Oh YouTube! You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Yet just like “Star Wars,” I believe it has the potential to change the film industry forever.
Since YouTube’s start in 2005, the platform has become a place where anyone can create video media of any kind. From soothing ASMR videos to your favorite video essay channels, you could spend the rest of your life gorging yourself on YouTube.
This has lead to certain celebrities within the YouTube sphere swinging for the Hollywood fences. Most recently, Deadline reported that YouTube film critic Chris Stuckmann will be directing his own independent horror film. The film is titled “Shelby Oaks,” and will follow the fictional Paranormal Paranoids investigation team. The team is an internet sensation on Reddit and YouTube, creating long-form internet web series about their exploits. This deal is clearly representative of a new era in Hollywood talent.
Stuckmann is the latest in the wave of directors who originated their camera skills on the platform. Personally, I am a fan of Stuckmann’s work on YouTube as a movie critic. I remember spending the early days of my teenagerdom envying the posters and expansive blu-ray collection that sit behind him while he reviews the latest releases. His channel, which has earned almost two million subscribers, is a simple, sometimes comedic, one-man review show. His varied knowledge of film seems to make the critic a good fit for the job.
But Stuckmann is far from the first YouTube filmmaker to break through those hallowed Hollywood gates. Most recently, Bo Burnham’s Netflix comedy special “Inside” has made a huge splash on the internet, partially because some critics think it should be classified as a movie rather than a special. Burnham has already dipped his toe in the waters of independent cinema with his directing debut “Eighth Grade,” one of the most brilliant dissections of growing up in the age of the internet. The director/comedian’s former stage was “boburnham,” a YouTube channel where he’d post hilarious music videos recorded in his bedroom.
I can hear your thoughts. First of all, you’re right; you should double-check if you left the oven on. Secondly, you may be wondering if any YouTubers were able to break out of independent filmmaking into actual blockbuster productions. Look no further than Jon Watts, the director behind the “Spider-Man” trilogy in the MCU. Watts honed his cinematic skills by creating a variety of videos on his channel “waverlyflams” with his fellow film school students. While the channel didn’t get too much attention, his imaginative low-budget skits are cinematically inspired. Patrick H Willems, another YouTube film critic, has an amazing video on how Watts went from making skits about grown men in dinosaur costumes to directing the most popular Marvel superhero of all time. Which, if you think about it, isn’t too dissimilar.
This proves there is potential for filmmakers to rise from YouTube to the big screen. In fact, some content creators already seem to be auditioning for a production company to pick them up. Casey Neistat is famous for his channel that encourages anyone with a camera to just start making whatever they love. I have heard many people in my own film school talk about him as a major filmmaking influence in the same breath as names like Stanley Kubrick or Wes Anderson. Neistat’s videos have a cinematic edge to them that would transfer perfectly to a movie theater.
There are people on YouTube following that advice and making their own movie-like content regardless of production value, like Brandon Rogers, Austin McConnell, and D4Darious. Then there are the critics like Stuckmann who care about film as a language. I would love to see any movie from the critics like Jeremy Jahns, Nerdwriter, Lindsay Ellis, or especially the aforementioned Patrick H Willems if Hollywood would give them their moment.
This could bring a new wave of filmmakers with a sense for appeasing the YouTube algorithm to the forefront. It’s unclear what this wave will look like to moviegoers. But as long as we don’t have to watch two unskippable ads before every movie, I am willing to find out.