By Adam Ray Palmer
For the last decade, I have been a huge fan of one platform in particular, YouTube. Back in 2010 when I made my account, I followed so many YouTubers who were making it big back then, slowly learning what kind of content I enjoyed most.
Since then, I have watched the platform grow and grow, becoming something that I believe needs applauding. If you haven’t guessed it from the title, I want to chat about the way YouTube is potentially impacting cinema – in a good way or bad…
Back in February 2005, three former PayPal employees (Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim) created the largest video-sharing website in history; YouTube. This was a significant day for the internet, viewing videos would never be the same again. So, let’s flash-forward to the present day because this isn’t a history lesson.
YouTube has come on leaps and bounds in terms of content. We went through a phase in the early days of animals and cute babies doing silly things, then we had the pranks phase when nothing was off limits. During all this, the beauty and vlogger boom had begun with these huge online celebrities that have millions of followers, but your mum and dad have no idea who they are like Zoella and James Charles. Well, they know who Joe Sugg is thanks to Strictly Come Dancing.
But in recent years, I would say in the last two for certain, there has been an emergence of fully-fledged films surfacing on YouTube boasting incredible engagement. And by this I don’t mean films didn’t exist on the site before, but in recent times, these mini-movies have blossomed into something that perhaps wasn’t accounted for when thinking about cinema and filmmaking – it’s making people think differently towards the art itself. For example, there’s online film awards now for such things.
A lot of people attribute filmmaking to cinema and the big screen, or perhaps a TV movie. However, why can’t these YouTube films be considered an equal? For a start, they vaunt more views than some films could dream of for a cinema release. If we are arguing about money involved to produce them, surely a YouTube budget is more impressive than the $220 million it cost to make The Avengers in 2012. And if we are debating this on quality, let me divulge into my case study…
The above film is made by the YouTuber, or for this blog, the filmmaker Casey Neistat. Casey is a 38-year-old American ‘vlogger’ who makes mini-films about his life. He isn’t your typical vlogger who just takes a camera out with them and films themselves bumping into Auntie Doreen, Casey plans his videos meticulously. He uses drones, he plans camera angles and shots and his editing skills are out of this world. His content also varies from just the standard vlogs too. He does interviews, reviews, mini-films, promotional videos and whatever takes his fancy, really.
Why use Casey as my case study I hear you ask? Well, two reasons. For a start, he is my favourite YouTuber. And secondly, his quality is just impeccable. The talent in his editing is at times studio-level, and his camerawork is phenomenal. It’s his films that made me deeply think about filmmaking and cinema and whether we are in a new dawn of the film world, hence this feature. I think you can all agree; the above is a spectacular film at just four and a half minutes. It has passion, it has a narrative, it engages you and leaves you with a sense of meaning – exactly what cinema is all about.
So, when comparing cinema filmmaking and YouTube filmmaking, are they the same? In scale? Absolutely not. But in essence, yes, they truly are. 30 million people have watched Casey’s ‘Make It Count’ film. If you charge on average £9 per cinema ticket to those 30 million people, you are looking at a box office of £270 million. Think of how many films have never reached that margin. You could argue I am being pedantic and a tad unrealistic, but you see my point on the whole, right? I am asking the question, is it time we take YouTube films more seriously?
What’s next for the platform? These films are becoming more and more frequent. Not only this, the YouTube events are becoming a monthly occurrence too. The boxing fights in the past 18 months (KSI/Logan Paul/Joe Weller) have really put the platform fighting in the mainstream. The money that the top influencers are making really is astonishing. I think it’s time that these millionaire twenty-somethings are listened too, because if we don’t start turning our attention to it, we will be missing out on cinematic content.