YouTube stars – those crazy kids with millions of subscribers – are increasingly transitioning from online celebrity to real world fame, from appearing in subway ads, to getting movie deals to designing their own clothing lines.
Their rapid ascent into offline stardom highlights the increasing sophistication of the platform on which they were discovered. YouTube hasn't just been a place to upload amateur videos for some time now – currently the platform boasts a fleet of wildly profitable multi-channel networks that could very well become the film studios of the future.
Just this week, YouTube scored an additional pair of high-profile projects.
On Monday, New Form Digital, the studio formed by Discovery, Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) and Academy Award winning producer Brian Grazer, announced that it was partnering up with a collection of YouTube stars to fund and develop 14 short films, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The films will be produced by a cast of popular YouTube creators and stars, including Joey Graceffa (3.6 million subscribers), Joe Penna (2.8 million) and Sawyer Hartman (1.7 million), and will be distributed through the creator's individual channels, with the potential for extended content deals, branded entertainment, and wider distribution if the videos prove to be a hit.
"We want to create scripted cinematic storytelling for the digital generation by combining great online talent with the storytelling expertise of Ron Howard," Kathleen Grace, the former YouTube executive and current chief creative officer of New Form, told the outlet.
On Wednesday, novelist James Patterson broke the news that his popular young adult series "Maximum Ride" won't be turned into a movie series, as originally intended (Columbia Pictures acquired the rights in 2008). Instead, he's made a deal with the multichannel network Collective Digital Studio to turn his fantasy novels into a YouTube series (which will kick off with six to 10 videos, each 10 to 15 minutes long) starring YouTube personalities.
“The beauty of YouTube is that fans won’t have to wait forever as we won’t be bogged down by the typical studio development process,” Gary Binkow, Collective Digital's chief content officer told Variety adding “We’re not looking to bring (traditional) Hollywood talent and filmmakers into this ecosystem.”
Fair enough. Although as social media stars continue to pursue offline fame, the day may soon arrive when the distinction between traditional Hollywood talent and YouTube talent fades away completely.