The Filmmaking panel took place on Saturday in Panel Room A at Summer in the City 2018. It was hosted by Elisa Spigariol, and featured Hazel Hayes, Elle Mills, Sammy Paul, PJ Liguori, Will McDaniel, and Tom Ridgewell.
Elisa Spigariol started the conversation by asking Hazel Hayes about her series Prank Me, in particular where she compromised. “Definitely my mental health” she said, laughing. She explained that when something is so big, you want to make sure that every detail is done in the way that you would like it. PJ Liguori noted that it was important to identify which were the key elements that had to be right as one cannot treat everything with the same high level of detail.
Tom Ridgewell said that many smaller filmmakers think that what differentiates larger creators and them is the equipment, but it is not. He noted that his first priority on a production is the sound. Hazel replied that, now more than ever, you can make things look great on a budget.
The moderator went on to ask Elle why she doesn’t think she makes films. Elle Mills replied saying that her productions are very low budget and this makes her think that she does not fall into that category. PJ disagreed, saying that he thinks she creates films and that perhaps we should “redefine what a film actually is.” He argued that a film is, first and foremost, storytelling. Tom added that Elle is “using the vlog format in a very cinematic way”.
Elisa turned the conversation to the algorithm, and its treatment of film-style content. Given that the algorithm doesn’t prioritise films, “why choose YouTube?” she asked the panellists. Will McDaniel explained that he chose it as “things don’t have to be as polished” and he gets to be more experimental with his content. Sammy Paul said that he fell into it, as it used to be a simple platform to share videos with your friends. For Sammy, YouTube is a place to tell stories and he sees himself as a filmmaker instead of a YouTuber. Elle very much came from a different place: “I picked it on purpose.” She spoke about how she grew up watching YouTube and the way in which the platform is easy to use and free.
The moderator then asked the panellists how much they adapt their ideas to please their audience, if at all. Tom was quick to reply that “the algorithm is the reason everything in my life is bad”, gaining applause from the audience. He talked about his channel being torn between two worlds – his animations, and his sketches. “I’m proud of them both,” he said, explaining how the success of his animations helps to fund his other content. PJ said that he is mindful of his audience, and aware of who is watching but he believes that he needs to “challenge [his] audience.” Sammy concluded that it is healthy to try different things: “Sometimes you have to do the sensible thing to keep the balance.”
As a final question, Elisa asked the panellists if there was a big dream project that they are building up to. Hazel was the first to answer: “Star Wars trilogy!” This sparked a short debate as to whether the responsibility would be too much. While concluding it might, “I still wouldn’t say no!” Hazel said.
Elle explained that she would love to do a teen movie like Love, Simon, which gained cheers from the audience. PJ talked about wanting to collaborate with the Jim Henson company while Will said that he would like to combine his love for puppets and horror into some type of horror Mighty Boosh show. Tom explained that, while YouTube reuploads have mostly killed comedy series, he would love to work with Fred Seibert. Sammy concluded by saying that his creative hero is Spike Jones, as he has excelled in many different mediums such as movies, adverts and short films.
The panel then turned to answer questions from the audience. One audience member asked them what the main differences were between being funded by a platform versus raising funding independently. Hazel replied that the main thing you sacrifice is creative control. “[You have to] fight battles every day,” she said, adding that you have to explain your vision to someone far removed from the project.
Another audience member explained that they had everything ready to make their first project but they were scared to start in case it was rubbish. Hazel stopped everyone from answering the question for a second while the panel looked at each other for silent agreement. “It will be bad”, “it’ll be terrible”, “I’m so sorry” they all answered over each other. Sammy went on: “The next one will be better!” as he explained that you have to keep failing in order to improve. PJ tried to answer in a more positive way (“Oh, go eat a crayon PJ!” Tom interjected) by saying that they could always go back to their first project and remake it once they felt they could do it more justice.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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