) is a New York-based filmmaker. His online films have been viewed nearly 300,000,000 times in the last 5 years.

He is the writer, director, editor, and star of the series The Neistat Brothers on HBO and won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards for the film Daddy Long Legs. His main body of work consists of dozens of short films he has released exclusively on the Internet, including regular contributions to the New York Times critically acclaimed Op-Docs series. He is also the founder of Beme, a startup aiming to make creating and sharing video dead simple.

Casey is excellent at breaking every rule imaginable and having people (fans, sponsors, big brands, etc.) thank him for it. In this conversation, we dig into his history, techniques, influences, habits, and more…

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#116: How Casey Neistat Gets Away With Murder

Want to hear another podcast with another award-winning movie maker? — Listen to my conversations with Robert Rodriguez. In this episode, we discuss the making of From Dusk ’till Dawn, Sin City, and what it means to be the “Wizard” of Hollywood (stream below or right-click here to download):

How Renegade Filmmaker Casey Neistat Breaks Rules, Reinvents Himself, and Gets Thanked For It (#116)


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Casey is breaking the mold for what it means to be a filmmaker. Who are your favorite entertainers, artists, or entrepreneurs who are breaking the mold? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

  • Here are a few articles about Casey:

Get Away with Murder | Teen Welfare Dad |

Cannon 70d | Sony RX-100

Mr. Ben Brown | Fun For Louis

  • Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech, Make Good Art
  • Casey’s favorite movies:

Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (IMDb) | Little Dieter Needs to Fly (IMDb)

  • Casey’s running playlist, Jonny Famous
  • Connect with Casey Neistat:

Subscribe to Casey on YouTube | Draw My Life | Beme | Twitter

Show Notes

  • On the challenges of working in New York City [2:20]
  • How Casey Neistat grew up [3:45]
  • The story of Bike Lanes [7:50]
  • How Casey Neistat responds when people ask, “what do you do?” [13:45]
  • The story behind Make It Count [15:05]
  • Casey’s pitch to Nike for the Make It Count video [18:05]
  • Suggestions for packing [23:15]
  • Thoughts on post production software [25:05]
  • Where novice YouTubers waste the most time [26:50]
  • Thoughts on how to be successful with YouTube [30:15]
  • On the decision to make a daily vlog [34:40]
  • The importance of devoting time to communicating with your audience [39:00]
  • The story behind Casey’s first paid gig in the entertainment business [40:30]
  • When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why? [44:40]
  • Who makes Casey Neistat feel star-struck? [50:10]
  • Tips on developing the ability to be well-spoken [54:40]
  • Rapid fire questions: Most gifted books, best purchase of $100 or less, and favorite vloggers [1:01:05]
  • Common misconceptions [1:07:25]
  • On how to say, “no” [1:09:20]
  • What is a belief that you have that many people may think is crazy? [1:12:00]
  • The thinking behind Beme [1:15:00]
  • Top films that may not have been fully appreciated [1:20:50]
  • If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:23:55]
  • An ask/suggestion for the audience [1:28:15]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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61 Replies to “How Renegade Filmmaker Casey Neistat Breaks Rules, Reinvents Himself, and Gets Thanked For It (#116)”

  1. Huge Jay Z fan Tim. Saw him on Kimmel the other night. It made me think; this guy was dealing drugs as a kid and teen, then he becomes a popular rapper, then he opens so many businesses it’s not even funny. Owned some of the Nets, now an agent. I admire his hustle. He’s broken the ex rapper mold for sure because although a few rappers have been successful entrepreneurs he brought it up to another level.


    1. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

      ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

      Just kidding 😉


  2. You really need to have Emily Fletcher of Ziva Meditation on your podcast. Everyone I know is hoping for you to do. She will be one of your most listened to and popular podcasts by far! Tim! What are you waiting for??? 🙂

    1. Aaack.

      Emily is a beautiful nightmare. Her core teachings are simply false. Meditation, for a few thousand years, was, and remains, about stopping the mind/body complex completely.

      I can sometimes stop my mind from thinking and my body from feeling with a command. Proof enough that it can be done.

      I don’t object to her emphasis on easier approaches but her ignorance is inexcusable.

