Three YouTube stars are aiming for the silver screen, or at least releasing a feature length movie online. Camp Takota, which has just finished shooting, is the brain child of Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, and Mamrie Hart, the female comedy trio that has taken YouTube by storm. Each of the collaborators started out making comedy videos on their own channels and began to collaborate on smaller projects and appear on each other's channels, while slowly building audiences of their own. Eventually, the trio created #NoFilter, a live sketch comedy tour. Now they are on to the ultimate collaboration, branching out of the YouTube video monolith to develop a feature length film in which the three friends play counselors returning to their childhood summer camp, a concept based on Mamrie's summers counseling at an all-girl camp.
Announced at this year's VidCon, an convention for fans and creators of online video, the feature is being made with and will be released on Chill.com, a video site aimed at expanding the online video ecosystem. YouTube is the major hub of video online today, with everything from educational videos, vlogs, and comedy, but all usually run less than 15 minutes. It is a great tool for building audiences from the ground up, but, like any creative tool, it has limitations. Yes, there's Vimeo, of course, which has become the place for high res art films and beautiful animation. There's Netflix, with its ever-growing trove of movies and TV from big name producers and even Hulu, made for TV shows and online video, but so far there has been no site that has become a leading platform geared to the creation and presentation of feature-length works by Internet-only and crowdfunded creators.
Chill.com wants to give the fans a full-service experience, with more access to the film's three stars, though it's hard to see how fans could get more connected than watching DailyGrace. During shooting Grace replaced her normal daily YouTube show with a vlog from each day of shooting, giving fans a nearly live, behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew as the feature was being shot. Who needs paparazzi anymore when the creators themselves happily feed their fans a deluge of day-in-the-life videos. Not only are the creators free from the sneak attacks and flashing bulbs of pushy photographers, but they get to choose what goes online and what gets edited out while still letting fans into the fold. So, Chill goes all out, throwing the idea of oversaturation to the wind, and packing the site full of even more behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, images, and fan art.
It is still uncertain if this experiment in online video delivery will pay off for the trio, but with nearly 70,000 fans already signed up, the prospects look good. Now let's just hope that the jump from short to feature retains the funny, awkward, and touching style of their YouTube videos. But either way, online video is quickly changing, with more access to both money and eyeballs, and the success or failure of this project will contribute to the shape of things to come.