‘BlueCollarKyle’ sparks interest in youth with ‘Inside the Bodyshop’ videos
St. Louis—Immersed in the automotive repair trade at an early age, Kyle Neely knew the potential of a blue-collar career. But with a shortage of collision repair technicians, he saw a need to inspire and motivate those who may have not considered a career in collision repair or other trades.
Devoid of the drama and vertigo-inducing camera shot changes often found in mainstream reality TV shows, the videos — usually several minutes long — are to the point, and for many, offer a rare point-of-view glimpse at the variety of a day in a body technician’s life, from frame measurements to aluminum repair with his “Inside the Bodyshop” series.
After wirelessly transmitting the videos from “Snap Spectacles” (glasses with built-in cameras) to his high-capacity iPhone through Bluetooth, Neely spends half an hour to an hour each evening editing them with Final Cut Pro X software, adding a brief introduction and on-screen titles to explain what he accomplished that day before uploading them.
“I think that’s why a lot of people like it,” said Neely, who for the past 10 years has worked as a collision repair technician at Schaefer Autobody and now regularly produces more than 100 labor hours per week. “It’s authentic, it’s not scripted, and it’s not all perfect. With professional camera people, those can feel fake, and I think people like the ‘realness’ of it. I don’t want to try to make it more entertaining — I just want to show exactly what’s happening.”
Neely started on Snapchat in May 2017, selecting the platform because it attracts more of his target audience of people ages 14 to 25 “who like to work with their hands or have a passion for cars.” He later branched out into the other channels, cultivating his largest audience on Facebook with more than 144,000 followers (at press time) since starting in February, largely because of how easily his videos are shared and go viral. He’s now up to 144 episodes at press time.
With “zero knowledge” of video production or editing, Neely said he taught himself by trial and error, using the free iMovie app on his iPhone.
“It took about six months for me to dial it in where my videos actually looked pretty good,” he said. “They were out there and people watched them, but they weren’t of the quality that drew attention.”
It’s an altruistic endeavor for Neely, who figures he’s spent at least $10,000 of his own money on cameras, a $3,000 Apple laptop used for editing, and a slew of camera glasses, which have to be replaced after prolonged exposure to sparks and dust starts to result in fuzzy video. He’s also spent as much as $20 per day on Facebook advertising. He said he’s on the fence about accepting sponsors for fear the change may “dilute the content with nonsense,” as other for-profit programs often become.
“But I’ve been thinking about connecting with companies and doing something, only so I can use the money to grow this, to help make better and more content.”
Beginning at age 13 working alongside his father in the family-owned Neely Car Care Center when he wasn’t in school, Neely was first drawn to the excitement of hot rods and restorations before realizing how collision repair would be more practical and lucrative. After graduating from South County Technical High School and its two-year collision repair program in 2005, Neely received an Associate Degree in Automotive Collision Repair from Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.
His rewards are in hearing about the payoff his efforts bring to students.
“As soon as class starts, we watch the videos you post, and then we have a quiz on them,” wrote a 16-year-old collision repair student. “Others in the class and I follow your Snap and Facebook, and we always talk about ‘how would BlueCollarKyle do it?’ I just wanted to tell you that we appreciate the videos you put out to teach and help everyone.”
And from another: “I was really starting to have doubts about my passion and drive to go into an auto service career. I was worried about what people might think and how I’d get stereotyped. Your material has reassured me and given me confidence to jump in with both feet.”
There may be untapped resources in students of other disciplines, he said.
“I’ve recently been thinking about marketing the industry to high school art students who might not know anything about cars, although they’re interested in them. They might not know that in the collision industry, there’s a lot of art to it. Somebody who’s really good at painting in art class, or molding sculptures, may be a perfect fit.”