After being on YouTube for about five years, indie filmmaker Juan Alcazar of JC5 Productions is easily one of the most seasoned veterans of the small YouTube community. And he’s been gracious enough to share some of that knowledge today to help new and small YouTubers avoid some mistakes, find direction, and keep a shred of sanity.
As a perfect follow-up to last week’s video about staying motivated and continuing to create even when you’re not making progress, Alcazar started by pointing out that starting and growing a YouTube channel is “like running a marathon. You’re not going to be in shape the first day you start. You have to build your body up to handle the physical and mental demand.”
And if you’ve got an extra minute and a half, watch the trailer and subscribe to Juan Alcazar’s channel, JC5 Productions! You may also add him on Snapchat: jc12209.
What does that look like, exactly?
“If you had to ask me, I’d say just shoot videos – as many as you can. They’re not going to be the best at first, but the more you shoot, the better you get. We tend to forget that everyone started off as a beginner. I look at my early videos and cringe, but I realize I wouldn’t be where I am quality-wise if it weren’t for those early videos.”
In other words, the most important part of starting out is starting. Don’t let slow progress drag you down and hold you back. Don’t criticize yourself into the ground when your quality isn’t improving as quickly as you would like. Enjoy the process, and most importantly, just keep going.
He added that while video quality and audio quality are two of the biggest factors in what makes his earlier videos ‘bad,’ there is far more to a video than the equipment you use:
“…most of us start off imitating our favorite YouTubers and hoping somehow we end up getting similar success so we emulate them a bit too closely sometimes. I’m guilty of doing things in a similar style to a few YouTubers. I just decided to put my own personality into the videos to make them more unique to myself. Being influenced is great, but you need to put your own voice into your videos eventually.”
I’ll admit I’ve had my moments when I’ve wished I could just be Grace Helbig already.
This isn’t unique to YouTube, either. In any creative endeavor, you’re likely to find yourself attempting to steal style from artists who came before you. You might try to write like Hemingway, illustrate like Matthew Inman, or dance like Rachel Brice. That’s okay. That’s how you learn. But pay attention to developing your own style over time.
Along with your style, your direction – what you actually make videos about, and what role you actually fill in the community – will start to become clearer. He noted that his direction hasn’t always been clear, mentioning his foray into comedy sketches, vlogs, and even a cooking video.
“I think that you need to have a reason to do this in the first place. I came into YouTube as a filmmaker. I’m a film school grad so all I wanted to do was short films – showcasing my creative work. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that maybe I can do these get to know me or talking head videos in a narrative format instead so people can get to know me more while still being a storyteller and creative individual. I incorporated them slowly at first and now they’re more of the norm on my channel.
“I can’t speak for other creators but I think if you come into YouTube with ‘why am I doing this?’ answered, you’ll hit the ground running better because you have a better focus.”
Ultimately, after years of experimenting and trial and error, Alcazar’s breakthrough came:
“The turning point has to be when I took a YouTube course last year and learned about what’s under the hood and how to use that to your advantage. That’s also where I got the ‘why do you do this?’ mindset.”
And then there was community.
“I also made some friends there. That combined has been driving me forward with new motivation. I never really engaged much with other creators before and didn’t feel like part of a creator community. I just uploaded when I could. Sure, people did comment, but I felt isolated. Now that I am engaging a lot more, it really feels like I finally found my people, as well as a support group. I highly recommend making friends with other creators because those people are going to bring you out of a creative rut. Not only that, but seeing them growing with you as well gives this feeling that you’re in this together.”
I can 100% echo this. If it weren’t for the #BrokeAssSmallYouTuber community taking off back in January, I may have quit making videos by the end of the month – and I almost certainly wouldn’t be writing this post today.
Finally, Alcazar left us with his ultimate piece of advice: “Don’t make videos just for views. Make videos that you enjoy watching as well. What good is it if you make a great video you were miserable making, or that you don’t want to watch yourself? Ultimately, it’s your channel, so make the types of videos that get you excited because they’re of something you’re passionate about.”
I also wanted to share his short narrative film, Imperfections. It’s deeply personal, but if you pay attention until the end, you’ll hear a powerful message that I think everybody struggles to grasp (but needs to).