Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
Over the past four years, Scott Winn has shown his viewers that he has a sharp eye when it comes to cinematography. In the videos on his ScottDW YouTube channel, whether he’s detailing Stormtrooper twerks, old man parkour, or motorcycle stunts, he offers up stunning visuals and precise camerawork. Lately, he’s shown a preference toward colorful “dance battles,” which regularly receive millions of views on his channel, and has also worked with other members of the online video community, including Lilly Singh. Here’s our chat with him:
Tubefilter: How does it feel to have one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Scott Winn: Man, it feels like a massive breath of fresh air. It’s been a crazy four-year journey with lots of ups and downs, but there have been amazing fans that have been there from the beginning who keep me motivated and creating! YouTube is a tough game to play, and this is a massive milestone that feels so good to hit. I’m grateful for the fans who care about my work, enough to hit that tiny subscribe button and commit to seeing what I’ve got up my sleeves. It’s a great feeling!
TF: What is your filmmaking background, and what fueled your decision to apply that background to YouTube?
SW: Well, it’s quite a long journey I’ve been on. Started out studying medicine in college but developed a love for making videos and taking pictures, due in part to the seed my dad planted in me as a child — he was a medium format photographer. The love turned into a full blown passion and I quickly discovered that I couldn’t make movies and go to med school, so I needed to choose one. I took a leap of faith and followed my heart. I started making movies, though I had no idea what the rules were or how to grow. My passion caused me to knock on every door I could find, eager to learn.
I ended up shooting a lot and found I could get hired as a cinematographer. I ended up on the set of the TV show Bones and learned some wise words from cinematographer Gordon Lonsdale. He taught me the importance of building my name, and making people want ME as an artist. Between all the random day jobs I was doing, I loved to write ideas for stories and characters.
One day I was given the opportunity to direct a comedic video for a university in town. Unbeknownst to me, the video was put on YouTube and went viral in just days. My name was attached and people started wanting ME! I was exposed to the power of YouTube and social media. In between jobs once again, I found myself experimenting with a Phantom slow motion camera. I shot several “tests” that were never meant to be seen. Six months later I edited together one of those tests and it became my first YouTube video, “Flying Kittens” – which essentially launched my film and music career at the same time! I suppose the rest is history, ha!
TF: How long does your typical shoot last, and how many takes do you typically need for your more action-oriented sequences?
SW: Surprisingly, I manage to do most shoots in a full day, 10-12 hours at most. Some of my more complicated films, like “Fruit Ninja”, can take anywhere from 2-5 days to film. I’m a big believer in LESS takes! I hate the mindset of shooting digital because we can shoot as much as we want, waste time, and fix our mistakes in the edit. I put a lot of work into planning and rehearsal so that come production, I only need one or two takes to get the perfect shot!
TF: Who do you see as your typical viewer?
SW: My audience started with a lot of young filmmakers and other artists. The 14-15 year old male was my primary demo for a very long time. Once I started focusing my content on my music and love for dance, the audience really started broadening. I’d now say my audience ranges from young filmmakers, to young dancers, and almost everyone in between. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I’m stopped by an older man or woman who remark on how much they love my videos. The work is reaching a vast group of people, of all ages around the world.
TF: What do you enjoy about the “dance battle” format that you’ve focused on recently?
SW: It’s been such a great way to show the world my passion for music and for telling stories and creating characters through a sort of timeless medium — of course with a little spin. I write original music for every single video, and tailor it to the story. The dance videos have been a consistent way to reach a large audience, while staying very true to my passion for telling stories and writing music.
TF: Do you see yourself as more of a musician or a filmmaker?
SW: Haha, great question. It seems to flip day to day. Some days I’m so driven to become a touring musician that I want to drop everything and make the dream a reality. But I often tell people that I really need both in my life to keep me balanced and sane!
TF: When we last talked to you, A Trip To Unicorn Island was about to premiere. Have you received any interesting responses from people who have watched the film since then?
SW: When AT2UI first released, I was overwhelmed with love and support from Lilly’s fans. It was unreal, and almost like having a whole new audience all of a sudden. But I’ve gotten some really nice, positive feedback and even opportunities from the film, and I’ve also faced the crowd who didn’t care much for it. And both are totally awesome. I was scared to make a documentary, especially as my “directorial debut” when I’ve got all these narrative pieces in the works. But it’s a project I really learned to embrace. I tried hard to make it my own while also staying true to Lilly’s personal story and making her fans proud. It was a great experience.
TF: As a creator from Utah, why do you think that state has become such a hotbed for online video talent?
SW: I get this question all the time and it’s interesting to try and analyze. I think the state is already full of very creative people looking to make a difference. There was already a strong filmmaking scene, many thanks to the wonderful film incentives the state’s film commission brings. But I think it took a few people to find their way and make a statement on YouTube, and then the virus really just spread from there. It’s a really tight-knit community here and everyone sort of tries to help one another grow and succeed. It’s fun to watch and support.
TF: What’s next for your channel? Any fun plans?
SW: Lot’s of exciting stuff! I’ve got some really cool projects in the works, including some longer form content. One of my next videos will be a massive fan collaboration to say thank you to the one million subs!