Photo Courtesy of Margarita Orange

Julian Lee


What would you say, if fame could be reached by a simple upload to YouTube? For Julian Lee, a junior at Mason, it all started by uploading the short film, “Not Quite Quarantine.”

As a Communication major with a concentration in Media Production and Criticism, Lee is a media producer both in and out of the classroom, especially through his show, The Kickback, on WGMU radio and his YouTube channel, Purple Hoodie Productions. But before Mason, he was a high school student in the class of 2020.

“I was in the class of 2020 back in high school, which means I did not have a graduation, I did not have a prom and I did not get a goodbye from my friends. So to cope with it. I did the only thing I knew how to do. I made a video about it” said Lee. 

From using his own humor, gathering inspiration from the events happening around him, and having some time on his hands, Lee got to work.“The video took a year and a half to film and that’s the nice way of putting it.  It started my freshman year [of college] and then released during my sophomore year. The writing took a few months and then getting the lyrics down took time because I rap in the video,”  said Lee.

Lee’s original lyrics touched on some memorable pop culture references such as the Netflix series Tiger King, and TikTok trends, Savage and Castaway, but also intertwined the feelings of being isolated at home that people could relate to when looking back at the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As time went on, my ideas kept going–the pandemic shifted as well. So I had to change it from being stuck in quarantine to a not quite quarantine where the video displays me struggling with the world moving on while I don’t want to. Cause on the one hand there’s a global pandemic going on and I don’t want to leave the house and not be safe. But on the other hand, the social side of it, everyone is going to parties with masks on and I am missing out,” said Lee. 

Although experiencing both the fear of missing out and from the threat of COVID-19, Lee explained that after his project was completed, it was more than just a video. “It was supposed to be like a love letter to the end of my high school years and moving on to college” said Lee.

From the beginning of his film flashbacking to his high school years to the ending showing him leaving the house, in a similar way, it shows acceptance of the past, letting go and fast forwarding to the future. By doing this, he shows his own personal acceptance to the changes happening in his life.

“It’s okay to cope in different ways, you don’t have to move on [like] the rest of the world, you just do it in whatever way helps you,” said Lee. Luckily for Lee, this coping method helped him kick off his start to fame.

By uploading “Not Quite Quarantine,” Lee has had multiple fan accounts created on Instagram that have been dedicated to the love of his film, and has won several awards, including the esteemed 2021-2022 Outstanding Achievement in Student Production award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Science.

While Lee is truly proud of himself and is grateful for the experiences and opportunities that have come from creating the film, he carries on through his life remaining humbled and appreciative of those who have supported him throughout his life.

“It feels great! Seeing something I’ve worked so hard on engraved really makes my accomplishment feel real. It still doesn’t feel real, but I know one thing, I’m proud of myself and the people who helped me get here” said Lee.