The problem with our reliance on view count: Freddie Wong, Part 2

The filmmaker talks about the crushing pressures created by the online video world's unquenchable thirst for new content, and how RocketJump's partnership with Lionsgate opens up creative avenues.
April 17, 2014

Yesterday we published the first part of our conversation with Freddie Wong, in which the Video Game High School co-creator discussed how his company RocketJump’s new partnership with Lionsgate will ease their financial burden. Today we bring you Wong’s thoughts on the creative avenues that have been opened up because of the deal, as well as the crushing pressures created by the online video world’s unquenchable thirst for new content to drive views.

“I very much feel that for my generation, the future for us is not in traditional film or television.”

Q: Does your deal with Lionsgate simply give you the ability to make VGHS without all the financing, or will it be increasing the budget and scope of your projects moving forward?

A: Obviously, our goal is always to reach the endpoint that the story demands. We have ideas that are not $300-million blockbuster ideas, and then we have ideas that could be large-scale Breaking Bad, Mad Men-style shows. Our goal is not to be defined by one series, in the same way that HBO is not defined solely by The Sopranos and Pixar is not solely defined by Toy Story over and over again. We want to do a whole range of content at a level of quality that you don’t see online.

Q: Are you creatively enamored with the type of content the digital platform favors or, in your mind, has this always been a stepping stone to more traditional film and TV content?

A: To see it as a stepping stone is to be misinformed of how the history of media has always worked. Television was once considered a stepping stone to cinema. But as time goes on, that constantly evolves, and the creators understand and utilize the strengths of those platforms. For example, spectacle is what cinema does great, and long-form storytelling is what television does great. The moment you start to unlock and dig into what a medium allows you to do, that’s where the content revolution clicks. And I very much feel that for my generation, the future for us is not in traditional film or television. It’s in this hybrid world where you find what you want, see what you want, download it and, if you don’t like something, your ability as a consumer to find something that you do want to watch is nearly infinite. It all boils down to the same thing, which is whether it’s engaging to an audience.

“The sole metric for online success is view count, and it’s incredibly detrimental to the evolution and potential of where we could go.”

Q: As a kid, when you first started dreaming of a career in filmmaking, who were your creative heroes?

A: Early on, I was looking at guys like Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and of course Steven Spielberg, thinking, “How are these guys doing this?” Rodriguez very famously made El Mariachi for $6,000, and he did it with film, even. As I learned more about filmmaking and its history, I looked up to even older Hollywood guys like Charlie Chaplin, who had such control over what he was able to do and was so undisputed as an auteur. The model that he used has never been heard of since. We start to wonder, what is that model and methodology for us now?

Q: One of the problems with production of original online content is, to make a sustainable-to-profitable business out of it, you have to make reams and reams of content, which seems creatively and physically exhausting and difficult to maintain.

A: The truth of the matter is this – the sole metric for online success is view count, and it’s incredibly detrimental to the evolution and potential of where we could go. Right now, we’re kind of post-“Gangam Style.” This is a video where the creator can dance like a horse and get over a billion views. So, it’s like, “Well, how many views did your video get?” Well, it wasn’t a billion. A billion is absurd. It’s ridiculous to think that’s something you can even (consistently) achieve. And the problem is that because of this reliance on view count, a lot of thinking is “We need to keep pushing out content.” And I think for a while, we were exploring doing one video a week, and that’s incredibly exhausting to our resources and energy.

Q: Are you exhausted now? You’re almost done with season three. Is this pace going to be hard for you to maintain for many more years? Are you dreaming of a time where you get to sit on an island under a palm tree sipping a Mai Tai?

A: (Laughs) I dream of moments where people can’t contact me, so camping has suddenly become a really cool vacation idea for me. But I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t something that I completely loved doing.

About The Author
Todd is StreamDaily's U.S. West Coast Correspondent. He has written for a wide range of publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, NylonGuys and, yes, even the Weekly World News. Earlier in his career, he served as senior editor for the pioneering alternative movie magazine Film Threat. You can reach him at toddrlongwell[at] or on twitter @toddlongwell1


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