2020 has done its level best to toss lemons at us at every turn, which is why it’s important to look for the good in the world at times like these. Enter Working With Lemons, whose motto is, “When life gives you lemons, make movies.” Since first launching their channel in 2014, this family of YouTubers from Riverton, Utah has amassed an impressive following, with 3.67 million subscribers.
Beyond music covers, the group has a second channel, Lemon Slices, that focuses more on their family. Their biggest success to date have been their “In Real Life” covers, which bring Disney and other musicals to the real world. Their most viral video, “Do You Want to Build A Snowman,” from Frozen, has sister Mia playing Anna, and has amassed over 555 million views. The group has worked with the ever-talented Bonner family on several Hamilton covers, as well as Hairspray‘s “Run and Tell That.” Other collaborators have included Tanner Gillman of Studio C, and Parkour Expert Ronnie Shalvis.
A Conversation with a Lemon
I reached out to Working With Lemons, hoping to find out about this family of entertainers. Camrey, whom plays Elsa in the group’s second-most viral video, was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions.
In a quick synopsis, who are Working With Lemons?
We are a family of filmmakers! We love bringing Disney and Broadway songs into real life and creating our web series “Our House.” Our goal is to produce our own feature films in the future!
Where did the idea for creating the Youtube channel come from?
Like many people, our YouTube career really started with Frozen. We never had any intention of becoming full-time YouTubers, but our youngest sister, Mia, looked identical to little Anna so we decided to throw together a quick cover of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman,” which now has over 555 million views. We were shocked! But we loved doing it, so that’s kind of what kicked it off.
How do you choose the ideas for your videos? I’ve seen some interaction on your Facebook page in regards to polls, which seems like a great way to promote fan engagement. Does it come down to a group decision, or is someone making those calls?
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding what we’re going to film. One of the main factors is what’s popular at the moment. We’ll look at upcoming Disney movies, or popular Broadway shows and see if there are songs we feel we could do well.
Ideally, these popular videos do well enough that we can take the opportunity to do some lesser-known projects that we’ve been thinking of for a while. Recently, members of our Patreon team got to vote for our upcoming video. That was super fun. We loved seeing the interaction that came from that and I think they’ll be even more excited when the video releases because they had a hand in choosing it!
Ultimately the core team (Me, Mom, and Robbie) are usually the ones discussing video ideas. But we’ll frequently ask the fam for thoughts and ideas as well. Since we are a family-friendly channel that also has a big impact on what we choose to do. We’re happy to do a little bit of editing in our interpretation, but there are some shows we feel go against our core values and we’ve chosen not to feature songs from those.
What has been your favorite thing about having the Youtube Channel?
Working as a family is the best. We have a large blended family and we’ve always been super close, so it’s super fun to spend the long days of prep and filming with them! The channel has also found many ways to utilize our individual strengths, whether that’s costuming, performing, animal wrangling, budgeting, directing, etc. It’s really fun to see everyone pitching in to make something great!
What has been the worst thing about having the Youtube Channel?
Youtube is pretty unreliable as an “employer.” We’re not vloggers, so most of our revenue comes from ads rather than through sponsorships. This means that some months we’ll be making tens of thousands of dollars and other months we’re barely making enough to support those of us who are full-time. It all depends on the current YouTube algorithm and how much individual views are “worth” that month. So that’s always a bit crazy to deal with.
Your “Let It Go” video has garnered over 389 million views on YouTube, did you ever dream you’d make something so viral when you were shooting the video?
Absolutely not. We still can’t really comprehend the idea of hundreds of millions of people having seen our videos. I think many of us have dreamt of becoming filmmakers and creating things on a much smaller scale for a living, but nothing like this.
Do people recognize you out in public as a result of your YouTube channel? What has been your most interesting interaction as a result of being on YouTube?
We’re rarely recognized, which is really nice. Anson and Mia get recognized the most because they are the age of much of our target demographic.
I once had a man recognize me at a convention where I was selling board games. I was ringing him up and he suddenly paused and said, “You’re Elsa!” I look nothing like Elsa when I’m out of costume. I’m a brown-eyed brunette. So it definitely took me by surprise! He was super nice and mailed me a beautiful snowflake pin afterwards.
You’ve worked with a lot of different people on videos, do you have a wish list of others you’d love to collaborate with?
If we can collaborate with the Bonner Family for the rest of our lives then we are set. Haha! No, there are a ton of people we’d love to collab with. MattPat from Game Theory used to do theatre and we think it would be super fun to work with him and there are a number of local Utah YouTubers killing it in the music scene like Alex Boye that would be fun to partner up with.
You’ve done several covers from musicals. Did anyone in your family participate in musicals?
Oh yeah, most of us do musicals. I actually majored in musical theatre in college and the majority of our family has been involved in acting and film for most of their lives. We do a lot of shows at Hale Centre Theatre and other local theatres. Mia’s currently rehearsing for A Christmas Carol. Some other favorites we’ve are Freaky Friday, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beauty and the Beast, and Secret Garden. It’s always super fun to get to act alongside our siblings.
I think you’ve tapped into the craze that is Hamilton really well. Personally, I appreciate that I can have my kids watch your Hamilton videos and not worry about content they may run into in the stage play. Can you tell me about what spoke to you about Hamilton and why you’ve chosen to do a lot of covers of the musical’s songs?
I mean, the music alone is brilliant enough to motivate us to do those songs. We also love the representation the musical offers to all ethnicities. On a more personal note, our family has been through some rough times and Hamilton’s arc of making huge mistakes and being forgiven by his loved ones really rings true to us. It’s such a powerful story of imperfect people working to better the world.
It seems like you all have caught the entertainment bug? Are their members of your family who don’t like to sing or be on camera?
I mentioned we’re a blended family. There are six Bagley kids and three Bourne kids. The Bourne kids had done a tiny bit of performing before our families merged, but they focus more in other areas. They’re definitely willing to be in things when we ask them to, though. Nobody in our family is really camera-averse except maybe the husbands that have married in, and they’ve even helped out when needed.
How has COVID affected Working With Lemons?
It’s been tough, but in many ways we’ve been lucky because we work as a family. I’ve actually been the odd one out because I live in a different house and just had a baby so we’ve been extra careful about exposure. So probably the biggest thing is that our team has been separated physically which has never been something we’ve had to work through. As far as film shoots go, we try to film as much as we can with just family members. If we need to have multiple households involved then everyone who’s not on camera masks up and social distances and we film as much as we can outside.
To my knowledge you haven’t openly spoken about being members of the Church in any of your videos, but I think you are pretty well known in the Latter-day Saint community at large. I think Working With Lemons is sort of an unofficial good-will ambassador, showing that Latter-day Saints aren’t these stiff, formal people, but that we can have fun, and produce wholesome entertainment. Can you speak to this?
Yeah! Our main goal is to share goodness with the world. We do talk about being members of the church on our Instagram page sometimes and we always promote things like the “Light the World” campaign. So most people who follow us know about our religion and we’ve had some very cool missionary experiences over the years. Ultimately, though, we hope to be a place where people can come and be uplifted no matter their personal views and whether or not they feel comfortable with the idea of religion.
We also are dying to start creating Hollywood-quality films that are family-friendly without being too moral-lesson heavy. There’s definitely a place for those spiritual, inspirational films we see so much of in Utah, and we’ve been involved with a number of them, but that’s not really our goal. Nor do we want to make films that cater to the depreciating morals of Hollywood. Just great films that people can watch as a family without being worried about hearing or seeing something they aren’t comfortable with.