Varrati at VidCon: One Year Later

Over a year ago, I wrote an article that publicly revealed to the world that I have a teensy little obsession with YouTube.

Using popular online personality Charlie McDonnell as the focal point, I discussed how this marvelous medium was providing new avenues to bring audiences closer to art. Furthermore, I explained how content creators like Charlie were changing the way we perceive entertainment, creating a whole new Warholian-style zeitgeist of DIY, instantly accessible content for obsessive fans.

It's a piece of writing of which I'm particularly proud (If you'd like to read it, there'll be a link below), mostly because it allowed me to express my love for this great medium, and it connected me to a whole new community in the process.

In the year since, my championing of YouTube hasn't slowed. I've continued to write about other personalities like superstar Tyler Oakley and indie musician Alex Day, and I've ended up befriending/becoming acquaintances with so many of these online artists whose work I truly admire. Furthermore, I really feel like I've connected with the fan community, whose enthusiasm for their online heroes makes this artistic movement all the more exciting.

In fact, I have spent so much time praising the various content creators of YouTube, what I'd really like to take a minute to discuss today is the fans.

This past weekend in sunny Anaheim, California, the online community converged for the annual event known as VidCon. VidCon (which I also discussed in that original piece) sees fans and content creators the world over coming together for one glorious weekend of celebration of their online passions. The brainchild of brothers John and Hank Green (aka the Vlogbrothers), the genius of VidCon is that it recognizes the importance the role the fans play in the success of the YouTube community. For these online entertainers and artists whose work goes directly to the people, the immediate feedback and celebration by their viewers is everything. There are no studios or record labels dictating what is released to YouTube, so to become notable in this community means you have to connect with the people. As such, VidCon is all about love. It's a three day celebration of the symbiotic relationship between creator and viewer, and it's really an inspiring event.

In my other life as a horror movie writer/actor person, I have occasion to attend all manner of conventions, but I have to say there's nothing quite like VidCon. There are no angles, there's no corporate trickery, and there are no veiled attempts at using pop culture to make a cash grab. It's a truly honest celebration of art, and I'm extremely grateful I got to be a part of it this year.

My attendance at VidCon this year was thanks to an assist by Maker Studios and their fab VP of Vertical Development & Network Programming Will Keenan (he's a fellow Troma alumni, albeit from a different class and far more famous). Like me, Will comes from a low budget cinema background, and because of this, I like to believe we have a shared understanding of why YouTube is so significant to art. For years the sort of films that Will and I were part of were so contingent on grassroots appeal, to see a whole new generation of artists utilize the internet as a medium to get their art out is, frankly, inspiring. Furthermore, his company, Maker Studios (named by HuffPo as one of the "10 Companies to Watch" in 2011), is an entity that recognizes what large, tent-pole studios have yet to embrace: YouTube is here to stay. Entertainment has to adapt to this new entity, because, in honesty, it's doing what seemingly so few box office blockbusters these days are not, and that's making content with the audience, not money, in mind.

Don't get me wrong, there's a financial element to everything, especially something as successful as YouTube. However, with a medium where the content can become instantly accessible to the viewer seconds after its creation, it becomes so much harder for one entity to say what should or should not be available for consumption. It's glorious.

It's also what made wandering around VidCon so amazing. Take for example fan attendee and vlogger Trey Curtis, who I met in the hotel lobby. He came to the convention as both a fan and hopeful YouTuber, looking to meet peers and get tips on how to better himself and his work. Through attending panels and meeting other content creators who he admired, the aspiring singer/songwriter got a chance be exposed to the community he loves. "Everyone here is so nice," he told me, "It's all about the art, it's all about the people."

...and that's what it should be about.

At the after party, hosted by Maker, I got to see this sense of community brought to its apex. Making my way through the room, I had the chance to catch up with the likes of Tyler Oakley, as well as make new friends, such as the hilarious Michael Buckley and charming Collins Key (Did YOU vote for him on America's Got Talent?). I took the opportunity to shake the hands of such YouTube wunderkinds as Dan Howell, Caspar Lee, Joey Graceffa (his new horror show Storytellers is going to blow your mind), Rebecca Black, Connor Franta, and the infamously adorable twins Jack and Finn Harries. But most importantly, I got to see them celebrating with each other and their fans, because the prevailing theme of the night was togetherness. After having been to enough Hollywood parties where the echelon lines are drawn in the sand, it's nice to see no pretense. It's a celebration where the artist and the fan are not so indistinct, and when they are all brought together, they are truly one. That's why this particular online community is so successful, because it is truly that...a community.

Although Charlie McDonnell still eludes me (I've come to consider him my Googleable Godot), I am overwhelmed with the amount of new friends I've made in the YouTube universe (rumors of "collabs" are well-founded). The memories I have from VidCon will last a lifetime, and are a great reminder to this occasionally jaded artist that when something is created with love, that love will find its way back. Furthermore, VidCon is merely a concentrated celebration of a great movement that is occurring on your computer every single day. I defy anyone to log-on to YouTube and not be overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy and creativity that exists there. In an era where I hear so many complain about the lack of originality at the movies and on TV, I almost feel bad for those who don't know that new wave of art is not only here, but it's awesome.

One year after I spoke to you about the revolutionary world of art on YouTube, I'm proud to say that I'm a card-carrying member of the revolution. As VidCon closes its doors for another year, I urge you, dear reader, to open yours, if you already haven't, to this amazing world of creativity and inspiration.

The future is now, the art you always wanted is here, and if it's not...

...we'll be waiting for you.

Until next time.
Read Michael's original article: Charlie McDonnell, VidCon, and the YouTube Revolution.