Inside the Viral Short Film Taking Over YouTube 🎥

We talked with Wesley Wang about filming a movie during his senior year of high school

Good morning. Could you imagine borrowing a jacket from Emma Chamberlain? It might be a reality with Pickle, a peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace that just raised $8 million in seed funding. Think Rent the Runway meets Depop, where fashion creators can earn passive income by loaning out items from their closets. The app is growing fast, with 55% month-over-month revenue growth and a 90% customer retention rate over the last year.

How Wesley Wang Made YouTube’s Favorite Coming-of-Age Film

During his last year of high school, filmmaker Wesley Wang (center) directed his short film “nothing, except everything,” which stars David Mazouz (right) and Lily Chee (left) / Welsey Wang

As he screened his short film nothing, except everything. at several festivals throughout 2023, 19-year-old filmmaker Wesley Wang received the same feedback over and over from entertainment industry execs: Great job, but we won’t fund a feature until you finish college in three years.

Uploading his film to YouTube changed everything, though. Since Wang posted the film in late September, it’s gone viral to the tune of 1.5 million views—and inbound interest in his future projects has increased dramatically, Wang told us.

How he got here: Wang fell in love with moviemaking in middle school.

  • He’d fund his videos “with scraps” and recruit family members as talent before he began running Indiegogo campaigns and cold-emailing producers to help finance his projects.

  • “Each film just got bigger and bigger, slowly convincing people to work on my projects…every film, I see it as a chance to prove [myself] for the next one,” Wang told us.

Which brought him to nothing, except everything. The 13-minute film follows a high school senior searching for meaning as graduation quickly approaches.

The script was inspired by Wang’s own feelings of unfulfillment after achieving a big dream—getting accepted to Harvard. He shot and edited nothing throughout his last year of high school.

Looking ahead: Wang’s success on the festival circuit confirmed his desire to pursue a career in Hollywood. But the social proof he’s received through YouTube has influenced his thoughts on distribution strategy as he looks to build a production company in the near future.

What creators are saying: “I cannot believe this is free to watch on YouTube...I'd pay to watch this again. Incredible," challenge creator Isaiah Photo commented.

“Second time watching this and gotta say absolutely amazing message [and] movie. Hope this continues to get the attention it deserves," comedy creators Sam and Colby wrote.

Creators Speak Out on Israel Attacks

Casey Neistat (left) and Hasan Piker (right) address the attack on Israel by Hamas with their respective audiences / CaseyNeistat, HasanAbi

Following the attack on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas over the weekend, many creators have taken to social media to express lament, disapproval, and perspective.

On Wednesday, Casey Neistat released a video calling out the violence: “I don't have a deep understanding of the geopolitical situation in the middle east [...] I'm making this video to be as vocal as possible and to call out antisemitism when I see it.”

On the same day, streamer and political commentator Hasan Piker released an hour-long stream sharing his perspective on the history and actions that led to the Israel-Hamas war. “There’s no perfect retaliation to apartheid. Only victims everywhere,” Hasan tweeted.

Big picture: During major political unrest, many creators question whether they should participate in cultural discourse (FWIW, some audiences aren’t keen on creators weighing in). But creators like Neistat say it’s worth the risk. Ultimately, he said in the video, it can be more costly to stay silent than to express a point of view.

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That certainly was true for Kate Terentieva, a creator with a growing following on TikTok thanks to her expertise in advertising. A few months ago, a video she made about creative direction went viral and she gained thousands of followers overnight.

To help the droves of people flocking to her advice, Kate created a $20 mini-course using The Leap.

This AI-powered tool made light work of the entire process of building and selling her product. In less than an hour, Kate had already prepared her mini-course, built a sales page, and published her link in bio storefront.

“If you’ve been wanting to create digital products from your expertise quickly, easily, and for free, I highly recommend you create a storefront on The Leap,” Kate said on TikTok.

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Creator Startup Funding is Back

Creator-focused companies like financial service group Karat and link-in-bio service Komi are part of the rise in creator startup funding / Karat, Komi

After hitting a record low during the first quarter of 2023, funding for U.S. creator startups is again increasing, according to The Information.

Financial service company Karat raised $70 million in funding in July, while creator commerce startup Komi raised $12 million in the same month, which contributed to the increase.

Context: Venture funding for creator-focused startups boomed in 2021, with investments in the space ranging in the billions. Then funding declined sharply as audiences and customers never materialized.

In Q1 of this year, funding for creator startups totaled $403 million, suggesting that venture capital in this sector has cooled. It’s worth noting: The creator economy itself is still growing—one report expects the total addressable market to double in the next four years to $480 billion.

🔥 Press Worthy

  • Art creator Janice Lee is hosting a popup gathering for female creators in New York City.

  • Adobe teases a demo of its popular AI tool Generative Fill for use in video editing.

  • GothamChess announces that his educational chess book is now available for purchase in India.

  • Fiverr is looking to team up with YouTube creators who have 5,000+ subscribers for their new influencer program—Apply here.*

  • The creators of “Jet Lag” talk with Variety about passing 1 million hours streamed and break down their recent season finale.

  • Kick will be paying hourly rates to select creators in its Incentive Program.

  • Creator Now surveyed over 2,000 creators to better understand their thoughts on AI tools.

*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: “There is new content, of course, so much content…[but] to pay attention to culture in 2023 is to be belted into some glacially slow Ferris wheel.” NYT culture critic Jason Farago writes on why he believes the 21st century is the one of the least innovative periods for modern art.

  • Watch: Outdoor adventure creator Beau Miles turns a podcast episode with Australian media personality Hamish Blake into an offroad adventure with their children.

  • Listen: On the latest episode of media podcast People vs. Algorithms, media veteran Chris Kimball joins to discuss why publications need to build lasting, differentiated brands—or get left behind in an algorithmic feed.

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