Launching a summer blockbuster without a major studio seems like a distant dream, YouTube sensation Freddie Wong is out to prove it wrong.
His new feature-length film, "Video Game High School," has been watched more than 40 million times since its release in May.
But Wong didn't debut "VGHS" in a movie theater, nor on YouTube. he and partner Brandon Laatstch operate a channel on Youtube, Freddiew, that has more than 3.2 million subscribers.
The film has been chopped up into nine 10- to 20-minute pieces - premiered on RocketJump, an ad-supported site that he and Laastch launched with "VGHS" showrunner Matthew Arnold to host content outside of YouTube.
The film is about a world where nerds and their videogames have replaced jocks and sports at the top of the social pyramid. Each new part aired for a week on RocketJump, then moved onto Wong's popular YouTube channel.
Its popularity on Youtube is immense, but RocketJump has still accounted for more than 7 million views to date, with traffic increasing as more people discovered that the newer episodes were debuting on the native site.
Wong and his partners conceived RocketJump about the same time they were making "VGHS." The goal was to extend their brand and create a better viewing experience for consumers.
While YouTube controls the display and formatting, the Freddiew team and its management company, the Collective Digital Studio, is able to tailor RocketJump to their core audience, mostly gamer fans.
The maker feels that it’s impossible to fund such movies with money earned by Youtube alone. "We need our own place to exhibit our own content and we need to be able to control that user experience, and have a way to guide viewers through content." said Wong.
Filmmakers posting videos on YouTube must split the revenue with Google's online video behemoth. That places a lower ceiling on the money that can be made from a video.
"We can potentially leverage brands and sponsors more than on YouTube because we control the entire ecosystem," Weinstein said. "[RocketJump] was about doing different types of deals that were more immersive and had more flexibility to custom create advertising programs."
To that end, RocketJump also helps on the merchandising side; the site features a store that sells T-shirts, posters and DVDs.
Though "VGHS" production cost about $500,000, much of the funding came from other sources. The Freddiew team launched a Kickstarter campaign, which netted them $273,276.
Money was raised for shoots through sponsors, such as Airsoft Company Evike and Monster, the energy drink company.
In return for the organic uses of Monster within the series, gamers love their caffeine, Wong could shoot an extended chase scene that otherwise would have been too costly.
Indeed, several mainstream Hollywood producers have praised Wong's work as ready for theaters. Looking at the success, a sequel is already being planned and Wong’s "VGHS" works as an inspiration for everyone.
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