What do you get when you combine the massive distribution platform of YouTube with the DIY digital revolution that makes filmmaking tools accessible to the masses? Meet Film Riot, the channel about filmmaking techniques that has garnered almost a million subscribers while producing its own content. And most recently, that content was pretty frightening.
Building an Audience
Founder Ryan Connolly designed Film Riot as the go-to destination for wannabe filmmakers, complete with tutorials, gear lists, and post-production tips. “All I ever wanted to do for as long as I could remember was make films,” says Connolly. “But I had no resources despite having gone to film school. So I figured, if I were to build my own audience and my own stage, I could make films the way I wanted.”
This month, Connolly and his team debut the six-minute short film “Ghost House” — part of the channel’s Halloween-themed series. “I’m a big fan of the horror genre,” Connolly says. “I love its ability to so firmly grip the audience. It was a great opportunity to take a few typical horror tropes and put them in a different light.”
No Red Tape
When Film Riot creates a show, it doesn’t go through the bureaucracy that’s typical of TV production. “With TV or any high-level project, you have multiple levels of opinion to sift through and keep happy,” explains Connolly. “In certain ways, we are trying to create a new Hollywood, with a more economical and personal approach to storytelling.”
TV and Not TV
Because Film Riot creates all of its product and distributes it directly to audiences, “it’s sort of like a giant living room, and everyone is invited for movie night,” Connolly says. Yet during production days, the similarities to a traditional physical production are more apparent. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Connolly says.
Choice of Gear
On past shows, Connolly has shot with the Canon C500, the Canon C100 Mark II, and the RED Epic. For “Ghost House,” he chose the Alexa Mini. “It has a gorgeous, milky, film-like image,” he says, “largely due to its dynamic range.” Plus, it can be stripped down to make it more mobile. Connolly paired the camera with Kowa Anamorphic lenses. “Subconsciously,” he says, “we relate the look of an anamorphic image to big Hollywood films, [many of which] were shot on them. It isn’t how we naturally see the world around us — it’s distorted, imperfect — and for me this helps create the sense of another world.”