In the middle of filming a climactic action scene his latest short film, Ryan Connolly encountered a problem: a stunt man who had just gone up in flames due to an explosion would not remain on fire. "The wind was too strong," Connolly said. "It was actually like he wasn't on fire at all." His crew carefully reset the scene, ran the camera & # 39; s and blew the explosives again, but the stuntman would still not stay on. Because the time to film is running out that day, Connolly decided to scrap the stunt and lean on tricks he had gained from running a film program on YouTube. "I had previously set people on fire digitally, so I knew we could do it," he said. "I could just say with confidence:" Don't worry. Let's move on. ""
Connolly’s YouTube program, Film riot, 10 years old in May. Over the past decade, Connolly has published more than 1,000 episodes and collected more than 170 million views on video & # 39; s explaining the secrets behind major Hollywood productions, including how to shoot magic explosions from a wand and how to make an eerie fog that floats along the floor of a room. However, Connolly is not a Hollywood-approved director. When he started the show, he lived in Florida, just from the film school, trying to figure out all these things for himself.
"That is more or less Film Riot's motto," Connolly said. "It's not" here's how you do this, "but" here's what we discover, here's what I've found. "
Nowadays there are a lot of movie education videos on YouTube. Various channels regularly publish film analysis essays, there is a community of vloggers that give tips on the latest cameras & you can find in-depth tutorials on how you can do almost anything in Adobe Premiere. Film analysis is so popular that even large publications like it Vanity Fair and Wired regularly break performances or technical aspects of how a film is made. But in 2009, when Film Riot was launched, YouTube was much smaller, and that film community largely did not exist, giving Connolly & # 39; s channel room to grow.
However, no other channel has been as ambitious as Connolly's. He sees Film Riot not only as a way to teach people what is happening in filmmaking (although, if you look enough, you will notice the fake fires, amplified bumps and artificial lighting effects used to let your favorite TV show & # 39; s and movies look great). Instead, Connolly sees the show as a way to help himself to grow from a filmmaker who is just learning how things work to a confident, experienced director who is ready to tackle a large budget.
"Ultimately, the 13-year-old who is filming … (see) this guy can make movies now and then 11 years ago and start from when I did it with $ 5 with my parents & # 39; house, & # 39 said Connolly.
Film Riot has come ever closer to that goal in the last decade. The show started with rough sketches and home-made equipment, scaled up to a series of quickly made shorts. In recent years, it has brought together digital effects crews, stunt teams and artists to create highly polished productions such as ballistic, the recent film in which Connolly tried to set fire to a man. ballistic was popular enough that Connolly got an agent and some interest from producers, and he started pitching functions based on his success.
Connolly can follow a clear path here. Many filmmakers have made the leap from viral shorts to feature films, although it is not always enough to get Hollywood's attention. Some shorts have been picked up and never heard of again. Others lead to a fruitful career: the director of the Maze Runner trilogy, Wes Ball, was discovered thanks to a short film on Vimeo. Then Trachtenberg, who made it 10 Cloverfield Lane, broke out after a Portal fan film went viral on YouTube. And David Sandberg, who recently made the DC adjustment Shazam!, got its start in Hollywood after a studio had it expanded a horror movie of two and a half minutes in a full function. (Sandberg also had a YouTube channel where he showed the work behind the scenes that went into his short films, and Trachtenberg co-hosted a review series that also appeared on YouTube.)
Connolly does not want Film Riot to end once he has graduated from positions. The goal, he says, is to have the show follow while he is making a feature film so that viewers can see how all the techniques he has learned actually come together on a huge set. "Hopefully because I'm more honest than you've ever seen people making a movie," Connolly said.
Moreover, Film Riot has become a successful company, and it is almost entirely a family business. Connolly's production company, Triune Films, has seven full-time employees and one of its family members: Connolly & # 39; s older brother, Tim, is in business and his younger sister, Emily, is an editor and frequent actor. His sister Ashley manages the studio and his younger brother, Josh, sits behind the camera. The Triune team also produces a comic strip show, Variant, hosted by Ryan's brother-in-law, Arris Quinones. Variant has more than 1.9 million subscribers on YouTube, which is a few hundred thousand more than Film Riot.
The typical episode of Film Riot gets fewer than 100,000 views, which is relatively small for such an established channel. However, it is a dedicated following and it was sufficient to support and expand the company. Both Triune shows earn money with pre-roll ads from YouTube and sponsorship in episodes. But much of the company's support also comes from Triune's web store, which sells a range of digital filmmakers, such as horror movie sound effects, fantasy color filters, and special effects for sci-fi weapons, all made or commissioned by Triune. How they are made is of course sometimes converted into an episode.
Recent developments in cameras and editing software have made making films more accessible and cheaper than ever. But making every film, let alone the kind of blockbuster that Connolly has in mind, still needs people: experts who can make the lighting look good, designers who can put a set together, dozens of extra & # 39 ; s to fill in scenes and extensive crews to carry things around, take pictures and make sure the production goes as planned. Obtaining those resources on a large scale still means getting a buy-in from established studios, who rarely gamble comfortably on unproven talent. With Film Riot, Connolly wants to prepare himself and his viewers for a future where they might have access to all these sources – or for one where they don't.
Connolly cannot predict whether his latest shorts will bring him to Hollywood – he's already working to prove one of his playing fields – but he plans to plow both ways. Every step of the show has taught viewers and themselves more about making a compelling movie, taking advantage of the available equipment and working with a growing team. ballistic, he said, his test was to put everything into practice at a budget level that he could possibly only be able to afford if every producer rejected him. "It was just proof that, worse, we could certainly do this ourselves."