Filmmaking how-tos are nothing new to YouTube. As filmmakers, we can’t get enough of them. In fact, we need them. You could argue that these DIY self-taught how-to channels are the secret sauce for this up-and-coming generation of filmmakers - the backbone of our success.
Previously impossible just 20 years ago, you can now legitimately teach yourself everything you need to know about filmmaking, from scratch, on YouTube. I say this with confidence because I’ve done it myself. I’m one of those people.
Of course, because videos in the filmmaking how-to niche have proved so immensely popular, the demand has created thousands of copycat channels that are all looking to serve the same purpose. While this is ultimately a good thing, there are clearly going to be many average, not-so-helpful videos out there. You know the ones where you click and the audio is crackly and the kid spends about 3 minutes talking on his desktop before actually doing anything? We’ve all been there.
If I put it most simply, there are some filmmaking tutorial channels that are better than others. Naturally, there are some filmmaking channels that are the best. Enter, Film Riot.
At a glance
Okay so, in case that breathtakingly short yet jam-packed intro video doesn’t explain it all (it definitely does), Film Riot is a how-to filmmaking channel. Whether you’re looking for behind-the-scenes breakdowns of productions, how to add a particular VFX in your project, a color grading tutorial or camera review, Film Riot has become the go-to YouTube channel for everything to do with filmmaking.
The figures really speak for themselves here. Since joining the site in 2006, Ryan Connolly (the mastermind behind Film Riot) and his team have amassed 1.8 million subscribers and counting, with over 204 million views. How do they sum this all up in their channel description?
Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
2-time Edit Challenge judge
With his level of expertise, recruiting Ryan Connolly to be a judge in the Artlist x Artgrid Edit Challenge was a no-brainer. The contest challenges video creators to tell their best story using Artgrid footage and Artlist music. There are 3 categories: Brand Ad, Movie Trailer and Music Video, and 10 winners (3 from each category and a Judge's Favorite) will get their share of $75K worth of high-end filmmaking gear. Actually, Ryan was a judge in last year's contest, and he came back this year.
So go to the Edit Challenge page, download your #AGChallenge kit and start creating!
Now let’s dive into what makes this channel so good.
It’s hard to believe that this is free
I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Why would you want to pay to go to film school when you’ve got something this good online, for free?!
The amount of value that Ryan is providing on YouTube is a key reason for his success. It’s one of the key fundamentals of YouTube—if you can educate or entertain people and do it well over a long period of time, you will find success on the platform. Ryan is simultaneously smashing both of these targets. He educates and entertains at the same time.
Not only are his videos expertly crafted (note the beautiful production quality and great editing), they’re also delivering so much knowledge. Whenever I have needed to know a specific skill for my edit or simply wanted to sharpen my knowledge in a certain department, Film Riot is the first place I looked.
We’d all miss it if Ryan packed up and left tomorrow. He’s doing the filmmaking world a fantastic service here.
As an example of how Ryan simultaneously delivers entertainment while educating you on filmmaking, take a look at this great breakdown he did of “A Quiet Place II”
Broad and deep
Usually, when looking at how to grow your YouTube channel, I would recommend finding a niche and going deep on that specific topic or subject. Widening your horizons and trying to cover too much more often than not fails.
However, Film Riot really bucks this trend. I love the channel because not only does each video cover its chosen topic so thoroughly and succinctly, they also touch on all aspects of the filmmaking process. It’s remarkable that they’ve been able to build such an extensive, in-depth catalog of tutorials, how-to’s, reviews, tips, advice and breakdowns while maintaining such a high-quality standard throughout.
While I may come to the channel to learn about how to get cinematic slow motion, I end up sticking around because I also want to learn how to develop my story idea into a treatment. And while I’m at it, I should probably know how to build my story structure, right?
Whether it’s pre-production, shooting on location, editing, gear reviews or breakdowns, Ryan has built a one-stop-shop that covers all aspects of filmmaking and ensures that his audience keeps on watching and keeps on coming back again and again.
In the YouTube channel trailer, Ryan sums it all up but noticeably chooses to end on this line:
“Most importantly, it’s a community. A massive and awesome community of filmmakers just like you”
Another key ingredient to success on YouTube is to build a real, tangible community of people interested in the same thing as you. Ryan has finessed this by creating a channel around the love of all things filmmaking and naturally, through high-quality videos, he’s attracted filmmakers from all around the world who have come together in the comments. I mean, just look at this small handful I found over the course of 5 minutes:
This sums Film Riot up. Ryan and his team have created a channel that has helped so many people on their filmmaking path and continues to inspire and motivate. By doing so, we all feel like we owe Film Riot as a mentor and someone that’s helped us. Film Riot has become a part of our filmmaking journey and a part of our success. It’s hard to put a price on how valuable something like that is.
So, are you subscribed yet? If you’re a filmmaker looking to improve and really sharpen your skill set, this one is a no-brainer. Chances are that even if you haven’t yet subscribed, you’ve watched a Film Riot video at some point over the past 10 years. They also have a podcast which is a great listen providing tons more value, as well as a website and store offering countless assets. LUTs, SFX and VFX—you name it, they’ve got it.
The channel continues to grow, establishing itself as THE how-to filmmaking channel on YouTube. There are plenty of others out there and some are pretty good, but there’s nothing quite like Film Riot. We can only hope Ryan and the team continue for many more years to come!
Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK), and industry writer in the Blade Ronner Media Writing Collective. He's passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.