How a Creator Crowdfunds His 3rd Movie 🎬

YouTube veteran Ashens fundraises for a feature film

Good morning. As we enter into Spotify Wrapped season, web developer Bennett Hollstein created his own Wrapped for TikTok, as the platform stopped releasing a year-end summary for users last year.

Receiving the report requires a little bit of legwork on users’ ends—they have to export their TikTok data and upload to the new web app. Luckily, in a move that can only be described as Peak 2023, there’s a tutorial featuring an AI-generated voiceover with Hollstein playing Subway Surfers to really keep your attention.

Comedy Creator Ashens Raises Money for Feature Film

Comedy creator and filmmaker Stuart Ashen (right) fundraises for “Turn Back” (left), a horror film told in reverse-chronological order that’s based on UK folktales / Stuart Ashen

English YouTube vet Stuart “Ashens” Ashen launched a Kickstarter to finance his forthcoming horror film, Turn Back, last week. Already, he’s nearly doubled his goal and raised $216,000.

  • Quick context: Ashen has made comedic product review videos for his 1.6 million YouTube subscribers for 18 years.

  • He’s also written and acted in various TV and film projects and crowdfunded two comedy films, Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild in 2014 and Polybius Heist in 2020.

While his past films were self-released, Ashen is targeting a wider audience with Turn Back, submitting to film festivals and seeking a traditional distribution partner.

“When we did the last two [movies] we were still in that mode of, ‘Is a feature film based on a YouTube audience going to work?’ And so we tried to pitch the film in our heads based on what the audience would want—primarily comedy, with references to Ashens videos,” Ashen’s writing partner and filmmaker Riyad Barmania told us. “But with this film we’ve gotten a lot bolder and we want this to appeal to those people as well, but we’re aiming for a much more mainstream audience.”

Enter: Kickstarter, where Ashen can harness his existing audience’s interest to power larger distribution ambitions.

  • Kickstarter supporters can receive various perks depending on how much they donate. For example, a $121 donation gets you a VHS box set with three of Ashen’s films.

  • “The trick is to capture the imagination of [what the audience wants],” Ashen said.

Zoom out: Horror has been a popular genre for YouTube creators-turned-filmmakers, especially given the success of critic Chris Stuckmann’s first movie Shelby Oaks and RackaRacka’s A24 mainstream hit Talk to Me.

Why This Creator Group’s Merch Partnership Works

From left to right, Sam “Your Narrator” Denby, Joshua “JoshDub” Wanders, Eduardo “EddieVR” Saucedo, William “Mully” Jonas, and Gaege “JuicyFruitSnacks” Gibson — better known together as “The Boys” / The Boys

Comedy creator group The Boys announced a merch partnership with Spencer’s last weekend, rolling out exclusive apparel and accessories to the retail chain’s 690+ U.S. stores and website.

The collection is already selling out on Spencer’s website—so what can other creators learn from The Boys’ strategy?

We spoke with Kevin Ramsey, the COO of merchandising firm Warren James (which manufactures and fulfills The Boys’ apparel line), to get the answers.

  1. The Boys and Spencer’s are a culture fit. The creators’ raunchy content paired naturally with the retail chain’s reputation for selling edgy apparel. “Demographic-wise, it’s a perfect overlap…[The Boys’] audience are the people already going into Spencer’s,” Ramsey told us.

  2. Creators have to really care. Ramsey believes that retail collaborations only work if creators build hype for weeks (if not months) and film content at the stores like The Boys did. “They need to be willing to do what they gotta do to get fans out and drive that traffic,” he said.

  3. Retail shouldn’t cannibalize online sales. Direct sales on The Boys’ website still drive the best margins (no middleman). So the collection at Spencer’s had to be differentiated from The Boys’ existing merch. Still, simply having products in stores creates “a halo effect where if someone comes across it in the store, they’re like, ‘Let’s go check out [other products on] their website,’” Ramsey said.

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TikTok Creators Report That Their Videos are ‘Disappearing’

Some TikTok creators are reporting that their viral videos are disappearing from their profiles / Illustration by Moy Zhong

Several top TikTok creators are reporting that some of their videos are “disappearing,” apparently taken down randomly without any explanation from the platform.

Between the lines: When videos are marked as community guideline violations and removed, creators are offered a reason for their removal and can appeal the decision.

In contrast, the “disappearing” videos are still showing up with no violations when a creator opens their personal page. But when viewers try to watch the creators’ “disappearing” videos, they’re unavailable.

Big picture: Given the lack of communication from TikTok, affected creators including Che Durena and Oneya Johnson say they’re posting less on the platform and encouraging their followers to migrate to other channels like YouTube and Instagram.

🔥 Press Worthy

  • Patreon acquires digital events platform Moment to bring “creators and fans even closer together.”

  • Video essayist F.D Signifier shares his perspective on how Black athletes are often marginalized in the sports they help build.

  • Creators are launching online businesses in a matter of minutes with this free tool.*

  • Comedy creator Brandon Rogers releases his first interactive video.

  • YouTube is working on AI tech that would let creators record audio using the voices of famous artists like Drake.

  • Fill out this quick creator survey for a chance to win an Amazon gift card.

  • FaZe Clan is acquired by GameSquare.

*This is sponsored advertising content.

📚️ Thank You For Pressing Publish

The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: A Miami-area meme page has quickly become a go-to news source for South Florida. The Washington Post investigates what the success of the Instagram account “Only in Dade” means for the future of local journalism.

  • Watch: “Be unrealistic.” Lifestyle creator Callum “Callux” McGinley explains how that phrase shaped his mindset in a documentary about notwoways, the sneaker brand he created that’s now reportedly worth $26 million.

  • Listen: Digital culture journalist and creator Taylor Lorenz joins The Town podcast to discuss whether creators still need Hollywood. The verdict? Not really.

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