Six large pieces of black cardstock taped to the wall, eight rolls of masking tape scattered around the room, a speaker blasted a clip from Eminem’s “Rap God.” Avery Helms propped his phone up on a tripod, pressed record, and hopped in front. This was the scene at 6:30 p.m. in Kendall 236a. Seven hours later, Helms would be done with another one of his famous TikToks.
Now with 14k followers and 533k likes on his TikTok account, @chairs_n_stuff, senior Avery Helms has grown in fame on TikTok and around campus. Using stop motion, Helms films TikToks in the Grewcock Student Union, the Knorr Dining Room and various campus hotspots.
It all started about a month ago when Helms watched TikTok compilations on YouTube. He found the videos interesting, he said, and decided to make one of his own. He started with a lyric video on a chalkboard, and it was an instant hit, receiving 96k likes and continues to be Helms’ most popular video. Gradually, he posted more and more, filming his content all around campus.Eventually, Helms stopped using TikTok to film the videos and switched to a more complex stop-motion app. Each video takes anywhere from two to eight hours to film.
As a double major in math and economics, Helms already has his work cut out for him. So why spend hours on these videos? The answer for Helms is simple.
“I do it because it is fun. I ran Mock Rock earlier in the semester. I put a lot of time into the Whit Wat Way Mock Rock. After that was all done, I realized I just really enjoyed spending a lot of time creating instead of just doing homework,” Helms said. “So I was looking for a creative outlet. This is a creative outlet that I can get direct feedback.”
Helms aims to one day be verified on the TikTok app.
“Most people set pretty reasonable goals like, ‘Oh, I want to hit 50k suscribers.’ Something that is within their range of what they are currently doing, but that sounds boring. I wanted to push for something unreasonable,” Helms explained. “Getting verified would mean I would need around one million subscribers and cumulatively around 10,000 likes on my videos. I am nowhere close to that.”
Regardless of whether Helms achieves his goal of being verified, he has become a topic of conversation on campus. Many students have seen Helms walking slowly through the dining hall, wondering what he was doing. Additionally, Barstool Dale has featured some of his videos on its Instagram account. Helms is like a celebrity on campus, and senior Martin Petersen was lucky enough to witness one of Helms’ videos in the making.
“Last week I was just walking to go get a glass of milk and I saw him standing there. I was like, ‘No way,’ and I saw his foot slowly move off of the ground,” Petersen said. “I was like, ‘This is a production right now, this is going to be his next TikTok video.’”
This isn’t the first time Hillsdale students have noticed Helms for his dancing ability. He said many recognized him as “the kid that dances in the union,” or even the kid who used to dance at night in the quad. He doesn’t care what people think, he said, and maybe that is the secret to his creative success.
“It is fun to get the publicity and also weird to have people who I don’t know knowing me. It is Hillsdale so you kind of know everyone and recognize everyone but they don’t usually walk up to you and talk to you about knowing you,” Helms said. “I decided pretty early on here that I wasn’t going to care because it is too much work. I basically decided it wasn’t worth it. I’d rather treat Hillsdale like it was some big city where whatever you do doesn’t really matter and just have more freedom that way.”
Some students are even on the lookout for Helms around campus. The production of his TikTok videos always draws a crowd.
“It is like we have a celebrity on campus. Everytime I see him shooting a TikTok I get so excited,” sophomore Elaine Townley said. “I have always wanted to be in one.”
Although Helms is having fun doing what he loves without caring what others think, he said he would be happy to bring anyone in on the fun.
“If anyone wants to be in the videos, just reach out,” he said. “Just be forewarned that they are not fast. It is a good four hour time commitment. If anyone is actually interested in doing that, I will not say no.”