At Variety’s Future of Film Summit – YouTube Channels Disrupt Everything

Amidst all the filmmakers and gentlemen in suits, there were a few digital experts. One was a kid, 23 years old, and the other was a wily veteran in his 40s. They were unique in the crowd at Variety’s Future of Film Summit. It seems Hollywood can barely spare a moment to play on the internet, needing all their energy to create box office hits. But a few hundred managed to break away to learn about the future of filmmaking.

One half of that future is marketing box office hits on Facebook and Twitter. Which isn’t new to Hollywood. They have been creating viral campaigns for decades. They will need some training to transition from billboards and TV spots to status updates and Instagram photos. But not much.

The other half slides in and quietly disrupts everything. Michael Gallagher is that 23-year old digital expert who started the most powerful YouTube studio – Maker Studios – and runs his own show, Totally Sketch. Here’s how he describes his business:

“I just throw together 3-minute clips” and make thousands of dollars (from YouTube ads). Then I channel that money into an extremely low-budget movie ($260,000), and it’s a profitable success because my YouTube fans watch the feature-length movie.

At each point in the explanation the crowd sends gasps and astonished mumbles his way. Thousands of dollars? No marketing? A movie for under ten million?

Then a trailer for the movie plays and it looks — impressive, like a studio created it. He receives applause but the crowd is clearly stunned.

Maybe the next speaker will calm everyone down. Or not. Brian Robbins, in his late 40s and wearing a suit, quickly dashes that hope:

“I realized my kids don’t know what network their favorite TV shows are on and they don’t know what time either.”

And so he jumped ship, leaving network television and diving into YouTube content creation with a channel focused on teens and tweens: AwesomenessTV.

And the panel continues with each telling their story and unnerving the crowd. More trailers play with amazing quality and solid acting. More applause and stunned faces.

The panel wraps up and the crowd races towards these impresarios, forming lines and pulling out business cards. Clearly some training is required for this half of the future of film.

About Steven Mandzik:
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