  3. I love the direction that you’re going in with the podcast. Thank you for the consistently good work.

    I’d greatly appreciate a deeper analysis into traits, worldviews, experiences, etc. that your guests had before they became “successful”.

    I understand that you want to draw advice on what works from your guests. But, I would like to gain some more insight on identifying the traits of people that will eventually become successful but are not successful yet. When you’re in your 20s or 30s, even, it’s very difficult to differentiate between the apparent trajectory of success and the actual trajectory of success. e.g., the teen dad washing dishes to make movies (Neistat), the rock climber living out of a Subaru for 7 years (Chin) or that immigrant body building construction worker (Swarzeneggar). No one is betting on those kids…

    I realize that the definition of success and level of passion are important here but you can’t just say, “follow your passion” or is it that simple? What do these people have innately or do in their “youth” that end up making them successful professionally, financially, spiritually, etc. later in life?


    1. I totally agree. I made a similar comment on the last blogs shownotes, that it would be good to hear what the guests first 60-90 minutes looked like while they were working to get to where they are now, possibly alongside a 9-5 job, etc. Pleased others are interested to hear similar questions asked.

  4. For me Angelina Jolie is a woman who broke the mold and became an entirely giver to poors and helped deminishing proverty.

  5. Loved the episode, great stuff. I have just ordered the Paul Arden book, which I am looking forward to reading.

    It’s interesting hear Casey asked about people getting started as a Vlogger. He seems reluctant to give a lot of advice and that seems to stem from being hugely pissed off at people trying to copy what he does. Which I guess is fair enough.

    As for the question Tim. It has to be Laird Hamilton. I have watched a bunch of interviews and documentaries on him since your Podcast first introduced me to the gun-slinger. He has an exceptional outlook on life, work and innovation that has given me a lot of inspiration. And there is no doubting he breaks the mould.

    So thanks for that episode, and this one with Casey. I looked his videos up and ended up watching a ton of them. They are like crack!

    ps, any chance of getting Mark Cuban on here? I’ve seen a lot of interview with him, but they seem to come up short. He needs the Tim Ferriss treatment!

  6. This is quite off topic, but I can take a person into a spiritual experience by hugging them. It also has some unusual after effects on the person. It sounds very hippy, but my husband is a computational neuroscientist as says he can’t explain what I do, but sees it work. I would love to share this with you if you’re keen.

  7. Excellent episode! There were several times when it started to get emotional there, tugging at the heart strings a bit. Referring to his grandmother passing away and also when he mentioned Malcolm X. Casey, you’re a good man, brother. Your honesty and candor are very much appreciated and something to live up to. Thank you Tim for this great episode, as always. And I think the frequency of these podcasts is perfect. JKMF. Just keep moving forward.

  8. Great interview. Tim, with respect to Casey, he couldn’t be more wrong about FCP X. It’s leagues ahead of the usual suspects (Avid/Premiere etc) in many respects, and it’s certainly superior to FCP 7. Definitely give it a look if you ever explore video. All the best

  9. Hi! Could you offer different email subscriptions? I’m a huge fan of everything you do and read it all, but I’m already subscribed to your podcast on iTunes and get everything automatically.

    It feels counterintuitive receiving emails about the podcast, and just clutters my email, especially when you thought me to use it much less. Other things like 5 bullet Friday are really good, but I can’t choose only those.

  10. Bill Simmons! He has been breaking the mold for sports writing for years and now has one of the most popular sports podcasts. I think he’d be a great show guest.

  11. Casey may be excellent at breaking every rule imaginable, but that photo — replete with shades and a menagerie of stuffed animals — seems to make him eligible for the most excellent douche-bag award as well. Just saying.

    1. Just to clarify the photo. Here’s some background from reader Joel Dugdale (shortened here, as pulled from the Facebook discussion):

      “These animals represent the animal specimens that were collected over many research expeditions to the poles and throughout jungles etc. These were all donated to The Explorers Club, which is curated as a museum to the history of exploration.

      In general, there is very restricted access to this room in the building. I assure you that members of the club are not inspired to hunt fit ivory by these artifacts. In fact, many club members are at the forefront of research and conservation of these animals. Members include the likes of E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earl. Are you suggesting museums do not have the right to conserve pieces of history because the artifacts will make others want to own similar items? Using this reasoning, then we shouldn’t display any archeological artifacts either, since displaying these items will only make others want to loot archeological sites.

