By Adam Ray Palmer
I thought I would share an opinion piece with you, something that I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while but I’ve not found the time to pull myself away from that YouTube platform long enough.
If you haven’t guessed it from the obvious title, I want to discuss the way filmmaking is evolving, how movies are being distributed and how YouTube is impacting cinema.
Initially, I thought this would be a one-off feature to chuck out into the realms of the web for a discussion on YouTube and the art of filmmaking. Don’t get me wrong, this definitely is that, but it also goes a lot of further than just YouTube impacting the film world and cinema. We have streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, the decline in DVD sales making the industry take a hit on the profit margins and cinema prices ever rising etc. I’m thinking this could be an opinion-piece series but my focus for today is YouTube.
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 of YouTube article!
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. Following this was the beauty and vlogger boom that resulted in these huge online celebrities that have millions of followers, but your mum and dad have no idea who they are like Zoella and PointlessBlog.
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 two years ago, but in recent times, these mini-movies have blossomed into something that perhaps wasn’t accounted for when thinking about cinema and filmmaking – like making people think differently towards the art itself.
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 36-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 incredible. 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. 27 million people have watched Casey’s ‘Make It Count’ film. If you charge on average £9 per cinema ticket to those 27 million people, you are looking at a box office of £243 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. Just the other month, Max Joseph (yes that angry Catfish cameraman with Nev) made a short film. Just look below how intricate it is and how much effort went into producing it. The idea is so original, the budget wouldn’t have been cheap and the messages are strong. Should these YouTube films be considered alongside mainstream films for awards? What’s your thoughts on YouTube films? Tweet us at @CineroomTweets or let us know below. I hope you enjoyed this piece. Let’s talk film.