By Baptiste DEDIEU
Donning khaki and adjusting the camera, 32-year-old French Youtuber Gildas Leprince becomes Mister Geopolitix, bringing foreign affairs to a younger crowd who might otherwise not be interested.
With almost 200,000 YouTube subscribers, mainly young viewers under the age of 35, Leprince dissects the thorniest diplomatic subjects of the day using analysis in a studio, interviewing experts and also reporting from the field.
Whether travelling with the French Army in Estonia, or shadowing a humanitarian, Mister Geopolitix is also present on Instagram and TikTok.
His most recent videos, often the result of painstaking reasearch and sometimes travelling, have included “Understanding the Middle East in 30 Minutes” and a reportage on “NATO against Russia”.
“Seventy percent of my community is between 18 to 35 years old,” said Leprince, who styles himself as “Mister Geopolitix” online.
To attract an audience on YouTube more used to entertainment than geopolitics, he uses plenty of maps, while also slipping in references to shows like the Netflix series “Narcos”.
“The visuals are amazing, and he’s the only one who does field reporting,” said Vincent Lievre, 23, who’s been following the channel since 2017.
Then a law student, he discovered the YouTuber in his first video, titled “Who owns the sea?”.
“I only cover a topic when I can bring added value. That’s why I haven’t tackled yet the war in Ukraine,” said Leprince.
Although his audience is mainly male, Charlotte Wyn, 20, has been watching Mister Geopolitix videos for three years.
What she likes is that he doesn’t push his personal views: “I can make my own opinion (and) it remains fun.”
– ‘Accessible for viewers’ –
But the channel has also impressed experts.
“It’s good to have content suited towards a younger crowd, with an attempt at outreach” but where guests can still “express themselves in-depth,” said Marc Hecker, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri).
He’s twice appeared on the Mister Geopolitix channel.
Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation of Strategic Studies (FMES), added: “His goal is to provide the most neutral information possible while making himself accessible to his viewers, mainly composed of high school and university students.”
It’s also a way to fight against “preconceived ideas on the internet,” Razoux added, proud of the 170,000 views reached by his video with Mister Geopolitix.
Unlike these experts, Leprince did not study international relations.
After a master’s degree in economics with a focus on international development, he embarked on a 9-month journey to explore the geopolitical issues within the Mediterranean basin.
He launched Mister Geopolitix upon his return in 2016.
“Not having any real geopolitical or audiovisual background, I initially learned as much as I taught,” adds Leprince.
A bartender and paramedic on the side, he watched his income increase as he gained an audience, from publishing deals as well as traditional product placements.
The deals include books, comics and even a board game. Julie Gallois, 32, was able to play it with her friends. “I learned a few things, and so did they,” she said.
– Geopolitical immersion –
Leprince has been living 100 percent from Mister Geopolitix since 2019, and was able to pursue his dream of reporting.
Whether in Egypt, Mexico, or even the Arctic, Mister Geopolitix has been able to produce a dozen “geopolitical adventures.”
His most-watched clip? A report on the French military fighting illegal gold mining in French Guiana.
The French Army has regularly opened its doors to content creators since 2015, following a partnership with the YouTuber Tibo InShape.
“We know that this is what people are watching, and that allows us to reach a wider public,” said Yann Gravethe, of France’s defence ministry.
Being embedded inside the armed forces is not an issue for Leprince: “I’m not being compensated, they don’t have any editorial input and this allows me to access areas where I wouldn’t have been able to go independently.”
With a new studio in the process of being built, Leprince is now preparing new projects, with the same old goal: to make his viewers discover new geopolitical topics.
— Agence France-Presse VIDEO