Three major things happened over the course of the last few months while we were shooting VGHS Season 3:
- We hit our 4-year anniversary of starting the channel (We started March 2010)
- We crossed 1 billion total views on all the videos on the channel
- We announced a content partnership with Lionsgate
Four years ago, in the fall of 2010, Brandon, Matt, and myself boarded an RV and did a month-long roadtrip around the United States guided by location submissions by our fans around the country. We were recognized for the first time in public, in a mall parking lot outside of Sacramento, by a Gamestop employee. It was on that trip we shot our first truly “viral” video (and to this day still the most viewed video on our channel – “Future First Person Shooter”).
We’ve made a lot of shorts in four years, pulled altogether too many all-nighters, and dedicated the majority of our waking hours to the pursuit of trying to make something funny, interesting, compelling week-in and week-out. We missed weeks here and there. We felt the pressure to make up for those misses. We “fed the beast.”
And finally, after four years, it’s time to decide what’s next.
Previously, in our Phase 2 video, we announced that Brandon was splitting off to pursue his own projects. You can keep up with what Brandon’s been up to by following his Twitter and on his BrandonJLa channel.
Since then, we here at RocketJump dove headfirst into production of Season 3 of Video Game High School. I’m very excited to show everyone what’s in store for this season – it’s far and away the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done and we think it brings a fitting and satisfying close to the VGHS saga.
Meanwhile, in the middle of all that, we were working on getting back to a weekly shorts schedule, which we maintained for three months. Some of these shorts, I believe, were the best and funniest ones we’ve ever done – shorts like this one:
Or this one:
But others, frankly, weren’t very good. Like this one, for example:
We learned some important lessons from trying to juggle weekly shorts with long-form series: You need time to do things well, and you have to be willing to, if necessary, throw it all out and start all over again. Valve did that with Half-Life and Pixar did it with Toy Story. We should treat our work no different.
The difficulty with weekly shorts is the constant pressure of just getting something out. While sometimes the crucible of a looming deadline can spur you into action, we learned it can hinder you in other ways. Ideas become focussed on what can be executed in the time frame of a single week. Compromises are made in the name of sheer efficiency. The desire to simply get the upload online trumps the desire to make things better.
And to be totally frank, I think we have, over the course of the past four years, hit the physical limit of what can be feasibly accomplished in the span of one week.
So what this means is very simple – we’re still going to make shorts, but we’re going to do them better. Our release schedule will be determined by the quality of the short. We’ll no longer allow ourselves to be limited by trying to crank out something new every week – we will tackle bigger, more ambitious ideas, allow ourselves longer run times, and craft each individual short into something special.
One of the reasons for doing shorts weekly came from sheer monetary necessity – we needed the viewcount and advertising money to simply to pay for our overhead (not to mention the electricity being pulled from our beast PCs is outta control!) There’s a reason we renamed the FreddieW channel to RocketJump – it’s because it’s not just me here. Filmmaking is collaboration, and having the channel name be a person’s name goes against that. Making movies takes time, dedication, and effort from many people, some of whom have been working on our videos since the beginning, and some whom you will come to meet in the months ahead.
This is where our landmark partnership with Lionsgate comes in (you can read the press release here). Our partnership means that for the first time ever, we have the freedom to pursue tv-length series and feature-length projects based on what we want to make, and not what we need to make just so we can afford rent.
More importantly – this deal allows us to retain full creative control over everything we do. This is a very rare thing in Hollywood, and something that was very important for us to have. It’s part of the reason why we haven’t partnered up with traditional Hollywood until now.
Unlike a lot of the other deals happening between traditional Hollywood and YouTube companies, this is not a deal about owning networks or buying user bases or leveraging audiences. This is a deal about one thing – making awesome shows and movies. We now have the freedom to focus on making more long-form content, in a variety of genres – gritty action movies, sci-fi epics, comedies – VGHS is only the beginning. Our next planned series, which you’ll hear more about soon, is an anthology show in the vein of The Twilight Zone completely unlike VGHS. As a team of diverse filmmakers, we hope you’re as excited for what’s to come as we are!
Finally, in the coming months, we will be focusing on our website and the community here. One of the things that’s been lacking in the last year or so is our educational and behind the scenes content. So we’re going to start the RocketJump Film School – where we’ll cover every aspect of filmmaking in today’s environment – from writing, to cinematography, to post production. YouTube comments are horrible, so we’re going to be integrating a Reddit-style comment system in our community here, and tie it into point “karma” that’ll translate to real-world rewards. Those are only a couple of the ideas we’ve been kicking around, and we’ll be working closely with you all to see what works and what doesn’t over the next few months.
It’s going be a lot of work, and will be happening piece by piece and one step at a time, but I wanted to give you all an idea of what lies ahead. So consider this the beginning of what’s next – the beginning of a lot of awesome shorts, series, and feature films for many years to come.