      The headquarters has many mantles in the building. One of the other mantles has a tusk from a woolly mammoth above it. These ‘trophies’ are all antiques with history attached to them, similar to the ivory artifacts that other institutions such as the Smithsonian curate and display.”

      Casey is a good guy, but I could understand the confusion based on the pic without context 🙂

      1. Glad you gave it context Tim. I nearly skipped listening to this episode because of it.

      2. Why give credence and validity to those who easily find offense to a photo? I agree with Casey’s philosophy. “Don’t listen to anyone but yourself.” You evidently believed the original photo belonged as the header for the podcast….so be it. No need to be apologetic about it or replace it.

        Why do individuals constantly feel they need to be spoon fed “context” in order to protect their own feelings? Their selfishness seems to know, no bounds.

        Supposedly educated people, demonstrating complete close minded ignorance by describing your guest as a “douche-bag” is also absurd. They demonstrate a less evolving mental capacity than the animals that were on the wall in the original picture.

        Enjoy the podcasts greatly Tim. Keep up the great work.

  12. Ohhhh, my stomach is turning as I look at Casey and all the gorgeous animals he’s killed. How sad. I really can’t listen to what this man has to say… actions speak louder than words and his actions tell me who he really is. I’m looking for positive influences, not this. Time for me to unsubscribe to this blog.

  13. Interviewing a movie producer and video editor, sponsored by Vimeo Pro, pretty let down there’s no video interview as an alternative to the normal audio piece.

  14. Tim, we LOVE what you do…you have inspired us to make our biz happen…have sent you letter and gifts and more to come.

    One tiny bit of a recommendation, humbly!…a photo of dead animals by hunters, does not look well on you either. Read the explanation of why the photo, but the first impression counts…and the first impression, in our head is: Tim likes people who hunt…supports hunting…You are the PERSON we love, and we know you don’t…but that first shocking moment is a huge message. You are a marketing guru, so you know…an image speaks a million words…I had to research until I found why you did it, others might not take the time.

    Apologies if this sounds not grateful…again…we believe and support you, so take this from a lover of your work, please, in the most positive way 🙂

    thank you for all that you do!


  15. Awesome episode! Casey has always been an inspiration. I don’t want to sound too flattering:) : although still the same old set of questions, the way and the timing Tim asks them has gotten so much better

  16. Fantastic info in every show!

    I’d love to hear you interview Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti about his line of mushroom medicinals & immune boosters.


  17. Tim,

    Another entertainer who constantly challenges the industry is Louie C.K. (bypassing the big ticket-selling companies for his live shows to reduce costs for his fans, the deal he struck with FX for his show “Louie,” etc). He is also an excellent interviewee…any conversation you can find on the line involving him is gold (surprisingly much of it hidden in the dribble that is the Opie and Anthony show).

  18. I REALLY hope those are not real animal carcasses he was sitting amidst in the email preview I received from you. If yes, then I am horrified.

  19. Tim mentioned in a recent podcast a documentary he watched that would discourage many from quitting a job, turning to the wilderness, and attempting to live off the land.

    I’ve searched recent show notes, but can’t find mention of it. Does anyone recall?

  20. Ha! I remember watching that prank he pulled on ‘ Good day, New York.’ The hosts name was Jody Applegate and she flipped the fuck out! I thought ” These guys are just trying to get publicity for some prank show they’re doing.” Funnier now that it was Mr. Niestat.

  21. I won’t forget this man’s name after what he did to my countrymen 2 years ago – asking 20th Century Fox to let him spend their $25K budget for a film ad to be donated to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) victims instead and personally delivered by him. What a great guy. Thanks for guesting him Tim. As for what he did, please watch –>

  22. Casey’s answer to the most successful person he could think of was my absolute favorite. His grandmother had a life well-lived!

  23. Hi Tim,

    Austin Kleon is a writer / artist in Austin, Texas and he is the author of Steal Like An Artist. He just released a notebook for daily ‘making’ and is a huge voice in encouraging creatives to produce and show their work consistently. Highly recommend he be on the show!

  24. Nice one Tim, absolutely love Casey after I stumbled across him just as he began doing his daily vlog. Been watching him ever since and the man is a breath of fresh air and an inspiration.

