You may have heard me tell the story about the time I was in LA with a group of YouTubers a couple of years back. A girl we were travelling with (a very well known YouTuber) was jet-lagged and appeared to have food poisoning. But still she trooped on to some neon lit night club in Hollywood so she could pretend she was having fun. I was sitting directly opposite her when she lifted her head off the table, picked up someone elses cocktail and then stood up and started dancing with her camera in selfie mode, taking a sip and letting out a squeal of delight for her fans. She hit the stop button and then sat back down, laying her head on the table before announcing that she was going to get a taxi back to the hotel.
And maybe in a way this represents some of the disparity with reality that we see with reality Vlogging. The issue with Vlogging is that on the surface it appears to represent a reality that is often carefully, and artificially constructed to convey a sense of authenticity and realism that quite simply doesn’t exist. This makes for entertaining viewing of course, but also increases the perceived chasm between the lives of the creators and their viewers. When this is taken to the extreme we see Youtubers pretending to buy their parents a dream house, giving a “homeless” person $10,000 or showing off a fleet of cars which they just “bought” (but actually just borrowed from a family run car yard)
I want to be clear that none of this is an issue, unless you believe everything you see online, on TV and in the newspaper is actually real. There is nothing wrong with Vlogging, news and YouTube. What is important is your relationship with it and knowing that what you're seeing is being viewed through a lens that not everybody else shares. When this goes to the extreme we see ‘Prank’ videos that are carefully planned out to try and trick viewers into thinking the activities are real. Sometimes fans replicate these videos with fatal results.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to spend some time with some of the more influential and better known YouTubers from around the globe. From Bethany Mota (10M Subs), Dude Perfect (40M Subs) and Casey Neistat (10M Subs) and of course the big names of Australian YouTube such as Natalie Tran, Racka Racka, Jayden Rodrigues, Troye Sivan and My Cupcake Addiction. Sometimes we’re on a panel together, appearing at a YouTube conference or we’ve made a video together. Or it’s just a quick chat in the hallway of a Google office somewhere in the world where we have 60 seconds to say hi and then continue on our way. I’m always interested to see how they’re going when the camera is off, and how they deal with their content schedule and fame. I remember having a chat with Alfie (of Zoella fame) in the US a couple of years back. He’d been on a plane from the UK so didn’t have time to make a video. Now his audience were asking where the video was and why he hadn’t uploaded because it had been… wait for it…. 24 hours without a video and he was stressing about how he was going to make something for them. I mean that’s just madness. But what is interesting when talking with different creators, is how similar all of our experiences are when dealing with the darker side of being somewhat of a public figure and the diversity of the demands that are made by viewers. (To give it some perspective we get up to 10,000 messages, comments and emails every day and they all want different things from us)
A lot of common themes come up from creators including burnout, anxiety and the compulsive, addictive nature of trying to feed the beast that is the insatiable appetite of fans with daily videos (This is a general platform observation and not specific to any of the creators listed above) The point is, that across the board it seems that a lot of creators are trying so hard to be ‘authentic’ that they have to fake it for anyone to believe them because the audience don’t want the real version and this is really messing with their heads.
On our side, we get people saying we should go back to the driveway. On a daily basis we get emails demanding we go back to filming on the driveway or else they will unsubscribe (We never will and HERE’S WHY) This was the best option we had 11 years ago, but now we’ve got a shed to work in and we’re much happier. So for us to be authentic to the demands of the Driveway Crew, we’d have to pretend to want to go back to the driveway to make the videos seem real to these viewers, even though we’d prefer to be in our shed. Tricky right? Should we pretend that we want to go back to the driveway so that it seems more real to them, or do what’s actually real, but looks more fake to the audience? Should we do what we want or what the audience wants? It’s a balancing act that each creator/artist has to walk.
Last year I travelled to Seoul in South Korea to spend some time with around 100 of the most famous YouTubers from the Asia Pacific Region. What was really interesting was chatting with the YouTubers from India and Indonesia where the platform has exploded and some of them can no longer leave their homes. This is something that they were happy to speak with me about, but not something that they’ve shared with their viewers. And I’m not saying they should, but it’s important to remember that while the videos may not always be ‘real’, there is a real human being on the other end of those 50 million subscribers that has the same hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties as the rest of us. And some of these people can no longer leave their houses at all without being harassed. "Oh they chose this career so now they have to put up with it" - comments like that sadly are missing the point.
The thing that seems to be quite concentrated on YouTube, and part of the problem, is that the videos are presented as an authentic reality. This is mostly prevalent in Vlogging because it is so quick and easy to make that the lack of skills required to produce it give it an ever greater sense of authenticity compared to other more time intensive film making styles. But you need to remember that you are not seeing someones life… you are witnessing a carefully curated fragment of time which has been selected and edited to be shared with you. I’m not saying that authentic content doesn’t happen at all, it’s just that socially we need to be aware that what we’re seeing is not the sum of the creators life - merely a part of it that they have chosen to share with you. Really at this point, the onus is on the viewers to accept that what is seen on the internet, including ‘Fake News’ and YouTube videos, is not going to represent an authentic reality. We should be asking the important question of “Is this real?" but at the same time not assuming that everything we see is fake. It's a fine line to walk.
With our own videos, we add music, voiceover, colour grade our pictures and edit them to make the story better, so in some sense I would argue that our videos are not “real” because the footage, and timeline has been affected. Whether this constitutes as "Fake" or not is up to the comment section but it's certainly not reality. We're at a track for 9 hours but the video only goes for 9 minutes. There's hours and hours of lost time that's not in the video. I guess that makes it fake, in a way, but it's as real as we can get on the internet.
