truman show jim carrey

YouTuber Redux – Truman Show Didn’t Get it Right

A lot of media critics and futurists get a kick out of comparing the common state of things to the 1998 movie The Truman Show. In that movie, some hapless schmuck gets picked out of a baby lottery to be manipulated by TV show directors and producers – including a wacky cast of actors that keep him in the dark.

If you think about it, however, the prognosticators got it kind of backwards. The public didn’t need to be duped into anything. There’s no grand reality show that will grab all of our worldwide attention. No baby needs to be adopted into a studio.

The YouTubers did a reverse – tricking Hollywood into featuring them after they’d gained notoriety all on their own! Neistat got a deal with CNN. Vaynerchuk cashes checks from the NHL, Chase, Anheuser-Busch, Amazon and major wineries that he once featured on his Wine Library YouTube channel. All kinds of beauty, travel and lifestyle personalities built businesses on their YouTube popularity and attracted advertisers and YouTube pre-roll ads to their channels.

It all happened organically. No Hollywood studio intervened or crafted the strategy. Some definitely piggybacked onto the trend, and the major talent agencies inserted themselves into the YouTube playground. But the phenomenon took off by itself. Thousands of popular YouTubers cropped up over a 5-10 year period, crowning themselves “Trumans” by producing compelling videos, offering value and entertainment to viewers, and drawing people into their lives.

This is something that caught Hollywood and NYC totally off guard. In the past, agents, producers and directors selected talent from auditioning actors and popular personalities from within the industry. Even the daytime talk show hosts came from within the industry. Oprah came from movies. Ellen came from stand-up comedy. Whoopi came from movies and comedy. Phil Donahue came from news production and radio announcing, and Charlie Rose came from news.

For our purposes, these developments are both interesting and important to follow. Moving forward, we should expect to see Hollywood and NYC attempt to insert their influence and agendas into this new crop of media influencers. Many of the big YouTubers already have contracts with the big agencies like Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris, and International Creative Management (ICM). Some big video gamers are getting into the talent system, as well. Once these people become involved with the institutional players, we should expect them to play ball with the usual suspects in programming creation – including Lear, Annenberg and that whole system of writers, directors and producers who shepherd the major social and political themes of our era.

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