Sunday, 14 December 2014

paz vs youtube - part three - iamGeorgeTown

so i am planning to start my own youtube channel in the new year but i have lots of questions about how to do it and what to make videos about. i thought it might be useful to ask other youtubers these questions and then i thought everyone else might be interested in the answers too. the first interview was with morgan gleave, then i interviewed amber goluckie and the latest is with musician george reece who has a channel called iamGeorgeTown.

george is the most prolific and experienced youtuber i've interviewed so far and there's a real evolution evident in his videos. there is also huge amount of variety on his channel, from music videos to narrative shorts, but while the subjects may vary the videos are united by george's standout wit and effervescent charm. he is also a musician and you should check out his music on his bandcamp page. here's what george had to say about his channel...

what made you decide to start your own youtube channel?

First of all, thanks so much for having me on your blog! Truth is, my sister made me start YouTubing. I already had a YouTube channel, which I used to upload the occasional bit of music to in a hangover from the beautiful days of MySpace, but it only occurred to me that there was more I could do with YouTube when my younger sister Katy started getting into vloggers like Bertie Bert G and CharlieIsSoCoolLike in early 2012. She said ‘You’d be good at that,’ and although she was clearly terribly, terribly wrong, I found I thoroughly enjoyed it.

how would you describe your videos?

I make an idiotically wide range of videos, from proper serious music videos to simple live cover songs, and from the most basic of talk-to-camera vlogs to more complex narrative short films. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do – it’s just that I love doing lots of different things, and I find it hard to focus on my favourites to the exclusion of all others. I also like that my channel isn’t just a bombardment of sameness. I started it as an excuse to do something creative besides telling people about the music I’d made, to provide context and colour to my main music work, and I hope that through all the reviews of different salsa dips, and the competitions with myself to see how fast I can tie my shoelaces, it does that.

what type of camera do you use and what do you edit on?

I started off with a cheap old Sony Handycam, and I’d advise anyone to start making videos using whatever equipment they can get their hands on. The content is vastly more important than the quality. It needn’t be fancy to begin with, especially if you’ve got something worthwhile to say, or you’re good at what you do. I currently shoot on a Canon 600d (with stock 18-55 lens) and edit on Serif Movie Plus (because it’s cheap and does almost all the same things as proper software, only slower). I’m playing around with a new audio setup at the moment involving an external Zoom H1 mic attached to my camera. So far it’s not going all that well…!

do you consider yourself primarily a musician or a youtuber or both, like if i met you at a party or something and i asked 'what do you do?' what would your first answer be?

I’m always a musician first. Partly because I can rely on the average person having a clue what one is. Partly because that’s my ‘main thing’ and primary love. But also partly because YouTube is just a vessel for other things. I don’t think anyone is a YouTuber and a YouTuber alone. Some people are filmmakers, journalists, presenters, comedians, agony aunts/uncles, but it’s only the format and the distribution technology that is new. So just like someone forty years ago might have been a musician/performer who occasionally appeared on TV/Radio, I am a musician, writer, presenter, ‘actor’ (perhaps…?), who makes things on YouTube.

when you made those first two videos about reasons to and not to vlog, did you have much of a plan in place and did you think you would still be doing it over 300 videos later?

I’ve always tried to just wing it – do what feels right at the time. It just happened that I liked doing it enough that I kept going. It’s still shocking to me how much I enjoy it, and it’s kind of compulsive in truth, like an addiction. But I’ve always simply planned to do what I think will make me happy, and that continues to be to continue to make stuff.

i really liked the narrative sketches like 'not alex day' and the 'i found charlie' video. have you made any more narrative short films and is directing something you're interested in doing?

Thank you! Yeah, I love making that kind of thing, and I’ve been lucky enough to direct a few music videos since those short films in the early days of my channel. I kinda just enjoy indulging in any creative activity. Any ‘making’ of any kind. So yes, I hope I’ll be writing and directing more narrative stuff soon, as well as some scripted non-fiction, some documentary and edutainment-y things. But there’s a lot more work and focus required for that sort of thing, so I rarely find the time to get going with it. Soon, soon, soon!

i thought the subscriber contest you did with sam hammond was a fantastic way to boost interest in your blog and a good way to challenge yourself. have you thought about trying this again and who would you challenge now? also, did he ever do the forfeit?

Yes! Haha. I have thought about it. It was a huge amount of fun, but there are a few reasons why I haven’t done it again yet. One is that I don’t like to repeat myself in too obvious a way, so if I do it again, it’ll likely be with some new twist. Another reason though, is that I think the audience has changed in the two years or so since we did that. The average YouTube viewer is significantly more cynical now, for a number of reasons, so I think it’d be harder to create an event like that and have it be taken in the right spirit. Thirdly, I haven’t done it again because I have no idea who I’d do it with. It’d have to be someone with very similar numbers of subscribers, and similar levels of ambition, and I just can’t think of anyone. I’m willing to listen to anyone who wants to challenge me though!
As for the forfeit, no I don’t think Sam ever did the forfeit, which was a shame. He did have the last laugh though, because a few months after our competition, he made a video which went super-viral (like, a couple of million views) and to this day, even though he’s more or less stopped making videos, he has more subscribers than I do! And much deserved, because he’s amazing :D

you seem to have an uncanny ability to keep your videos to a reasonable length but it doesn't seem like you're editing out a whole lot of mistakes. is that preparation, multiple takes or natural talent?

