“When I was younger, I longed for a creative outlet and a way to get my voice across to like-minded people. I tried to start a blog but no-one read it. I wrote for the school newspaper but no-one cared about my nerdy obsessions. YouTube gave me the platform I needed.”
For so many of us, YouTube has been the way to find a voice, new friends, and a community. Its appeal is understandable. For better or worse the whole world can see what you have created and, no matter what you create, someone out there is always going to be, like you, interested in it.
Emma Popcorn has found this too. “Somewhat embarrassingly, I started out on YouTube as a fangirl,” admits Emma. “Obviously there’s nothing wrong with being a fan but I’m talking crazy, obsessed, uploading-videos-of-me-dancing-round-my-room-with-cat-whiskers-on-my-face kind of fangirl. Of course, I still do that, but I don’t film it anymore!”
Nowadays, Emma has established herself as a unique creator in her own right, worth “fangirling” over as much as her own faves. She is insanely intelligent and eloquent from both an academic and emotional point of view. Videos such as A Queer History of Westeros, a discussion of the LGBTQ+ characters in Game of Thrones, must be applauded, not only for the amount of effort that has obviously gone into the research, but also the originality of the topic matter.
For emotional intelligence, look no further than her video headfirst into the hurricane, which perfectly describes the feelings one experiences in the first few weeks of university. Or indeed, any of her spoken word poems such as lazy, which Emma describes as being her favourite video that she has created so far – “it’s personal but presented in a fun way”.
Her eloquence and talents landed her an important role hosting the Small YouTubers Panel at Summer in the City last year, an experience which she describes as “incredible but terrifying”.
“Beforehand I was so nervous as I’d never done anything like that before,” she adds. “In the end I asked Paul Neafcy for advice as I remembered the incredible panel he did a few years ago. He gave me some great tips and the panel ended up being probably the best hour of my life – even though running around that panel room with the mic was more exercise than I expected! The discussion was so varied and I was so lucky to have such great panellists.”
The success of the Small YouTubers panel just proves the ever-growing influence (and paradoxically, the popularity) of this community, made up of a second wave of talented young creators making new and interesting content. “I know writers, photographers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians,” Emma says. “It’s very intimidating to be surrounded by these talented people but it’s also super inspiring.” She emphaises that her favourite aspect of the panel is “the diversity, in race, gender, and sexuality, but also in types of content”.
Emma also lists Dodie and Leena Normington as inspirations, describing her love for “how authentic and casually creative their channels are”. Outside of YouTube, films such as Their Finest about a female screenwriter during the Second World War inspire Emma “to be more like the main character as she kept creating against all odds, but also to be like the creators of the film, who told a beautiful story about a complex female character”.
If she could change anything about the platform, it would be to support smaller creators even more. “I think I’d add a ‘discover’ page. Unlike ‘trending’, this would feature videos from up-and-coming creators who are making great stuff that isn’t getting the views they deserve. Kind of like Flushing the Tubes” – a Twitter account that showcased smaller creators who were #littlebutloved – “but on a bigger scale.”
Of the future of her channel, Emma says: “I’m going to keep experimenting! I love trying out different ways of telling stories and putting across information. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s kind of the point of my channel – there’s a reason my endscreen song says ‘you don’t know anything but you talk endlessly’!
“I’m still learning (and still using iMovie) but I’ve definitely come a long way from dancing around in my room and yelling about YouTubers,” she reflects. Whether you are dancing round your room or talking the queer theory in Game of Thrones, we’re going to want to watch it, Emma!