The first round of programming for YouTube Red’s original movies was released Wednesday, and it includes projects from top creators like PewDiePie, Meg DeAngelis, Jake Paul, the Rooster Teeth team and Lilly Singh — whose documentary “A Trip to Unicorn Island” premiered at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
The original film, executive produced by Astronauts Wanted, follows YouTube personality Singh, who has over 1 billion views and 8 million subscribers, on her world tour. Through the 26-city trip, Singh aspires to spread happiness and show how discovering “Unicorn Island” (her metaphorical happy place) saved her life.
Though Singh is used to performing in front of the camera — the 27-year-old posted her first video in 2010, and now uploads new content every Monday and Thursday to her channel IISuperwomanII — she isn’t accustomed to having a director.
“I usually control when the camera goes on and off, so there were so many moments throughout this entire journey where I’d wake up and someone would be shooting me waking up, and I’m just like, ‘okay!’ But at the same time, I think it’s amazing, because you see a side of me in this film you’d probably never see on my channel,” Singh said.
Director Scott Winn said directing Singh was both fun and a good learning experience. “She’s so used to having control over everything, and this was really the first time that she kind of had to let go of that, and allow someone else to come in and show a side of her that not only her fans don’t get to see, but even (she) herself doesn’t get to see,” Winn said.
“A Trip to Unicorn Island” is the beginning of YouTube Red’s original movies, and many feel the $9.99-per-month service — which also includes ad-free and offline YouTube video access, as well as a subscription to Google Music — is the future of content creation.
“I think every movie in digital streaming stands out uniquely because these people, these characters, are able to really customize everything,” said producer Andrew Mecham. “They have a fan base that follows them pretty loyally. They know what those people want. And Lilly just went on a tour to show just that. So we show that; we show her tour.”
Creating new content is the essence of these YouTubers’ success, but many explained that finding a niche can be difficult. “I think content is predicated on understanding your audience, understanding what engages your audience [and] your demographic,” YouTuber Alyson Stoner said. “And also combining that with your authentic fingerprint and your personal passion. It’s a matter of integrity for me, personally.”
Singh believes that YouTube is more than just the entry-way to “making it,” especially now that YouTube Red is pursuing original content creation similar to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. “I think we’re in such an exciting time right now,” she said. “When I first started YouTubeing, the idea was ‘Oh, YouTube is going to be a stepping stone to get to other places,’ and I just totally don’t agree with that,” Singh said. “I think YouTube is amazing. The digital space is amazing.”