  25. QOTD- Derek Sivers on breaking the mold on what it means to be an entrepreneur. Don Wildman on breaking the mold on what it means to stay in shape past 70.

    Inbetweenisode idea – comfort challenges and how they can help convert ideas into reality. A.k.a get your ass in gear.

    Random observation – If you stare out as far as you can on a busy sidewalk, people will magically move out of your way. (minus those people whose backs are turned towards you)

  26. Why is everyone all of a sudden on the Casey bandwagon? I feel like this post is the same story youtube, wired, runnersworld and others are telling.

    1. Artist that is breaking all the rules: Misty Copeland. First African American Principal ballerina at ABT- re-defining what it means to be a dancer. Not waif thin and pretty, but a freakin’ power house. Definite embodiment of a dancer as an athlete of God.

  27. Thanks for changing the picture, Tim. As a vegan I didn’t like it and thinking of leaving the blog.

    I love your podcast from the very beginning and all of the superstars you have. 5 or 6 timeses a week would be perfect!!!

    But I’d like to listen to the story of some loser who becomes a winner. I’m not talking about people who always knew what their aim was (Arnold, for example) and always knew he would achieve it.

    I’m thinking of someone as Mark Wahlberg’s character at The Fighter: a person trying to be successful, failing every single day and not understanding how to change but in the end (against all odds) achieving his dream.

    Un abrazo from Spain!

  28. Your email header related to this post is “How Casey Neistat Gets Away With Murder.”

    From the picture, it sure does look like he gets away with murder . . . of animals.

  29. Hi Tim,

    Louis Cole (YouTube: FunForLouis) would make a great podcast guest. He’s basically been a digital nomad for the past 4 years.


  30. Thanks once again Tim, I just watched Drawing my life and this short film has been the most inspiring thing I have seen lately. It’s fresh, real, raw and completely detached from noise. It’s like an unfiltered truth sirup.

  31. I’m one of those people who had no idea who Casey was, and am unfamiliar with the whole world of vlogging as well as his accomplishments. That’s why I listen to your podcasts, Tim, to find out about worlds outside of my own. This was one of my favorites, up there with Wim Hof and Scott Adams. Casey has an incredible amount of energy and wisdom…and yes, he is very articulate. Also, I admire how true he is to himself and how he won’t sell out, just for money. I can’t thank you enough for these podcasts. They broaden my knowledge base, provide inspiration, and open up new worlds.

  32. Big fan love the pod cast I try and listen to each episode multiple times because there packed with great information. I do custom metal work mainly for interiors of homes and restaurants also custom lighting. I thought it would be cool to hear an interview with a leading American manufacture weather it be furniture, hardware, car parts anything really. It would be fascinating to hear the difficulty and struggles they have keeping things in the states and staying profitable.

    Thanks for your time

    Robert Rashidi

  33. I liked this episode but feel like it could have been so much more. Tim seems to try to get people to open up in a different way than they do in other interviews and unfortunately this did not reach that goal (which is okay because Tim does this in so many other episodes). I have listened to interviews with Casey on Rich Roll’s podcast where he opens up a little more but with Tim, Casey seemed to be holding back a bit and giving canned answers. I love Casey’s work but he seemed distracted and a little uninspired during the interview.

    I also felt like I was hearing a lot of noise in the background on Casey’s end and it seemed like he was doing other things while on the phone. I know Casey said this studio is on a busy street and there will be a lot of background noise (ambulances, etc) but I also heard things like running water and pans clanking which might explain why he was a little distant.

    I appreciate all the artist and specifically filmmakers on the podcast. The wide range of guest is so helpful. Thank you so much for your work Tim.

  34. Casey’s comment about gifting books really resonated: I always feel someone kind of ego-imposition in giving a book that’s been really meaningful to me, since our choices in reading are so personally guided and curated. I won’t stop trying to choose books to give, but it’s never felt easy.

    Interesting interview on creativity, great rolling with the questions, though I wasn’t pulled in by watching any of the youtube click-throughs. That said, clicking through made me realize that writing connects with me more than visual moving image.

  35. Dear Tim:

    Back to basics. I started following you because you helped me become more efficient at managing my time or my health. Somehow, you decided to pervert the fourhour brand (efficiency) with hour-long rambling podcasts that could be easily be digested into four or five bullets or a two-minute synthesis. Please go back to the old Tim that digested a world-full of information for us.

