Daniel Brashaw discusses why Casey Neistat's abandonment of his daily Vlog vocation might just determine the future of online film-making.
You may or may not have heard the name Casey Neistat over the past 18 months. If you haven’t, it’s safe to say that he’s a bit of a big deal.
Last February the 35 year-old filmmaker had a relatively modest number of 500,000 subscribers; today he has 5.8 million. That figure sounds crazy as it is, but when you consider the fact that it took him 5 years to gain those first 500,000 subscribers and only 20 months to gain the second 5.3 million it’s absolutely insane. But what’s the secret to his success? Well dear reader, let me fill you in.
In March last year the New York native started daily vlogging, it’s as simple as that. Simply documenting his day-to-day life took him from 1 million monthly views to 130 million. Not bad really. However, despite this unparalleled growth Neistat has just announced that he’s quitting daily vlogging.
To the vast majority of his fans this is likely a tragedy. It’s like hearing that Lionel Messi is giving up football. About 90% of his subscribers have only ever known him as a daily vlogger. But personally: I’m relieved. Though Casey’s vlogs are beautiful and inventive (I mean just watch the opening thirty seconds to his final vlog):
They never held the interest and excitement of the one-off, awe inspiring stories like the “surprise in South Africa” and “what would you do with $25,000” that came before his massive celebrity. As Casey himself often says: story is everything, and as stunningly as he may package it, he can’t tell a story of his previous impeccable standard every single day. He had started making his everyday exciting for the sake of documenting instead of just documenting the exciting parts of his life. Forcing a story makes it seem forced; it’s pretty simple.
But even worse is when an important video like “Scariest Day of my Life”, which tells the story of 9/11 from Casey’s perspective as a new New Yorker, gets lost amongst the sea of daily mundanity.
Another problem I had with Casey daily vlogging is the formulaic and predictable way it’s often used to get regular views with minimal inventiveness, you’ve just got to look at the number of daily vloggers who (unlike Casey) churn out low quality, boring videos but (like Casey) get millions of views a day earning them hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. From a financial viewpoint you can forgive anyone for moving away from high production monthly videos to low production daily videos that get three times as many views, but as a viewer I couldn’t shake the feeling that Casey had lost his identity as an artist and instead had become an entertainer.
What next for the sunglass adorned filmmaker? Well, in his final vlog he said he felt the need to progress, to ‘swing from vine to vine’. Clichéd I know, but at least it means this isn’t the end of Casey Neistat. I’m hoping we’ll see a return to his high production videos, to his old school, harder hitting films. I’m excited, not only for myself, but for the 5.3 million new fans to see Casey at his best, not as a daily vlogger, but as a genuine filmmaker.