The YouTube Degree

When you put a New York University film student next to someone who posts videos onto YouTube, who is more likely to be dubbed qualified to direct a full-length feature film? The NYU graduate would be the obvious choice. However, after this past Friday, there may be a change in opinion.

YouTube star Shane Dawson is well known to his 12 million-plus subscribers across his YouTube channels; however, now Dawson is breaking into the realm of Hollywood with his first full-length film, “Not Cool,” released this past Friday, September 26.

Dawson was chosen to create his own film over NYU graduate, Anna Martemucci, as a part of Starz channel's reality show “The Chair.”

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Dawson and Martemucci, two aspiring filmmakers, were given two identical screenplays and tasked with making two different films. They were both given a budget and a team of mentors to help them through the entire process.

The two directors fall on very different ends of the cinematic spectrum, which makes their interpretations of the coming-of-age dramedy very interesting to watch. Their final products “Not Cool” by Dawson, and “Hollidaysburg” by Martemucci were released after the audience of “The Chair” watched the creation, marketing, and theatrical release of both films and voted on which director deserved to win the $250,000 grand prize.

This is a unique feat for a YouTube sensation. Dawson has no classical training in the world of film, but what academic filmmaking skills Dawson lacks has been overshadowed by his unique position as a YouTube star. Dawson already had a strong and loving fan base, which has been the support for his film.

Dawson has a fan base that has grown with him, and they are excited to see his creation on the big screen. Which is a good thing, since this is not a movie for the New York Times film critics. Critic Neil Genzlinger berated the movie for being “so unfunny that no one involved with it should ever be allowed to work in the movies again.” The harsh reception isn't enough to overshadow the excitement coming from Dawson’s “family” of a YouTube fan base who are looking forward to seeing the film with their friends.

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While Dawson’s raunchy comedy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the movie is without a doubt thematically similar to the content that Dawson puts out on his YouTube channels. His fan base has enjoyed watching him grow and develop through his channels, reality television and now a full-length feature film. They feel a personal connection to this film because they feel that, through Dawson’s time on “The Chair,” they have been able to get to know Dawson and his trials and tribulations regarding the production of “Not Cool.” The question this film is posing is if this new class of filmmaker has the power to cross over into traditional film media.

Between Dawson’s YouTube vlogs, the social media coverage, the reality television show that documented the procedure and the final culmination of the release of “Not Cool” in theatres and online, the varied worlds of communication have come together to produce an end product in which the fans were totally involved. This is a new type of media; media where the viewer is in control of the production and how their entertainment is produced. While you may or may not enjoy Dawson’s movie, this movie does confirm one thing: an untrained YouTube star has successfully directed and produced a full-length feature film.

Will this trend continue, and will we see more unconventionally trained stars develop films of their own? Dawson's success may launch a newly progressive, independent approach to film, unique to this modern age of young media consumers.

Grew up on the shore of Connecticut, and destined to travel the world. In the mean time, BC is her favorite place to be. She likes to write, and loves to talk. She also greatly enjoys green tea, grapefruits and cats.