Whether it’s a Tennessee fan nearly getting KO’d by a 38-30 loss to Georgia State or Alabama learning it’s been kicked out of the Playoff Club, the creative minds behind “SEC Shorts” continually find ways to poke fun at every team in the Southeastern Conference.
One week, each SEC team got a wish from a fairy godmother, and in another week, Florida mourned the loss of its hopes at winning the SEC East while Arkansas mourned the loss of its entire football program.
Scrolling through the “SEC Shorts” YouTube page, viewers get a healthy mix of satire, homage and original concepts. Over the past five years, the creators have made videos that mimic, satirize or pay tribute to everything from medical dramas to “Blue’s Clues.”
Robert Clay and Josh Snead are the two Birmingham-based filmmakers who created “SEC Shorts.”
After leaving Auburn, Clay earned a master’s degree in film from the University of New Orleans and Snead “got (his) master’s in life.” Years later, the two met while working for a video production company.
“We edited medical lectures together,” Snead said. “Just disgusting, the grossest thing you could think of, medical lectures. So, for like eight hours a day, we’re looking at the grossest thing. Naturally, we were trying to find some sort of creative outlet to do something.”
That outlet first came in the form of short films and videos the two made for fun.
Then, in 2014, they heard about an opportunity on The Paul Finebaum Show for fan-submitted videos. Clay said most of the entries were self-filmed rants about football, but the two decided to try to make something with a little more polish and humor.
Five years later, “SEC Shorts” has become an independent production routinely putting out videos that garner hundreds of thousands of views.
Now that they make videos about bowl games instead of bowel pains, the two work to connect with viewers across the Southeast.
Connecting with fans
The ultimate goal of the videos, they say, is getting people to identify with their content.
“We try to make our content very identity-based,” Clay said. “If someone watches it, we want them to say, ‘Oh, that was me watching that game,’ or ‘That’s funny. I relate to that.’”
“(We ask) how did their season go last year?” Clay said. “How is their season going up until this point where they beat a No. 2 ranked Georgia? Then, you’re able to turn that around and try to get in their heads a little bit.”
That’s easier for some teams than others.
“It’s a lot easier if a team is doing either really, really well or really, really bad,” Clay said. “I think it’s about trying to dive into the bigger scenario, and instead of just looking at it in terms of what happened this last game, you look at it from the perspective of what’s the pattern and how long has it been going on for.”
Keeping positive despite the pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to worsen across the South, Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare stadiums remain largely empty this year, even when there are games.
However, Clay and Snead said that while a modified football season might be bad for their business model, it has helped them connect with more people.
“I feel like the positive we discovered is that all of a sudden, you have everyone going through the same thing, and you have a lot of ability to connect with a bigger audience,” Clay said.
In May, the two put out a video where a satirized British adventurer, Bear Grylls, teaches football fans how to survive in the wilderness that is a fall without college football – a situation, fake Grylls said, which is even more difficult than being a Tennessee fan for 24 hours.
In June, they dug into some historical content with an episode in which the SEC teams of 1998 got their performance reviews. And in July, a “Blue’s Clues”-like kids’ show introduced viewers to Nebraska, Michigan and Texas – the blue-blooded college football dynasties that “haven’t been able to sustain a modicum of success in over a decade.”
However, the two admit that archival dives and wilderness survival shows won’t be able to sustain through the cold winter that is a fall without college football.
“I think for a little while you could get away with ‘It sucks to have no football season’ type of videos, but you can only do that for so long,” Snead said.
Of course, if the pandemic was to shut down the remainder of the season, Clay and Snead have a dry-humored backup plan.
“I wonder if they’ll let us edit medical lectures again,” Snead asked.
With games usually taking place all day Saturday, the two basically have to spend all of Sunday writing, shooting and editing a video to be ready for Monday.
“Sundays are a blur in the football season, and it just goes by so fast because you’re just constantly moving on to the next one,” Clay said. “You’ll make a video, and you’ll both be like, ‘Oh, we really liked that one! Oh, it doesn’t matter, we’ve got to go to the next one.’”
The rush, the two said, is because they are trying to participate in a regional – and occasionally national – conversation.
“I think that’s the best way to capture the moment,” Snead said. “All of our videos are based on what happened the day before. So, we want it to be up there on Monday morning when people are talking about it at work or school or whatever.”
It’s those water-cooler and homeroom discussions that Snead and Clay are trying to be a part of. The problem is that they don’t always have much of a shelf life.
“When we were doing them, we noticed that there’s this huge – it’s small – but this huge window of opportunity to capitalize on people discussing the games,” Clay said. “So, if you can, get it up by Monday morning. By Wednesday, people are looking ahead to the next game.”
And when fans begin to look ahead to the next game, Snead and Clay have to start looking ahead to the next video.
But the two say that this rigorous schedule has definitely paid off.
“Well, my car has arm rests on it now. That’s probably the biggest improvement,” Snead said.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living.