  36. As a video editor, I really enjoyed this conversation. But I have to say, I completely disagree with Casey’s assertion that FCPX is terrible. I find it to be quite good, albeit completely different than other professional products on the market. My guess is that this is precisely the tool that would work best for him, but I don’t know his workflow, so a different tool, like Premiere Pro might be better.

  37. Heads up show notes for this episode are all 2 to 5 mins off. Fixed them for you with correct times and connected each note to audio so it’s easier to navigate. Here’s a link (hope this isn’t considered spam 😛 )

  38. Casey Neistat is really great, really real, really endearing. Tim asked a bunch of questions that everyone hates: what equipment do you use is a question that Casey hates and has said he dislikes publicly, including on his NYC marathon vlog. Do your research, Tim–but truth is I enjoyed the questions even though I knew the answers.

    The rest of this has nothing to do with Casey. I love Casey.

    However I’m now listening to the next podcast with Dominic D’Agostino (which does not have a post up yet) and I am appalled at how bad it is. Making fun of institutional review boards and other entities established to prevent abuse of animals and/or humans is in poor taste. I expect Tim to not understand what is going on, but Dom failed to provide any guidance. That is not acceptable. A true scientist must have the highest possible ethical standards. I can hardly listen to anything else this scientist has to say. As a fellow scientist I am embarrassed. Furthermore, the way Tim extrapolates ketogenesis as being something super good for all situations is inappropriate.

    The ketogenic diet is not a diet for living, it’s a diet of malnutrition which as discussed has a number of negative effects on gene expression. For instance, extrapolating protecting DNA as a positive benefit of ketosis is borderline absurd because the very reason for protection is self-evident: the state of ketosis is toxic. Next, extrapolating one ketone metabolic pathway to all inflammation by Dom is inappropriate. Understanding the mechanisms for transcriptional regulation with respect to HDACs is definitely beyond the scope of Dom’s expertise and this podcast. WTF now Dom is into muscle/bone loading realm…he’s all over the place.

    I hate being a complainer–it’s usually the lazy man’s way out. But I’m just appalled at the quality of this interview and am shocked it could even happen. From beginning to end, this misses the mark, Tim. Eh it happens. I’m still looking forward to the next TF interview!

    Topics you can do to read up on:

    1. What is scientific ethics and where does it originate from? How is it implemented?

    2. How does the FDA work? What is the Orange Book and why/how does it affect drug approvals?

    3. What is gene transcription?

    4. What is hormone-regulated gene transcription?

    5. What is hormone-induced cancer?

    6. What nutritional switches regulate apoptosis? Myogenesis?

    7. IGF and GH signaling–review it.

    8. normal estrogen signaling, SERMS

    9. normal androgen signaling, SARMS

  39. Mike Patton. I think he’d be a brilliant guest , Tim. He’s considered the most talented singer in rock. He is know to be an extremely obsessive hard worker – whereas rock musicians can be known for their laziness. He is a true creative, a true renegade, artistic outlaw, very original. Articulate, deep, honest, and a complete lunatic. How intriguing for him to receive your penetration analysis, Timmy! For us to hear!

  40. I just loved this interview. As a teenage parent myself, I was told my life was over at the age of sixteen and I would amount to nothing. I proved the naysayers wrong – in my mid 20s I went to law school and earned two degrees. Today, I’m also a published author and the proud mother of a thoughtful, intelligent and over-achieving young man. Casey’s story shows that being a teen parent can actually be a great thing – sure it’s hard (especially financially) but it forces you to put another person’s well being before your own and to get you sh*** together. It’s great to hear the voice/story of a teen Dad because we never hear from teen Dads in the media. We just get feed the negative stereotype of the useless, absentee father. Casey’s an inspiration for all men to be more involved in their children’s lives. Casey, you’re a real gem!

  41. I hope those are not real ivory tusks on the email image accompanying this story. Lord I pray those are not real ivory tusks…..

  42. Amazing interview Tim!

    I’m seriously amazed on how resilient Casey was. Having a child at 13 year old?! I don’t think I was mature even at 18 years old.

    Now he’s an amazing YouTube star.

    Thank you for bringing him on your podcast!