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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 23, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsPopped Culture

Middle-ground video essayists speak to the average viewer

There are video essays made by highfalutin academics, as well as young amateurs thinking their opinions are law. With anything, there is bound to be a middle ground, and in the video essay world, there are several creators occupying that central place.

These creators are often comedic in tone and take the perspective of the everyday consumer — someone without a formal education in film or music — and never claim to be experts on the topic. Many of these creators dedicate a large amount of time to talking about their lack of expertise. The people in this group are more selfaware than extreme essayists and even some of the formally educated ones. Self-awareness is what gives them a level of credibility, and it makes their videos fun to watch because it feels like a discussion rather than education or a forcefeeding of someone else’s opinion.

One of the creators inhabiting this space is “24 Frames of Nick,” hosted by Nick Cross. Despite being 21 years old, Cross doesn’t fall into the Generation Z trap of extreme opinions. Instead, he pokes fun at the idea of his opinion being the law of the land. This type of satire is on display in his many videos about “High School Musical 2” being the greatest film ever made. Cross is an expert at making videos that perfectly target nostalgia for films and media made in the mid-2000s — when he and his viewers were growing up. Cross is a great creator, and he nails this sarcastic brand of humor every time. In fact, his YouTube bio reads, “I invented nostalgia.” One of the best examples of this is his video on the incredibly disturbing film “Monster House.” 

The idea of being an everyman creator also applies to people who just love to talk about movies with their friends. For instance, creators like Beau Oliver and his team of friends at “Nerd Soup” have had plenty of success. Oliver and his friends have a dynamic that feels both informal and knowledgeable. Part of the appeal is the casual banter among these friends — people who have known each other for most of their lives. Their main focus is informal film discussion and reviews. “Nerd Soup” began as a channel that focused on breaking down Game of Thrones about four years ago but has since evolved into talking about all things nerdy. They are not proper essayists, but occasionally they will put out a video essay. The group is made up of an unapologetic Long Island, New York–based group of friends who love chatting about the media they adore.

Some viewers prefer content that is not as concerned with informing them and instead look for someone who will “Drive everyone around them crazy talking about movies waaaay too much,” or so creator Sean Chandler says. Chandler is not necessarily an essayist, but his videos have a structure to them that often mimics an essay. There might not be a better example of a creator that appeals to the everyday viewer than Chandler. 

Chandler is an Austin, Texas, native who reviews, ranks and discusses movies. Starting YouTube as a side hustle, approximately one year ago he went full-time with his videos. He struggled with alcoholism for years. After lots of hard work, he has now made a name for himself. Chandler posts a video every single day, but even when his video topics don’t land or his clickbait-y enthusiasm is a bit too much, it’s tough not to love the guy. Chandler’s infectious high energy and inclusive attitude make his videos an easy watch for the whole family.

The most compelling creator in this group is “Mr Sunday Movies,” made of James Clement and his co-host Nick Mason. Clement used to be a school teacher before partnering with comicbookmovie.com and creating “The Weekly Planet” podcast. Mason is a tram driver and the second member of the podcasting team. Neither Mason nor James has any experience in the filmmaking business, and the two Australians are constantly poking fun at themselves. They also make a strong point to satirize the idea of clickbait and how seriously people take the movie business. A good demonstration of this is that when they talk about a movie they can only give it one of two scores, “best movie ever” or “worst movie ever,” a witty play on the extreme opinions online.

Video essays have a lot to offer — from education to rageinducing monologues to witty discussions from everyday people. People will continue to bring video essays into the limelight. Perhaps a new generation of video essayists is watching right now — essayists learning about their favorite films through videos that provide something more intimate than a documentary because of the boundless interactions between viewers and the creators.