YouTube video creator Anna Akana is really so much more than that. During her interview with Rhett & Link on “Ear Biscuits,” she spoke about her work as a writer, actor, director, producer, and comedian much more than she uttered the word “YouTube,” suggesting that the video platform provides a home, but not a life, for her content.
At the beginning of 2014, Akana made an interesting, and perhaps naïve, commitment — to make 12 short films in one year, producing one every month, all of which would appear on YouTube. At the time, Akana hadn’t made a short film before, so she didn’t quite realize what she was getting into.
What she was getting into was a lot, at once. Perhaps because YouTube is generally a platform where creators release one, fresh video a week, one, short film a month on the platform seemed like an achievable goal. However, filling the role of creator, writer, director, and producer is one thing when you’re a vlogger and quite another when you’re putting together a high quality, fully cast short film.
Thus, Akana found herself working on pre-production for one film while she was still editing another and working to develop a third. Realizing she was spreading herself thin, Akana ended up making six out of the expected 12 short films that year…which is still quite a lot. However, her strategy for the coming year is going to change. “I would like to see what I can do if I really take my time with something that’s 20 to 30 minutes long,” she said. Based on the quality and complexity of the films she’s released on YouTube so far, her viewing public should have high expectations.
The last of these six films, “Miss Earth,” is polished in all aspects, from its stellar costume design to editing. However, the achievements of the 13-minute film, which Akana directed, starred in, and produced, came at a price. “That was the most stressful experience of my life so far,” she said. “I lost some friends because of it.”
This was because Akana had to balance her role as friend and boss, since she had some close friends working on the production. Again, working with friends is common amongst YouTubers, but it doesn’t look the same when those YouTubers are producing short films of Akana’s caliber. She described this as a “good learning experience,” taking from it the lesson that, when working on her own films, “ultimately, it’s about the project.” Akana put a lot into the film, including her savings, and had to learn how to toe the blurry line between being a boss and being a friend to those helping her realize her vision.
All of these shorts came from Akana wanting to make a feature film, but she knew she wasn’t in the right place for it at the time. Instead, she decided, “I’ll make as many short films as I can” before venturing into the feature, which she’s now planning as her “next thing.” The movie she wants to make this year, called “Wedding Wreckers,” stars two, young, female comedians and was written by Akana’s former assistant. Currently, Akana’s working on optioning the “adult humor” film and looking for ways to finance it.
Akana hasn’t mentioned whether she wants this film to appear online or in the theaters. That doesn’t seem to be as relevant for her as does making really good, really interesting video content. To learn more about her craft and the life that led to it, listen to her on this week’s “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link.”