In terms of filming, we don’t usually have any scripts - we make it up as we go along and then work the rest out when we’re editing it. (When we’re doing Voiceover we write it out so we know what to say) But there’s still a very deliberate process of creating an episode where there are decisions being made in the background to try and make the best video we can, whether it be by creating new music or by a careful colour grade. It’s probably more of a film-making mentality than a ‘Share your whole life’ style that a lot of people want from us. (Maybe one day... or not)
Sometimes we throw in a scene that is meant to hi light the absurdity of it all. An example is when we ventured into outer space for our Space Wizard series. Interestingly nobody called out that it was fake, even though it was the fakest thing we’ve ever done - I mean we were battling giant cockroaches on a flying motorcycle. When we were racing our 350Z, there was footage of Marty and I driving the car down the street, and then it cuts to two elderly gentlemen yelling out to slow down. The two old men were also Marty and I. Nobody called “Fake!” even though we clearly could not be driving the car, and on the side of the road at the same time. So who was driving the cars? FAKE!
So where is this all going? Well the proliferation of artificial authenticity and ‘Fake News’ has given people a strange sense of what is real and what isn’t and sometimes the pendulum swings too far the other way and everything is classed as fake. In our latest series video racing two of our cars (2SEXY VS MINI) we genuinely had no idea who would win the race. There was no practice run. No timed set up laps. Just a track battle between mates (who are not race car drivers) and whatever happens we accept that this will be the outcome. The results of these races are as real as we can make them with the ability and cars we have. But still there were comments that the video was fake and scripted with all sorts of wild conspiracy theories about who funded the video and why Car #1/Car#2 was faster/slower than viewers expected (We paid for the video entirely ourselves. Our sponsors are clearly listed on our official website. None of them were involved in funding this video)
But the real question, is Why? What would the purpose be of faking it so that the Mini wins the race or vice-versa? Neither result is particularly dramatic. I am neither a race car driver or Mini rally expert, but I’m driving as fast as I can on skinny tyres in a tiny overpowered car so I can not only make a video, but also make it back home in one piece. During the race, my tyres are screeching and the back end of my car is starting to let go due to speed and torque steer, which is clearly visible and audible in the video. Likewise Martys car is understeering and losing traction the moment he puts his foot down. But still there were comments like “You should be going faster around the corners. FAKE!". I couldn't drive my car any faster on the day. I can say with 100% certainty that if you chose two average people with average track ability the result would be exactly the same. A race car driver VS a novice would be a different story but we are neither of those things.
Some suggest we should just let race car drivers take our cars out instead of driving them ourselves. But then I don't get to drive my car own car on the track and for us it's meant to be a fun day out where we can test our cars against each other, not against someone that drives our cars for us. So do we make the day about us and turn the cameras off, or do we make the day about making a video for the viewers? We try and do both.
Lets side-step for a second and have a look at "Reality TV".
Making videos on YouTube is a pretty strange way to spend your time, and one that main stream media still refers to as a bit of a joke. I read an article in the newspaper after the Youtube site went down for a couple of hours and the journalist suggested that now all the YouTubers would have to go and get “real” jobs. I don't think the free to air TV networks like us very much. There's not that much positive press anymore since Google is taking so much of their advertising revenue. It’s clear that YouTube/Netflix is smashing the old paradigm and disrupting the global tide lapping against the yachts of the old TV execs as they roll around in their golf carts trying to work out what to do next to stem the loss of their advertising dollars. (In official Ratings released by MediaWeek last week, Married at First Sight had 1.18M viewers. In the same period Mighty Car Mods had 2.13M Views) Interesting that a lot of people speak about MAFS like it's "real"... where it's so clearly constructed. Some of the actors wake up with different make up on, or in a different room. There's whole websites that find all the errors in the story line. And there's nothing wrong with entertainment like this - just don't watch it and then compare your own life to the unachievable excitement and drama of a reality TV show (that is anything but real)
Then again, sometimes even reality is not real enough for some...
As many of you know my "real" job is writing music. A couple of years ago I’m sitting in my recording studio when my producer/agent comes in. She explains that there’s a new car coming out (I've written lots of music for car commercials) and the creative agency is coming down for a meeting. They’ve found some music as a guide and they want me to make something similar. Shortly after, a couple of guys come in and plug in their USB stick. They play a song called ‘Overdrive’ by Moog. (They have no idea it was me who wrote it) “We found this online. Can you make something like that?”. “Absolutely” I reply. They say they’ll be back in a couple of days so I get to work.
A couple of days later they come in to listen to what I’ve done. After playing it they explain “The first one we showed you is made by some car guy . And he really seems to get the idea of speed and excitement. That’s what we’re looking for. The kind of song that younger people would really listen to in their spare time”.
They left the room. A day later I found out that I didn’t get the job of ripping off my own song. I wasn’t “Moog” enough for them so they paid someone else to try and rip the song off. When that didn’t work out they contacted MCM directly via the contact page asking to licence the original track. “Moog” politely wrote back and said no.
It's a strange and exciting time that we're living in with access to amazing media, stories and content. Keep an open mind about what you see and make your own decisions about whether you feel like the content you watch is a valuable trade for your time. If it's not, flick the channel, paste in a different URL, go get a book or just turn it all off for a while. We're spoiled for choice these days and that makes it a very exciting time to create, and enjoy stories from all around the world... even if none of them are real!
21 REASONS WHY WE DON’T FILM ON THE DRIVEWAY ANMORE
WHY WE’VE FAILED AS YOUTUBERS