The Problem with YouTube Movies

Every time a new movie comes out from a popular YouTuber we have yet another example of how the two mediums seem to run completely at odds with each other.

Smosh the Movie

An extended YouTube sketch. Where the entire plot happens around YouTube, includes going to the YouTube space LA, is threaded with YouTube cameos, and is a cross between Road Trip, the John Ritter movie Stay Tuned, and a Freddie Wong YouTube video series called Youtube Hackers. Appears to be very much conceived to cater to the zeitgeist.

Then there’s these two:

Bad Night

Expelled: The MovieTons of social media references with young YouTubers and Vine stars playing borderline criminals. That’s pretty funny actually. Those two feel as if they were made from Hollywood’s perspective of social media stars. The protagonists are trying to subvert the system, lie, cheat, and steal their way ahead. Hollywood’s worst fears realized! Still, if these are the movies that are getting put out, I think Hollywood is safe.

That trailer for Expelled is the worst though. How is that douchebag-of-a-character our protagonist. He seems like the world’s most annoying D-grade Ferris Bueller.

And then this:

The ChosenThis one’s unfortunate, because I feel like they were trying to make an actual movie instead of just capitalize on the social media of it all. So they combined the conceits of the The Ring and The Exorcist and lit it like a YouTube video. Seems like someone’s idea of a horror movie if all they’ve seen are trailers for horror movies. From the too-sweet opening to the Goosebumps-esque kiddie scare at the end, all of the “scary” moments are overlit and play almost like parodies of scary movies. Rough time.

And then there’s the Shane Dawson debacle. He was a VERY popular early YouTuber who got to do his brand of disgusting shenanigans making a feature film for a Starz network show called The Chair—kind of a Project Greenlight situation. I’d attach the trailer for the final film Not Cool, but I hate it so much that I just don’t want it anywhere near my blog post. Okay. I realize how embittered I sound, but Dawson’s whole thing is always so gross and mean spirited. It’s frustrating to be a thinking human being and have his bile ooze out in front of you. Given that Dawson had a crew of professionals around him, this one looks like a real movie, but Not Cool has a 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and Zachary Quinto, one of the producers of The Chair, called the finished film “a vapid waste of time.” This is how most people first saw what a YouTuber would do with a feature film.

Of course, before that was Fred: The Movie.

If you even started to watch that trailer, I’m so sorry. Like Smosh The Movie, it’s just the person’s YouTube channel extended for way too long. I think this was the first YouTuber to get a movie back in 2010. Now just add a lot of disgusting, sexually explicit hate for women to that level of childishness and you have Not Cool.

Watching all of that, doesn’t it seem like YouTubers have no idea what to do with a feature film? There are people who can do it right too, but they’re typically not “YouTubers.” They’re people who make short films on YouTube. Not personalities. Josh Trank went from a YouTube video to Chronicle, which was a real movie. Fede Alvarez went from a YouTube short to the new Evil Dead movie. Very much a movie. I bet Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch of the RocketJump channel could make a hell of a movie. Their web series Video Game High School is as glossy as a Disney channel series and every one of the short films looked like a movie. Both of them will come out with something amazing. But again, not necessarily YouTube personalities. People who made short films on YouTube.

You would think, since YouTubers apparently built a brand figuring out how to give people something they wanted to see, that they would be better at this. But it all feels like underdeveloped overlong sketch comedy.

Luckily, there is Camp Takota, which looks like an actual movie starring YouTubers (trailer starts 1 minute in):

Grace Helbig is very much a YouTuber and Hannah Hart has a huge channel called My Drunk Kitchen. YouTubers, for sure. But you could throw Sandra Bullock or Kate Hudson onto the poster for Camp Takota and it would be the same movie. An actual movie. Whether it’s your thing or not, that feels like it was a movie script first and then they cast YouTubers instead of “traditional” movie stars. It would probably be Kristen Bell, actually, because it looks like a female fronted belated coming-of-age story.

Anyway, I’ve just been thinking about this, so I thought I’d write a way too long blog post about it. I hold out hope that YouTube can be a breeding ground for real storytellers as well as navel-gazing new media junkies.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

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