Story vs. Spectacle on YouTube

by Matt Koval

"Listen up, hater!"

YouTube is hardly the perfect platform for a traditional, narrative filmmaker. Most scripted projects get buried by the daily video blogs and Epic Meal Times of the world.

It’s an awesome place for “video snacks” and shows that can be made on an assembly-line every week.  But for those of us who like to create content with a touch of, dare I say… artistic value, it can be a long, frustrating road.

A Solution.

There is a way around this, however, as my pals at Wong Fu Productions have proven.  You first build an audience making the video blogs and spectacle pieces, then turn around and deliver an actual story.  Wong Fu are the only YouTube filmmakers I know who can pull 7-figure views with a drama, and they’ve done so using this method.  They’re among my favorite and most inspiring YouTube creators because they so well balance viral-type content with their own artistic integrity.

On a smaller scale, I’ve had success doing this myself, building up the numbers with The Fuplers and other viral types, then delivering something more substantial with 8 Dates.

Of course, this method certainly isn’t easy, and if you’re a true writer type, you’ll most likely vomit at the thought of video-blogging or mass producing disposable content.  I’ve struggled with this ever since I got on YouTube, resisting the model of  “create, rinse and repeat 1,000 times”.


Scot K. Hines July 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm

YouTube relies on its users to flag the content of videos as inappropriate, and a YouTube employee will view a flagged video to determine whether it violates the site’s terms of service.

Catarina December 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Hi Matt, I’ve just found your youtube channel today by mere coincidence, and I ‘gotta tell you, it’s awesome. Certainly, one of the places that I have to visit each time that I write youtube on the URL place :). Just keep doing that good work that you’re doing.
Bye ;)

theresa November 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

hey everyone can u tell me which one sound better to u
Love theresalove1983
please tell me wich one sound better to u.
*thank u :)

Sergey October 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Matt, as I wrote in one of the recent comments, I don’t get your new Showdown.
Do you know RWJ youtuber? Of course you know RayWilliamJohnson. Otherwise, where else you get that idea of showing us youtube content thru youtube blended with your comments? :) I must admit, RWJ does it better (comments part).
I am your long time fan. And why I liked your series, because they were UNIQUE (keyword)!
But now, with that showdown – you are “just another guy doing youtube about youtube”. Ok, almost “just another guy”. :) I believe with your talents, you can find better way to both enjoy your creativity’s output and to generate the cashflow. No matter what they tell you at the workshop. As was said before, they know only what they saw working. But they cannot say what new can also work and what it takes to get there.

I want to give you an example right from your commercial series: that video about “what are you sinking about?” — I saw it first time 5 years ago. And I remember it since because I was working for a German company in Canada and it was so true at the moment :) That phrase became well recognized all over the world and the video copied and watched nobody-knows-how-many-times. Which is a sign of a masterpiece, I guess. :)
Now, on the other hand, RWJ – with his ‘snack videos’ – watched once, you won’t want to see it again. All you remember about it – a lot of f. words about any content. After 10 videos like that it gets boring. Although RWJ is entertaining guy himself (as you are), the concept is shallow (as to my mind) — curse about any video, make ‘gay’ jokes and ppl will watch it.

If people like cheap crap, giving them the crap not necessary will make you a lot of money (although RWJ and McDonalds have proven opposite). You can teach people to like smart things, and they will start liking it, maybe, not less than the cheap stuff they are already fed up with. They just do not know about it. Look at Apple products history.

Long story short: we all see you are not that type of an artist who does all the same boring stuff reviewing somebody else’s clever creations.
The niche with the “disposable content” is already taken by not that smart guys and masses are happy to swallow it. The niche where some brain activity is required is vacant and will be such for long time. It all yours. Please be Rolling Stones, do not be Justin Beiber. The bottom is always easy to get, filled the first and never remembered long.
The top is harder to get, filled the last, and remembered forever.

Thank you for your great series! I think you are really good on people relationships :)

— Sergey (not Brin though)

Matt Koval October 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Good points, Major. Thanks for the comment.

Jeff Dolan October 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for the inspiration. I feel the same way, so it’s good to hear how you are doing it.

Major W. Latimer October 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hey Matt,

You’re right it is a long frustrating road when you are the type of creater that leans more towards the artistic story telling vs “video snacks”. But that being said the “video snacks” have there place, same as the 3 Course “Video Meals”. The analogy holds true when you think of it from a business stand point. It takes more time, money, skill and expertise to create a 3 course “video meal”, especially one that people will remember and want to tell others about and come back for more. But the adventage is that when people start liking what you are serving they will continue to come back and continue to spread the word. No one goes to a restaurant over and over again just for the appetizers. Youtube just has to evolve from a meal truck to a restaurant. It’s only a matter of time. Keep doing what you’re doing and trust me. Your vision and hard work will not only be appreciated, but you will find yourself in good company soon enough. Youtube is just working with what they’ve got, what they know and with a formula they know works.

All that being said, Youtube is the perfect platform for a narrative filmmakers just for the fact that it is a platform with amazing tools, an amazing community, and if your in it for the long haul, a company that will soon understand you as a content creator and give you the help you need to make your ideas happen. The future pay off will be well worth the hard work.

Matt Koval October 18, 2011 at 8:40 am

Good advice, Sally. Thanks!

Sally October 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Go with your instincts, your fans will probably like what you like. Seems like you can over think everything really easy. Good Luck!

Janice October 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Sounds like hollywood all right; the michael bay movies get all the success.

Matt Koval October 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Thanks Renee. Yeah, most people don’t want to talk about what’s behind the curtain. :)

Renee October 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hey Matt, I like your observations about some of the logistical business aspects of youtube that lots of folks don’t…There are formula’s and I digg that you are willing to talk about that aspect of the “business” of being an artist. Thanks, Renee in Montana

Pete R October 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

So true on so many levels! Try your little experiment Matt, then get back to what you’re best at!

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