Confessions of a Filmmaker Turned Content Creator: The Year I Found an Audience

I go by ‘Daniel Johnson Films’, yet I didn’t make any films this year. At least not in the conventional sense. But these days, what even is a film? What is a filmmaker? While I ponder that, I also have to make peace with a new title I have been given (and also referred to myself as):

Content Creator.

Do I like that phrase? Do I approve of it? Honestly, I don’t know.

My year has been full of creativity, yet I would be at a loss trying to describe it. I have spent most of the year following two very separate creative roads which have very little to do with each other.

The first — something I am known for within the group of people who know about these things — is creating showreel scenes for actors. I have had the privilege of writing and directing showreels for some of the best upcoming and established actors in the industry. And at the end of the year I began a showreel project for East 15 drama school, which will continue into the new year as I create new material for 18 talented actors as they come towards the end of their degree course.

And then there’s football.

Last year, on a whim, I started writing comedy sketches about football, and filmed them with friends when we could find the spare time.

These sketches have gone on to have millions of views. The ones that ‘flop’ have thousands of views, but some of the hits have millions. At the time of writing, my most recent sketch is closing in on 10 million views.

These videos have given me something that I’ve always wanted – an audience.

While many short films that I’ve made in the past have won awards and garnered some recognition, they haven’t really found their way to bigger audiences.

But these football sketches have really taken my work to a new level – giving myself and my actor friends a platform to show what we can do.

More importantly than the numbers, these videos have given me something even more valuable; community.

I’ve made friends all around the world, as have many of the actors, all because of these fun footy videos. They’ve given me links to broadcasters and sportspeople and football fanatics the world over.

I always knew this year would be a transition year. One where I begin to reshape my career. It’s a conversation I’ve had with my wife many times throughout 2023. I didn’t just want to work from the comfort zone of showreels — where I know what I’m doing. I wanted to develop something else – something that can help take my career to a new level.

This year, I got the following and got the big numbers on videos. I can’t entirely tell you what the future holds, because I don’t know. What these videos have yet to do, is be monetised. We’ve been having a lot of fun building an audience, not worrying too much about the business side of things. That’s the scary part of a transition year — knowing things are changing without knowing where they’ll end up.

But the fun thing about building an actual audience, is that they’re on your side, they want you to do well. The worst thing to do is immediately start a subscription fee, or to beg for donations to fund the endeavour. In time, I’ll figure out what these football sketches mean in terms of being viable for me as a creator who needs to make a living. But this year, I knew the key was to stay creative.

One particular month stands out: June. It was the month when I released 30 comedy sketches in 30 days. By the end of the month, we’d amassed 30 million views. The sketches were being mentioned on Talksport, being featured in the media and actors were being recognised on the street. A series of sketches also gave me, my family and friends the chance to spend the day with the Marshall Men’s Soccer Team.

As the year comes to an end, a part of me feels a need to define where I’m at as a writer/director/creator. Do I need to write a sitcom pilot? Shoot a low-budget movie? Or try get hired by a brand to write comedic commercials?

I don’t have the answers.

And, for now, I don’t need them. It’s time to take a break, to look back at the year and think of all I’ve achieved.

I created comedy sketches – which I couldn’t have done without the brilliant actors who got involved – which have garnered close to 200 million views. I’ve shot showreels for some truly brilliant clients who I know will be showing up on your TV screens for years to come. Oh and also, I got married to the love of my life.

2024 is coming and if I told you I knew my precise plan, I’d be lying. But I’ve been in this industry long enough to know what I need to focus on: staying creative and having fun with my friends.

Catch you next year!

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Daniel Johnson
Writer, Director, Author