Patrick Willems is a New York-based director who makes geek humour short films on YouTube. He released his biggest viral week this with “What if Wes Anderson directed X-Men?” which has racked up millions of views and dozens of blog posts.
We got in touch to ask how hard it is to make money doing this. First, check out the brilliant video:
Willem, a 2010 graduate of Oberlin College, has released around 150 YouTube videos since 2011, also including “What if Ingmar Bergman Directed The Flash?” “Breaking Bad Jr.,” and “Beyoncé’s new Backup Dancers.” The videos are well-made and fun to watch, and a bunch have more than 100,000 views.
But is there any money in this passion project? Willem broke down the reality over email:
As far as the business side of this goes, I’m not at the point where making YouTube videos is my sole source of income. My “day job” is doing freelance video work, which thankfully allows for a flexible schedule so I usually have plenty of time to devote to making the videos for YouTube.
I make some money from ad revenue, but it fluctuates wildly depending on whether I’ve had any hit videos lately. I don’t think I’ll ever be at the point where YouTube ad revenue pays my rent every month. The more realistic goal is to make videos that will get noticed by the right people, which will lead to getting hired for directing jobs.
Since I started doing this four years ago, there’s been a steady increase in the success and attention my videos have received, and obviously “Wes Anderson’s X-Men” is by far the most popular thing I’ve made. Going forward the plan is to keep doing what I’m doing, but trying to get more ambitious, do some larger projects, and keep making things I’m excited about that hopefully connect with people. And, fingers crossed, at some point someone will see one of these and says, “Let’s hire those guys to make more stuff like that.”
Willem isn’t actually making any money directly from his viral “X-Men” since it contains a copyright song:
There’s no pre-roll ad because this video isn’t monetized. There’s a copyright claim on a song I used in it (“Powerman” by the Kinks), which has caused it to be blocked in most countries outside the U.S. (that’s why I put it on Vimeo as well) and doesn’t allow me to monetise it. Even though I’ve used licence music in videos before without any companies claiming it, I knew this was a possibility. And in this instance I felt having that song made the video so much stronger that it was worth giving up any money I might make from it.
… YouTube actually required me to agree not to disclose my earnings when I joined the Partner Program, but it doesn’t matter here because this video isn’t generating any revenue at all. It is leading to more traffic for older videos I’ve made, so I’ll make a little from that.
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