When you take an hour over your ‘five minute break’ from work, it’s probable that like most people you end up on YouTube, watching mash-ups of the Wealdstone Raider on repeat or clicking your way through endless ‘related videos’ to find a slightly different clip of someone falling over.
However, YouTube has for some time now been developing into a platform for original series and short films with high production values, mixing viral, quick clips with serious credible work such as that of Bertie Gilbert. This young British YouTuber, still in education, deleted his video blogs and rebranded himself as a filmmaker overnight and at present has released six short films. Often surreal, nicely shot and ambiguous in nature, his most recent work was funded by Ron Howard, director of The Da Vinci Code and Rush.
This investment in fostering young talent highlights that YouTube is being taken seriously, something the company themselves to some extent initiated in opening up a creator space in London to pull YouTubers from their bedrooms and into professional studios. It has also allowed online filmmakers to network and utilise one another’s expertise. As part of this trend, Charlie McDonnell, once the most subscribed YouTuber in Britain, has also ventured into short films. Meanwhile, Benjamin Cook, a freelance journalist, has produced a slightly odd 12-part documentary, Becoming YouTube, that acerbically examines the YouTube community and its culture. JacksGap, with over 3 million subscribers, have posted a Top Gear style series of their trip across India for charity. Such content is now available because YouTube has become a place where success on a small scale can attract further investment and attention from major companies.
Some of the most popular American series include Video Game High School, a cheesy online sitcom with Hollywood special effects that has run for 3 seasons, and BlackBoxTV, home of unnerving self-contained thrillers. Shows like these are tapping into niche audiences that television would likely avoid, and sidestep TV’s typical piloting process and executives. This allows writers and creators the freedom to make what they think will sell well and mark themselves out from the bland yet popular YouTube personalities posting ‘daily vlogs’ covering their dinner plans and what shoes they chose to wear that day.
Whilst YouTube hasn’t produced a Breaking Bad, its instant and continual accessibility is tapping into a consumer need that regularly scheduled TV fails to tap into. The fact that we want accessibility to binge watch is one the TV industry is taking a painfully long time to grasp. So, if you want to procrastinate a bit more, you know where to go.
Not that you have the time, obviously.