The Trouble With Creating Content

youtube-logo_jpegLast week, Adelaide Screenwriter posted an article about one of his favorite filmmakers. Like me, her name is Anne. Like me, she is a web series creator. And like me, she struggles to deliver her stories to a larger audience. Frustrated, she posted a blog asking people what she needed to do to go viral.

The notion of virality is a growing problem in the web-community. To me, it is an insidious thing, for an artist’s work is increasingly not judged by its own merit, but by the number of YouTube views it has. This measure of worth goes against the heart and soul of the independent filmmaker, who yearns to tell great stories. Would I like to go viral? Of course I would, but if that was my only goal, I’d simply be making videos of babies farting powder, or Dog-Cam videos of Old Yeller playing in a park.

SBDNICK HM001Last year, I spoke at a session on New Media. I wanted to talk about online distribution being the new frontier in filmmaking, and how those of us who were using this model were not unlike a particular group of immigrants who discovered a new technology that allowed pictures to move. They invested in little machines known as Nickelodeons, which eventually became the mega-cineplexes of today.

I heard my introduction. I was referred to as a “content creator.”

Not wanting to be rude, I kept my mouth shut and did my cheerleader best to extol the virtues of the online model. Inside, however, I was seething.

The trouble with referring to filmmakers as content creators is that the phrase devalues the work. A giggling toddler is content. A film about a fallen angel in love with a prostitute is a story. A vampire mob boss – story.

I’m not knocking content. I see it every day. I laugh at the hilarity one can find on the web. I get an alert every time Go-Pro posts a new video, and marvel at the wing-suited men and women soaring through the sky. I see a lot of gorgeous stuff.

What I don’t always see are good stories.

And that’s the difference between a content creator and a storyteller. Story. Character. Highs and lows. Joy, anguish, solitude, reflection… character arcs. Bad Guys Closing In. The whiff of death. The triumph and the failure. The transformation of the hero, and the hero’s journey. That’s storytelling.

553133_553980684613469_1887657467SHAMAN_nSo please, do not sell yourself short. You are not a content creator. You are a storyteller. You are a shaman; your tribe has gathered around you, entranced, as you weave your tales in front of the fire-pit. The world around you is cloaked in darkness. You are a weaver of dreams. To be a storyteller is to wear a badge of honor. Wear yours proud.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe


About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at
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14 Responses to The Trouble With Creating Content

  1. Melody lopez says:

    Does this mean you saw the story in my short or would I be called a content creator…cause goodness knows I thought I hit every best…even the whiff of death…. 🙂


  2. This is a great article. I stopped the notion of going viral a long time ago. It’s just something nowadays which has a lot more behind the scenes work then we know. Also, if you look at the numbers going viral can seem like winning the lottery. I agree just continue to create stories that you hope will resonant with people.


  3. D Rant says:

    The noise! Vut is dat noise?!?


  4. Michelle Shy says:

    The ancient battle between serving your community with art and making a living so you can eat.


    • Indeed.

      To be fair, though, I think that art and commerce are not always mutually exclusive. It’s finding the connective tissue between the two that is the great mystery of life. And sometimes you gots to do what you gots to do to pay the bill. I write and direct corporate videos… but I decided to start doing it more on my terms. I have to be proud of the work that I am doing. That’s the theory today. Check back in June when the wolves are not simply knocking at the door but running rampant through the casa 😉 xo


  5. Jay Donovan says:

    Want something to go viral? I’m convinced it first requires building an audience through quite a bit of planning, great execution, and “go write” is an imperative step! Dog on a Skateboard does nothing for me. Intrinsic is storytelling ability. I’ve got a viral brand which has been tearing up Twitter for 4 months. Likewise, virtually everything posted from the recently launched Brand Page on Facebook goes viral (according to Facebook’s own metrics). Here’s what I did: 1.) start a Twitter account with sharp avi and a strong profile. 2.) Build an audience (follow a whole bunch of Tweeps) 3.) Seed your Feed with fresh, compelling content. 4.) Be creative (I created a branded hashtag which went viral and regularly trends on Twitter). 5.) Be engaging (engagement is key on social media). 6.) Once you have built the audience, push your work… and I mean push! Every tweet uses the hashtag (by the way, Facebook is exploring using hashtags). 7.) Stay on message when you speak to the growing audience. 8.) Don’t feed trolls. 9.) Promote others and whenever time permits, Retweet EVERYONE who helps spread your message. My hashtag has generated BILLIONS of Impressions, every single day on Twitter, between 700-1000 people use that hashtag and it reaches a million accounts every day. I try and RT all of them! 10.) Facebook requires different engagement. Graphics are huge on Facebook, but must have strong textual accompaniment. A Facebook Post from two days ago has already reached 75,000 people and that will only grow higher. 11.) Have fun, but always be productive. 12.) Good luck! I hope if you have a video or web series you are trying to get to go viral there are some nuggets in here you can use. Build that audience and engage with them every single day.


  6. William Lee says:

    Well said. Vitality and social media blah blah are all offspring of changing times. What won’t change is the need for good stories and storytellers. Just like the revered shamans you speak of, good storytellers are not born (well, maybe a chosen few) and must learn and hone their craft. Just because some can make a video, it doesn’t mean their a filmmaker. Just because someone can type and post, doesn’t mean their a writer. Just because someone can speak, doesn’t mean their a good storyteller. And going viral has no inherent value or long lasting meaning as a god story well told.


  7. Mike Altieri says:

    going viral… the million dollar question


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