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Charlie McDonnell, VidCon, and the YouTube Revolution

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When Andy Warhol made his iconic proclamation about everyone being world famous for 15 minutes, it seemed almost prescient of the Internet culture to come. In the world of instant media, there have been many bloggers and video stars that have had their moment in the sun, only to be a distant memory the following week. The advent of the digital era has made the concept of disposable celebrity a living, breathing albatross around the neck of entertainment culture.

Yet, as with all mediums, there are exceptions. Although the "15 Minute" rule by and large holds true, Andy wasn't betting on the likes of Charlie McDonnell.

If you're not familiar with Charlie (and you should be), he's something of an Internet phenomenon and creative dynamo. Since opening his YouTube account in April of 2007, Charlie has amassed over 1.5 million subscribers, and it is a following that is well-earned. A quick perusal of the UK native's channel shows that he puts a great deal of effort into his craft. Charlie's videos are brilliantly written, slickly shot, and infinitely clever. He's a master of his medium and has found ways to take his own unique brand of entertainment to the next level. Whenever I hear there's a new Charlie video up, I rush to the computer, because I know, more often than not, what I'm about to see will be largely more entertaining than anything I could be watching on TV or at the movies.

...and that kind of stings, because I work in movies.

But, I digress.

I like Charlie because he's the perfect example of how exciting new art and creativity can be spawned from emerging mediums. Every generation has had its new "thing," and we've relied on artists with the foresight to show us what that "thing" can be.

Now, I'm not comparing YouTube to the advent of rock music or anything, but it's certainly become a veritable force in the world of entertainment. For many, the site began as a casual distraction, a way to share video clips of adorable pets or favorite music videos. These days, YouTube has evolved into an important marketing medium wherein entire careers are launched.

I singled Charlie out because, frankly, I'm a huge fan. That said, Charlie McDonnell is just one part of a greater echelon of YouTube notables. Charlie's roommate, Alex Day, has his own extremely popular channel, wherein he shares his music and acerbic take on life. Comedian and occasional Huffington Post contributor Jeffery Self has a hilarious web-series (titled SelfObsessed) that deals with his obsessions over the ladies of television and movies. Basically, if there's something you're interested in, there's a YouTube star out there for you.

...and it's not just relegated to fame in the digital domain, either. If it wasn't for YouTube, Justin Bieber may never have been discovered and Rebecca Black may not have been able to share with us how important car seat assignment can be.

As much as studios and networks may not want to admit it, Internet videos and channels are very much rivaling them for the attention of audiences. Furthermore, when the talent present is as good as some of the names mentioned, that competition is more than justified.
Recognizing the emerging culture of Internet and YouTube celebrity, Hank and John Green (otherwise known as the "Vlogbrothers") began to conceptualize the idea of bringing their community together.

The result was VidCon.

Founded in 2010, VidCon was meant as a haven for the online video community to gather, celebrate, and meet their fans. The first event of its kind, VidCon served as something of a ComicCon for the community, allowing online filmmakers and artists of varying viewpoints to come together and confer over their chosen medium. For two years, the event played to capacity at the Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, and revealed to the world what people like Hank and John Green already knew: Online artists are here to stay.

This year (June 28th-30th 2012), VidCon is set to return for the third time, its venue moved from Los Angeles to the Convention Center in Anaheim, California, where it is expected to get in excess of 5,000 attendees. Already boasting an exceptional guest list of Internet celebrities and entertainment industry notables, the gathering plans to celebrate creativity and innovation like never before.

In case I haven't made it clear, I wholeheartedly believe that VidCon and the culture from which it is born are crucial to the future of entertainment. Warhol was absolutely right, with the advent of the Internet-era, we all have the potential for a moment of celebrity. The important question that follows, however, is what will that celebrity be? In a world where reality TV often celebrates the most base and banal aspects of humanity, people like Charlie, Hank and John Green, and many of the participants of VidCon are using their medium to celebrate the creativity of the human spirit.

What's important here isn't the palette, but the paint. These guys are making art for no better reason than because they believe in it, and have something to say. I'm not claiming that all is perfect in YouTube land, there are charlatans and hack jobs in all mediums, but by and large, there's an honesty to what's going on there. Whether it's a thought out, well-produced video like one of Charlie's, or just a simple diary blog from a teenager in Peoria, there's an earnest attempt to use the piece to connect with the viewer. This isn't about getting into our wallets; it's about getting our attention. In my mind, that's positively, well...Warholian.

So, log-in with an open-mind. There's an entertainment revolution happening right on your computer screen, and your next click may just change everything.