TikTok may have shortened people’s attention spans to less than one minute, but that’s more than enough time for creator Emma Norton to tell her stories. The 17-year-old earned her five million followers for her ability to rapidly shift between animated facial expressions, helping pioneer the app’s POV genre. “Point of view” videos put the viewer opposite the creator for brief, immersive stories such as “POV: You’re the new student at school”—or, in the case of Norton, “the deer you killed haunts you when you sleep.” 

Yes, Norton’s stories are a little more elaborate than most. It can take her up to seven hours to write, choreograph, and do her make-up for the videos, which often include fake gore, teeth, and contacts that transform her into anything from “Bambi shot in the head by hunters” to Lavagirl from Sharkboy and Lavagirl.

“I think the reason why I love it so much is because it's almost as if I'm performing a one minute play,” Norton, who started using TikTok in January of this year, says in a phone call. “I had always been so passionate about the arts and that includes acting and singing and dancing and all of those things.”

@emmanortss

#POV the girl was reported missing for a year- until her unexpected return...

♬ original sound - Me
@emmanortss

#duet with @emmanortss CHAIN- ALTERNATE DISNEY ENDINGS: CINDERELLA- tripped onto her glass slipper, at the stroke of 12 she d!ed (SFX MAKEUP)⚠️

♬ Mad at Disney - salem ilese

Combining elements of SFX makeup (which she taught herself), cosplay, and dance, Norton’s videos put a dark twist on well-known stories or heighten the realities of sexism and our obsession with technology to dystopian levels in short, gripping videos that Quibi could only ever dream of matching.

That isn’t to say Norton would say no if Hollywood ever came knocking. 

“It's definitely a goal in my life to produce and direct as well,” she says. Until then, she’s building her portfolio on TikTok. 

How much preparation goes into making one of your TikTok videos?

I wrote one recently and it was based on Harley Quinn and Joker. For some of them I actually do very little research just because I'm so familiar with the concept itself, but for that one in particular, I read multiple comics for accuracy because I am so passionate about that universe. Sometimes it takes hours for me to write these things, just to make sure that they're perfect, and to then film and be in costume and makeup.

What are some things that make a POV video successful? 

Making someone feel something emotional while watching the video and leaving them with something to think about after. With makeup or singing or acting, you have to provoke someone's emotions, whether that be angry, sad, happy, whatever it is. 

Your videos go viral in part because they are so elaborate, but also, sometimes, because they’re so confusing. Is that on purpose?

I have done some videos that are almost purposefully trolling because that is sort of a concept on TikTok. I'll bring multiple ideas of successful videos of mine that have already worked and then put it into one thing that makes no sense and it just confuses people to the point where it's like a game for them to figure it out.

How do you handle the negative feedback you receive?

To be honest, I don't handle it. I don't feel a need to. I think that the internet is full of a lot of positivity. There's also a lot of people that don't have anything better to do and need someone to take it out on. As long as I'm not hurting anyone and having a good time and feel connected to the people that are most important to me in my life, I can let whoever wants to comment something negative.  

The hate you get reminds me of the hate creator Bella Poarch received after she went viral for her “M To The B” video.

She's actually a friend of mine on TikTok and she's such a wonderful human being. How can someone be so hateful towards someone for just bopping their head back and forth? That is not a hate crime.

Do you plan to stay on TikTok or branch out?

[TikTok] has so drastically changed my life and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities that I'm receiving because of it. I really want to be able to produce more content on YouTube. I also really want to advance myself as an actress and as much as I love the internet and there's so much that I will always want to do on the internet, I would love to be a part of the film and acting [industry].

You basically already have a hundred mini audition tapes on TikTok.

Some of them really, really feel that way. So I'm hoping that the right person someday sees it.