To YouTube or not to YouTube
Recently, I declared that I was starting a YouTube channel, with vlogs. I have been mildly excited since then. I spent all day today watching vlogs and videos about vlogs.
I used to watch a lot of YouTube before, but 2020 was a transformational year. I disconnected from everything that was a waste of time, YouTube being one of them. Since starting my blog earlier this year, my mindless YouTube watching has almost vanished.
I have had mixed feelings about the platform—certainly about vlogs.
We are innately voyeuristic; we like to get a peek into others’ lives—I should speak for myself—I like to. But I resist this temptation often. I stayed away from social media for years and now don’t follow anybody. I’ve enjoyed watching the odd vlog here and there. On bad days, I have taken it to the extreme and spent an entire day inside a YouTube rabbit hole.
Yet, I refuse to paint it all black. I have learnt some of the greatest life-lessons on YouTube. The ‘value of YouTube’, I don’t think is up for debate. It has changed the world in exceptionally good ways. But I’m not sure I can say the same about vlogs.
So the line gets blurry for me; I have been battling two things since my announcement:-
- One: “Damn, I forgot how much I loved editing. And I am excited to make videos, to tweak and to discover stories. I’m excited to make.”
- Two: “OK, you are going to do a YouTube thing now? Vlogs?! Really?!! C’mon, you are better than that.”
On the one hand it seems ridiculous that I didn’t start a YouTube channel during 2011-14, my years at film school, as it was literally what I was studying—film and video communication! On the other hand, starting a YouTube channel seems like a ‘vulgar distraction’ that I should stay away from, as I harbour 'nobler' dreams of making films/shows. On the one hand it seems most obvious that an unestablished filmmaker—like myself—must make films and put them up on YouTube; on the other hand it feels like, ‘sure, get ready to count views, make popping thumbnails and coming up with trashy clickbait titles—very cinematic’.
I always thought my interest in filmmaking spurred after I faced the camera (I used to act in daily soaps... we all have a past); but recently, I discovered a journal entry from when I was seventeen, where I had written the line—'when I become a director…'. I was pleasantly surprised.
The earliest videos I made were in 2009, right before my sister’s wedding. She lived in the US, so I’d send her clips of the wedding preparations that were taking place back home. When she came to India, she turned up with a handycam for me as a gift.
Everything seemed to be going ‘right’ for me—you are interested in films, you experiment making videos and—boom—someone gifts you a video camera. This is, literally, the story of every filmmaker... of a bygone era. In recent times, there is an additional step—‘and I started making videos on YouTube for fun’.
That didn’t happen with me.
I don’t know why. It seems even more bizarre when I realise I have always been interested in music and acting (everything is yelling “YouTube!”). The one thing I know is that I was terrified of putting myself out there. That is certainly the biggest reason for not starting a YouTube channel earlier.
The other reason might be that I got ‘over-schooled’; from the film school I attended, from the people around me and from the people I looked up to. Doing something I enjoyed became very very serious very very fast, and thereby very scary.
Come to think of my attitude today, it seems all the more silly; because I don’t even, say, have scripts waiting to be produced; or it isn't like I only have exceptional work under my kitty. I have made a few documentaries and corporate films that are alright. So I have no idea where I get the elitism from—that it is beneath a filmmaker to make vlogs on YouTube. Why do I have my nose up in the air about this? Even Will Smith has a YouTube channel. Is he good enough for me?
Film festivals? Sure! Vlogs?! yuck… no.
That seems to be my attitude.
I think it is a status thing. Yeah. That is what it is. I like the status that comes with being a filmmaker who can travel to film festivals—preferably European ones—and get himself branded on the ass with the words ‘auteur’. Ummm. That feels good.
Whereas Youtube is too… egalitarian? And anybody and everybody can put up videos on YouTube. So that doesn’t feel ‘exclusive’ enough.
I think this is how I picture conversations:-
Me: I’m a filmmaker. I also post videos on YouTube.
Person: Oh, so what you are is a YouTuber... right?! Ummm, excuse me please. (walks away feeling nauseous)
Why am I so caught up in these labels? So much for pontificating about ‘follow your own path’ and ‘don’t seek permissions’.
I don’t think creators on YouTube have my full respect and that is something I am having difficulty reconciling with.
But at the same time, I have the highest respect for Casey Neistat and his ability to tell stories through his vlogs; for Jack Conte’s obscure videos and the sheer talent; for the funniest guy on the internet, Jus Reign—all YouTube stars.
I think this is the courage they spoke of when they said ‘find the courage to follow what your heart says’.
And my heart is saying:—
Just fucking upload on YouTube already; and take a break from putting people in boxes, starting with yourself.