‘When TV and Digital Merge,’ Meghan Camarena and Maker Studios Will Be There
“I pride myself on not wanting to be where YouTube is right now, but where it’s headed,” Camarena says, fresh off signing a deal with Disney-owned Maker Studios, which she claims shares the same vision about what the future holds for online creators and the entertainment industry at-large. “I want to be at the forefront of when television and digital merge, and Maker is making every step towards that direction,” she says.
Of course, Camerana, who’s repped by David Tochterman of Versatility Media, has already made the leap to TV — now more of a “step,” really, as an increasing number of YouTube creators have found their way on to traditional TV and movies, with “The Grace Helbig Show” now on E! and Flula Borg having a role in “Perfect Pitch 2” — as a series regular on TruTV’s “Fake Off,” which debuted on May 6.
According to the star, the different media platforms aren’t actually all that different. “I love both, and I feel like we’re not too far from them being one and the same,” she says.
Through Maker’s investment, the star creator now has the backing to build out Strawburry17, with a focus on producing a variety of content for a variety of platforms. This can be seen in the type of projects Camerana is already developing, which include “20 new show ideas, a few web series, and a movie just waiting to be made,” she says.
Primarily, content on Strawburry17 will be unscripted. As Chris Williams, the chief audience officer at Maker, puts it, she’s “built a huge fan base across multiple genres including gaming, DIY, and food.” Camarena will keep cranking out those kinds of videos, and viewers will be able to find them on platforms other than just YouTube thanks to Maker. In terms of format, videos as well as episodes of new shows will stick to a 10-minute run time. This, according to Camarena, will create “structure and a more enjoyable watch experience for my audience.” (Not for nothing, it will also make the programming easier to package for other, traditional platforms.)
Per the deal, Maker now has distribution rights to Camarena’s YouTube programming, while she retains ownership, TV, and commercial platform rights. This means that Camarena and her team, which she’s planning to grow following Maker’s investment, will keep creative control over the programming while also being able to seek out additional content partners and retain ultimate creative say.
With all this said, the creator insists that there are certain elements that digital still offers that linear TV doesn’t — one of which is the ability to binge-watch. Camarena is set on providing her fans with this viewing experience, likely because the millennials who watch her are used to — and generally fond of — this distribution format. Instant gratification is a big part of entertainment in the digital realm, after all.
Another positive that Camarena sees with web content is its independence from television. “TV needs web to sustain itself, where web can do that on its own,” she describes, surely alluding to the ample social media and online trailers that help keep the digital generation engaged with such old-timey media.
Still, Camarena is not denying that this can go both ways. “I believe the exposure from TV is tapping into a whole new audience that fellow YouTubers like myself are just starting to see the benefits from,” she says.
Just as Camarena’s flexible in terms of platforms, she’s also no stranger to a slew of different creative roles and content. “I direct, produce, edit, create, and act in almost everything,” she explains — and she’s embraced scripted content, too.
For instance, in addition to acting in Rocket Jump’s famous YouTube series, “Video Game High School,” Camarena has made a short film of her own, “The Void.” It came as part of New Form Digital’s first series of short-film orders last fall. “The Void,” which runs for just over six minutes, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world under long-established zombie reign. Camarena stars in the short, which New Form specifically sought out from the YouTube creator.
New Form Digital’s current chief creative officer, Kathleen Grace, worked at YouTube in 2011, when she first met Camarena. “I was impressed then and even more when she revamped her channel last year and started releasing super-professionally produced videos,” says Grace. “We’ve watched her audience grow and her creative voice really blossom. We asked her to be a part our first round of incubator pilots, and we produced ‘The Void.’”
The pilot was successful enough that New Form’s “actively developing” the short into a series and “looking for the best home for Meghan’s vision,” says Grace. Based on Camarena’s forward thinking, it seems like “home” could mean a number of options for the prolific creator.