You know what? I have an absolute horror of my videos being too long. So I guess it’s just fear. I shoot everything in order, and just repeat each paragraph until I think I’ve said it the way I want to. If I think a video’s likely to be too long I’ll actually write down a script, so I stay on-topic and avoid repetition. But no, not really any of those things. It’s just trying to keep things formatted as briefly as possible. I figure I can always make another video tomorrow and say more stuff, so I try to keep each chunk as bitesize as possible.

your 'how to be posh' video has over 28,000 views. when you have a video that successful, do you find yourself over-analysing what made it work?

It’s funny, because that video was actively designed to prove the point that there is a formula. I’d heard a lot of chat suggesting that there wasn’t, so I deliberately made that video with an eye on it being ‘viral-able’, if that makes sense. I made it short, silly, a bit controversial, very searchable (‘How To’ videos match up well with frequently searched terms) etc. etc. precisely in the hope that lots of people would share it and it’d bring traffic to my channel. That’s why I introduce myself and invite people to subscribe at the end (which I don’t do in all my videos).

It’s been my most successful video by a mile, but still far from being properly ‘viral’. So on reflection, I think the truth is that you can’t create a formula for what will be crazy popular overnight (like the ‘Get Out Me Car’ thing… baffling!) but you can predict with some accuracy how well any given video is likely to do on average, and create things with those factors in mind. As for why I don’t make more stuff with those qualities that made this video a success… I don’t know. I find it kind of tiring, and disingenuous probably. It’s lots of fun, but I don’t feel like it’s my great calling, if you know what I mean, so I tend to leave that sort of thing to people who are better at it than me so I can get on with writing songs with too many chords in them.

it feels like your videos have become more serious over time, taking on subjects like feminism, theology and sexual abuse. was that a conscious decision or just part of growing up?

It’s partly down to the increasing cynicism of the audience I mentioned earlier. As the platform matures, the content is bound to mature as well, and as I’ve become closely attached to the community of YouTube, I sometimes feel compelled to add my thoughts to a particular debate or issue. I think my thoughts and opinions, such as they are, tend to be significantly different from the average YouTuber (although I try to present them in as non-confrontational a way as possible) so it’s usually just when I feel I have something to say that hasn’t already been said. And issues that need addressing are cropping up more and more as the community becomes aware of itself. It’s kind of fascinating – like a living being passing through a difficult adolescence.

But for my own part, I much prefer to make light-hearted things, and I hope that’s the part of my work that resonates best with people.

can you talk about the evolution of your opening titles?

Yeah, so I thought I should have some right from the beginning. I always based pretty much everything I did on YouTube on WheezyWaiter, because he’s awesome and exemplary in more or less every way, and the titles were the same. A little three-second sting with the name of my channel, on a background of Grand Cayman (the capital of which is George Town). I re-recorded the audio at one stage, then for a while had title sequences which were submitted by viewers for a competition – that was a lot of fun. I may go back to some of those some day. My current thing is a picture of Naples, Maine, lifted from Google Earth. I drove through Naples once, and just felt instantly at home. It’s what GeorgeTown would be like if it really existed. Not too big, not too pretentious, near the water… people knowing each other’s names and being nice to each other… y’know.

do you have any advice for youtubers just starting out?

Absolutely! My main piece of advice is ‘do it do it do it!’. Lots of people talk about making videos, even set up channels and call themselves YouTubers, but never really make anything much and then complain that no one’s watching. Until you have a fair few subscribers and a back-catalogue, it’s important to let people know what to expect. Otherwise there are like a billion other channels they could be watching. But if you say ‘I’ll be making a funny video every Monday, and a song every Saturday’, and you actually do, then slowly but surely people will start clocking in to watch, so long as you’re good. Because that’s the other thing. You’ve got to play to your strengths, and continually try to strengthen those strengths. I’d advise lots of self-examination and honest reflection, and lots of practice (whatever your discipline). For example, I’ve looked at myself in a mirror and decided I’m never going to be an action movie superhero. So I don’t do that sort of thing on my channel. I do music, and I really work hard at it and try to get better. Find your thing, and do it really well. It doesn’t mean you can’t try other things too, but be honest with yourself!

can you recommend an unsung piece of art (book, film, videogame - whatever) you love that people may not have heard of?

I’m so glad you include ‘videogame’ under the heading of ‘art’. I still feel like a lot of people don’t really get that. Final Fantasy VIII is pretty much the most wonderful piece of art I’ve ever beheld. It’s an entire world that has lived with me for fifteen years or so and shows no sign of growing any less beautiful.

Then there are a couple of pretty stunning Monets in the National Gallery in London… I mean… I’m conscious that all my answers are already pretty long, and I could keep on recommending great art for ages. It’s one of my favourite things to do.

Tell you what. Here’s one, and it’s the last for now, I promise. If you ever get the chance to go to a promenade theatre production by Punchdrunk theatre company, take it. Take it immediately. You won’t regret it. I saw their Faust in 2006 and it changed everything.

what can we expect from your channel in 2015?

More scripted, narrative, and ambitious film content. Less sincerity. And at some point, a new album of original songs, which I’m determined is going to be my best yet. Better than my previous five combined… plus a bajillion. 2015 is going to be magical in GeorgeTown.

can you nominate a fellow youtuber for my next interview?

I think you should interview Maddie Moate and Dodie Clark. They do what I do, but better.

subscribe to iamGeorgeTown, follow george on twitter, check out his music on bandcamp and consider supporting him on patreon.


thanks to george for taking the time to answer my questions!

if you have your own youtube channel and would like to be interviewed you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at] or find me on twitter @pazvsstuff

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