He can make traffic disappear, turn laundry into a kitten, and make emojis come to life. Known as the Final Cut King, Zach King is a bona fide Vine star. While other popular Vine users post six-second pranks, mash-ups or jokes, King’s Vines are also comedic, but they stand out from the crowd with his astonishing illusions that use major motion-picture-quality special effects.
In a recent Vine, King grabs the Apple logo from his computer and turns it into a luscious silver three-dimensional apple and takes a bite out of it. “I definitely got lead poisoning, I think,” he tells PEOPLE. “I looked for edible spray paint and I couldn’t find any.” In another video he turns a lazy friend acting like a couch potato into actual potatoes. And in his most popular Vine, he takes a souvenir from Paris with him: the Eiffel Tower.
King started on YouTube but soon realized that his short relatable videos were more shareable on a platform like Vine – and he was right. His videos have over a billion loops on Vine, and he’s racked up over 3.4 million followers at the time of this post.
Many of the concepts are inspired by his own personal fears, like cracking open an egg (“I always thought when I made scrambled eggs, and I popped the egg, I’d find a dead baby chicken”) or vacuuming himself into a vacuum (“I had a fear of getting my toe stuck”).
Some are inspired by things people wish they could do in real life – one of the reasons his videos of duplicating money always do well (“That’s just something everyone can relate to – wanting more money”) as well as cleaning his room like a wizard (“I remember that scene from Mary Poppins where she is just pointing to things and it was cleaning itself. I always wanted to do that”).
He regularly uses animals (a pig, kitten, bunny, bird, mouse, baby chicken, dog and peacock have all been featured) and tends to work his go-to muscle: puns. An apple a day keeping the doctor away, scaring people to death or photobombing celebrities with an actual bomb of photos are just a few of the many puns King has explored.
His videos are like watching a magic trick in six seconds. “People will ask me, ‘Do a magic trick!’ It’s so lame that I don’t do any real-life magic,” he says. His videos are all the work of clever editing, something King calls “digital sleight of hand.” So while he’s not actually doing magic tricks, he has more in common with David Blaine than you might think. “It’s kind of a form of magic. We do take some of the techniques magicians will use, like making people look at a certain part of the screen when really something’s changing when they’re not realizing it on the other side. We’ll use that to our advantage to hide the subtle digital cuts.”
While at one point he was posting a Vine a day, his videos have gotten increasingly complex as his popularity has soared. King now has a crew of seven people in Anaheim, California, helping him out with conception, creative, sound, design, effects and copyrighting, and Vines can take anywhere from 24 hours to 24 days to produce.
“We realized the audience likes physical things; they like physical impact. That’s also why I think LeLe Pons is so popular, because she really puts herself into it,” he says of the most looped Vine user of all time. “When we do a stunt, it takes a lot of time to prep and practice and figure out how to break through a wall or flood the living room.”
The stunts, King says, he learned from watching YouTube. “I would just watch behind-the-scenes videos to see how they were making the stuntman fall in Iron Man or Jurassic Park,” says King, who throws himself into cars, into fans and off rooftops. “It’s probably not the best recommended way to do it. Now we work with a couple different stunt teams, and they’ve given me some tips to be a little more safe than I was.”
The mostly self-taught filmmaker didn’t get into the film program the first year he applied at Biola University. If he had, he might have never joined YouTube or Vine. “I started a YouTube channel because I needed a film outlet and needed projects to give myself,” says King, who started posting his own content as well as editing tutorials. “Those are what paid for college – the tutorials and some YouTube revenue I later got.” Now King is partnering with Best Buy to help other college filmmaker hopefuls by offering advice and an opportunity to win gear.
His own ambitions are set high. “The dream is to direct features down the road,” says King, who is also working with YouTube on 3-D content and figuring out how to film mid-air videos after getting his pilot’s license.”I would love to do a summer blockbuster where there are some cool special effects. I really want to bring the practical back into Hollywood because that’s what I miss about my favorite movies.”
One thing fans won’t have to worry about? King walking away from Vine. “I love my fans and I owe them so much,” he says. “Maybe my audience will pay to go see a movie at a theater someday, but all of the Vines and online content I’ll keep for free.”