Last week President Obama sat down for interviews with three YouTube personalities. But Patrick Gavin was not among them.
Not that he hasn't tried. Lord knows he's tried. The people of YouTube can attest to how hard he's tried. Well, at least the 211 viewers who actually subscribe to his channel. Which might explain why Obama instead answered questions from video game aficionado Adande Thorne (known as Swoozie), science buff Destin Sandlin and lifestyle guru Ingrid Nilsen, each of whom have over 3.5 million followers.
But unlike Gavin, none of those YouTube stars can claim to have posted 130 videos chronicling their relentless —and often ridiculous — pursuit of an Obama interview. They didn't bathe in a tub full of milk and Fruit Loops to get there. They didn't ask strangers to pray for them or build a 560 piece Lego set of the White House. And they didn't ask a mall Santa to grant their wish for an interview with the president.
Santa's reply: "Good luck with that."
Which is pretty much the same response Gavin has gotten from White House gatekeepers. Starting in September, the 37 year-old father of two, who lives in Northwest Washington, vowed to post one video a day for 500 days until he gets face time with the leader of the free world.
His progress so far?
"I never get called on," he says flatly. Not in press briefings, which he attends once a week as a kind of guest journalist. And not in response to his email and telephone requests for an interview.
Not that he actually expected to. Gavin, a former reporter for Politico and director of the well-received documentary, "Nerd Prom: Inside Washington's Wildest Week," knows how Washington works, though he often feigns ignorance on camera as he seeks the advice of seasoned journalists and press secretaries. The goal of the deliberately entertaining series, in addition to giving him an excuse to produce daily videos, is to pull back the curtain on a sometimes mysterious process.
"I wanted to see what it would be like if you started from ground zero. If you gave yourself 500 days, could you actually earn an interview with the president?" Gavin explains of his crusade. "There's not a ton of transparency on how these things happen."
How it doesn't happen, as he's learned, is by paddleboarding up to the Miami dock of a wealthy political donor. Or by looking the part with a painful eyebrow waxing. Or by dressing up your entire family as Donald Trump for Halloween. (Gavin's adorable daughters and infinitely patient wife make frequent appearances in his series.)
In truth, Gavin does know how to get an interview with the president. He always has. And it's the same advice he's been given again and again in his video series: "You have to have a big audience," he says. One that the president wants to reach, usually with a particular message in mind.
And though Gavin's following is minuscule compared to the YouTubers picked to interview Obama last week, he says he's not giving up anytime soon. He's having fun and improving his skills as a cinematographer. "The joy part of doing this is getting better at that," he says.
Besides, by his own admission — and to his wife's chagrin — Gavin rarely does anything in moderation. "I'll train for an Ironman," he says, "instead of starting with a 5K."
Gavin says his wife thought he was crazy at first. "Now she's impressed with it," he says. "But I also think she just feels bad that I spend a lot of time working on this and it might not work out in the end, which is a very real thing to be sympathetic about."
Gavin says he would gladly stop before reaching 500 videos — but only if he gets an interview with the president first. As for his chances of success, a White House spokesperson politely declined to comment.