This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
I keep saying “This TikTok is better than any movie out right now” to friends and colleagues about extremely creative videos I’ve been coming across on the app, and now I’m dedicating a newsletter to it.
Some creators have made such innovative 15- and 60-second videos that it’s made me question if we even need big, multimillion-dollar productions from Hollywood. I joke — there will never be a time where we will watch a single TikTok in theaters (or will there be?) lol.
However, TikToks like this one from @gnomeboys, an account created by a group of friends in Melbourne, should be both a threat and an inspiration to the mainstream entertainment industry. The TikTok begins with them filming a dance, which they’ve done often and are quite talented at, BTW. It then cuts into a multipanel screen where two of the Gnome Boys discover they’re being filmed by other cameras around their home. It eventually circles back to them watching themselves record the initial dance. The loop is perfect and the sequencing is genius, with a sci-fi element and artistic edits throughout, and it’s all under a minute.
Just in its first week it was viewed over 3.5 million times. I’m not the only one gobsmacked by it. “What dimension did I just enter?” “Did I just watch a movie trailer?” commenters wrote.
The conception, the execution, and the editing of it all! To borrow a ubiquitous TikTok phrase for impressive content: “How is this app free?”
TikToks with cool visual effects have been around for a while, but they never cease to captivate me. It’s like watching a good movie, taking my mind on a free vacation to a believable but magical other place. Last year, I became obsessed with watching TikToks from user @harry.rs, who uses sophisticated visual effects in all of his posts. Sometimes the concepts are simple but the editing is so high tech that I wonder how much time and professional experience someone like him puts into their videos. I reached out to ask.
I also reached out to the Gnome Boys — a collective of four friends (Mikee, Jamane, Nathan, and Chris), all between 21 and 22, who’ve known each other since high school — and asked about their process. They told me they got together because they wanted to create a TikTok account that was like “its own cinematic universe and playground for [their] ideas.”
What’s most impressive is they’re all “self-taught” at filming and editing. In high school, they said they often did skits and would film them for social media. But they’d never worked on one account together until this year, when they created @gnomeboys. They’ve built a following of 243,000 since January.
Astonishingly, at least to me, most of the filming and editing they’re doing directly on the app, and they publish it soon after filming.
“We aim to show how powerful the app can be by using the built-in editing tools that come with it,” they said. “There are a large portion of creators on the app that bring a totally new experience to videos while staying in the dimensions of TikTok.”
They said the four of them will usually pitch each other sounds to use, and storyboard ideas together. “Filming could take [up to] two hours, depending on how long the sound is and how many cuts we want to add in the video,” they said.
In the one TikTok I highlighted, they said some editing was done off-app, and it took about three hours to complete.
The Gnome Boys exemplify the young talent pool on social media that I want to say are “untapped,” but that implies that success in their craft means working for a major production studio. They told me they’re open to one day working for a larger company creating the kinds of videos they’re already making. But it’s not a linear path anymore for young aspiring filmmakers.
“We believe this app can be used to scout new, innovative ideas. And [it] can also be a voice for the youth,” they said. “As a group, we have dreams of reaching larger audiences with our talents, and if the opportunity presents itself, then we would totally be on board” with joining a major studio.
The decision of course will ultimately be up to them and other talented TikTokers — it’s hard to say no to a day job with a stable income and benefits. But creators like them are also proof that the influencer model to maintaining control of your own skills and career can also be viable. If I were an industry exec, I’d be eyeball-emojiing this corner of the app, both in ways I could learn from them and work with them to transform the film industry from the inside. Telling an effective story does not have to take over two hours.
Until next time,