Myles Wheeler, or, ‘itsamemyleo’ as he may be better known, has been making content on Youtube, including video blogs (vlogs) and short films, for over five years. He speaks to the Arts Team’s Co Head of Film, Ella Wright, about his work, the relationship between Youtube and the creative arts, and Charlie Kaufman.
E: Your videos on Youtube have a very specific and original style, a mixture between the traditional vlog-style of Youtube and short film. How did that style come about / develop?
M: Well thank you very much! I think it’s always good, whatever you’re interested in, to keep your eyes on other things. Even if you’re doing one thing, such as vlogging, bringing in interests from other mediums such as film or paintings or animation can make you look at your own creative medium differently. I think as I got older and started paying more attention to films I saw how those fictional stories were reflected in real life and became interested into how explore those in a non-fictitious way. Whilst at University I’ve been making fictional films as well now, but I’m still interested in ways of combining different mediums to tell a story, and for vlogging, which I think, at its heart, tries to show life in a truthful and personal way, that mixture of everything somehow does the confusion of life justice. I like flicking between different styles, and the combination of different visual stuff reminds me of old notebooks I used to have. I had a big notebook I filled up once with stickers and posters from a magazine I used to get, and at the end of the year I looked at it closed and it felt so complete, all the different pieces sticking over the edge of the pages, and it gave me a sense of calm at how organised and contained in some ways the past year had become. I somehow had control over what otherwise would have been a vast collection of magazine cluttering my bedroom floor, and although I don’t do that now, I think some of that thinking has carried across to video blogging.
E: Youtube is increasingly becoming a platform for creators to gain an audience and get their work out there. In what ways do you think Youtube has been beneficial for film makers, and are there any ways in which you think it’s been negative? Has being active on Youtube influenced your own film making in any way?
M: It’s been beneficial I think in that anyone can make films and complete that last step of people actually then seeing the films that people in the past would have been held up behind. Everyone has a phone so everyone can technically tell a story. There’s apps for everything. There’s probably an app that will make the film for you and you never have to think about any possible negatives again. I think people probably look too much at the equipment side of things, which can be a negative. Even vloggers have lovely lights and big ol’ cameras which does make everything look lovely, but I don’t think it’s necessary, it’s nice, it looks bloody lovely and cosy, but not necessary. Fairylight sales have exploded since the dawn of the vlog. I think YouTube has influenced my own film making a lot. The fact I picked up a camera so young meant eventually when I went to University to study film I had that initial understanding of which button was record and how to put up a tripod without passing out and setting fire to the room. The mixture of styles as mentioned above is something I’m interested in too, the hand-made, scrapbook feel of movies such as The Science of Sleep inspired me a lot and made me re-imagine what I thought a film should be and contain. But anyway, YouTube is good because if you want to make films, you can do that, and you don’t need thousands of lights if you’re going to talk about your weekend anyway. If the weekend was good, that will light the room up itself. Cheesy. I throw up.
E: Speaking of gaining an audience, you have a fairly large following, with over 60,000 subscribers. Do you ever feel pressured to live up to your audience’s expectations, and if so, how do you deal with that? Does it affect your work in any way?
M: I don’t really feel pressured because a subscriber count may seem big and daunting, but individually everyone is their own single person, and they’re not all shouting and waiting outside your house with pitchforks for content, unless they are, then I’m sorry. But I don’t feel pressure of what to make and when. Sometimes I think about what people may expect, but you can’t focus on it too much. I’m not sure what expectations of me would be anyway. Not to upload videos for 8 months at a time? I’ve zinged myself. (I haven’t uploaded a video for a long time by the way. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been filming lots and working on things. The more I’m interested in autobiographical cinema, such as Ross McElwee, the more I’m interested in the long game in filming life, documenting change over longer periods and trying to make sense of life in that way. If anyone’s interested in autobiographical cinema people should watch McElwee’s “Time Indefinite” it’s one of my favourite documentaries and so beautiful and funny.)
E: You’re very active with the charity Parkinson’s UK, raising awareness by making videos on the topic for Project for Awesome, for example. Do you think film makers have a responsibility to engage with wider issues within film? Especially with consideration of your own audience, should Youtube film be purely for entertainment, or do you feel a sort of duty or want to produce content that initiates discussion and thought?
M: I don’t feel a duty to talk about things, and I don’t think people necessarily should feel obliged to if they don’t want to. If you feel like you should have a duty because you have an audience, I don’t think you’re always going to do the cause a passionate justice, you’ll just be doing it because you think you have to. A YouTuber is no more a person than the people who comment anyway, and underneath videos people create their own discussions which are just as valuable as whatever’s being said above. Unless it’s a very rude horribly racist comment. Probably not valuable that one.
E: You’ve been active on Youtube for over 5 years. In what way has the platform changed over that time, and have those changes had an effect on the filmic content that’s produced?
M: The subscription box has had an identity crisis one thousand, million times. TAKE THAT YOUTUBE. I’ll zing ya. Mainly I’ve just made whatever I’ve felt like making really, regardless of how YouTube has changed, at least I think that’s been the case. What I feel, what I think and say are three different things sometimes.
E: Finally, what is your favourite film and why?
M: Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman. It’s about time and art and it’s confusing and beautiful and it’s very weird and funny and it’s a film that really resonated deeply with me. It follows a guy called Caden, a theatre director, who wants to create a play of brutish realism, a celebration of the mundane and as the production grows bigger and bigger his own life then veers off the tracks. It’s great. I can’t think of anything else to say about it. Great flick. Which makes me think of Bugs Life. Which is good. Not a favourite but good. Oh and Once is great! A musical. That’s a second favourite. I’ve given you my second favourite now. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minds, that’s my third favourite – I could go on.