If you’ve seen any of Will Darbyshire’s YouTube videos, you know there are something about them. They have an elemental quality, an irresistible simplicity. His channel is full of quiet moments, fixed frames, poignant looks, and with a poorly trained eye, they can even seem effortless.
As he pointed out, this could be further from the truth. In fact, Will has been working for years to define his identity on the YouTube space. There is a lot of noise on the platform, and it takes good effort and conviction to cling to your weapons and be true to your own voice.
“Everything I hang now is not something I was forced to do, it’s something I enjoyed doing. It’s not a game I’m trying to play. It’s something I’m passionate about, “said Will.
This condemnation is bearing fruit. What started as a hobby, editing video games and skateboards before attending film school, is now a race across the platform. Will’s channel has grown to nearly 700,000 followers and has achieved that success on its own terms. We decided to talk to Will about how and why he decided to find success in his own way, often following the opposite path to trends.
Here is Will Darbyshire.
Musicbed: Towards film school, did you have an advantage in cutting videos for YouTube?
Darbyshire: I guess there were more abstract things about film editing that I didn’t know about, but I knew the technical details. He knew how to cut a clip. He knew how to represent things, the basic things of reproduction. I had a chance because technically there are a lot of crazy things to learn when editing a movie or a scene. I did a short film two years ago, it said to me, “I know how to edit, but that’s so hard.” It’s very hard to nail the timing of everything and know when to pick up the pace, just the flow of everything.
Do you find that there is a certain amount of editing that comes naturally, just from your gut?
When I was younger, I reduced the game to music or cut editing sequences. I was very good at it. I can edit with music really well, and I think it was a strength for me. I struggled more with things from multiple cameras. Editing with music is something you can go wrong, and I’ve spent much of my career on YouTube trying to work it out. It is very difficult to edit music. But in film school, it was something I already felt very safe about.
Have you seen yourself continue your career on YouTube after film school?
Initially, I was going with the idea that this would probably be a step in my film career. But I didn’t really know how to finish, make short films, make money, and write things. I didn’t know how to play the movie game if you will. YouTube was another way to get into it.
However, for a while it felt like a YouTube trap: being a vlogger and having to fit into the YouTube mold. The people who do the best on YouTube are the people who follow the trends. So it means a lot of people don’t have their own style and I feel like I’ve lost that drive to make movies. The first two years of my channel were definitely a little more vloggy. Now, it’s become a bit more like cinema, definitely more focused on film and photography, which is fantastic.
You don’t seem to have sacrificed success for that.
No, but I think there’s a lot of content on YouTube that’s so hard to find. I don’t think YouTube does a good enough job of posting good content on the home page or on the trend page, it tends to include content that is clickbait. I already find it hard to find YouTubers as a niche. When I was younger, there were more people doing interesting things. Now, people no longer see the algorithm as an algorithm.
Listen to Will Darbyshire’s selected playlist:
How did you get to a place where you thought you could be yourself on YouTube?
It was said the first video I made looked different The beach, which was like a video where my girlfriend and I went down to Los Angeles beach. I just felt very different from the rest of the stuff and had such a good reaction. I thought, Maybe I should stop worrying about what people expect of me and post things I want to post. From then on, I decided to hang whatever I wanted. If people like it, they like it.
I miss the authenticity of the early YouTube, when people were just themselves and made these self-produced videos. They were not playing any algorithm or any important factor.
I don’t want to compromise what I want to do just to please people. My audience is so amazing that they tend to accept and I like anything I put on because they know I liked doing it. Everything I hang on to now isn’t something I’ve been forced to do, it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing. It’s not a game I’m trying to play. It’s something I’m passionate about.
Everything I hang on to now isn’t something I’ve been forced to do, it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing.
There’s something contagious about someone passionate about their work, right?
People know when I’m passionate about a video. I have some videos that have worked poorly and are usually the ones I haven’t been passionate about. Curiously, it’s almost as if they know I’m not so passionate about this. That’s why I spend so much time between loads, because I just try to think of something so that it’s authentic to me and I’m passionate about doing it. Of course, I hope people enjoy it too.
What is the hardest part of this process?
I think the hardest thing is for me to get the idea. When you have an idea, it will all work together; everything makes sense. But having an interesting idea, interesting enough to last a couple of minutes and be something I haven’t done before, is hard. The most important thing for me has been to try to come up with something as honest as possible, and I think a lot of my ideas are born out of that.
How do you find this breakthrough?
The most important thing is inspiration, going out and trying to find inspiration. This can be watching a lot of movies, I have a Criterion Plus subscription or going to the movies, watching new things, watching interviews with your favorite filmmakers, going to an art gallery, reading photography books. There are many things you can do. Immediately after doing one of these things, I’m thinking: This is a good idea; maybe I can incorporate it into something. Plus, there are other YouTubers who are also doing really fun things. If you can find it below the trends and suggested pages, it is a good source of inspiration.
I am very lucky in my circumstances because I have time not to force it, which is important if you are creatively trapped. I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury, but for me, if I have no idea, I’ll just take a deep breath, leave for a week, come back and hope I have it resolved. If you stress too much, it won’t happen.
Is it important to do it sometimes?
Yes. I shot a video called Summer scenes about six months ago. I went with some of my friends to the Dolomites and didn’t really know if I wanted to make a video. But we got there and I started firing locked tripod shots to fix the frames. Just to throw.
I realized that each frame looked in a way a painting. When I came back, I had all these pictures and I thought: What do I do with all this stuff? Actually, that happens quite a bit; you may not have any ideas in mind, but you will end up shooting anyway. In editing, you just have to think about how you can become something. In Summer scenes, I was watching all these clips and they seemed like a moment in time, just summer in Italy.
Probably 50 percent of the time you start shooting something without knowing what it’s about. Then I would cut it out a bit and think: Why did I shoot this? I’ll shoot again and add things. Sometimes it can help to grab the camera and start documenting things. Document your life and bet that you can work it out in the end.
How do you know when you’ve captured something worthwhile?
Sometimes it doesn’t happen. You get what you think is a good idea and then you start shooting it and it really doesn’t work. It is very hard. In the end, it’s probably a combination of things. If you have a good idea, this is one thing. But then, it’s about turning that idea into something that will be substantial. Something that will affect people. This can be reduced to the music, the way you shoot something, your narration, your structure, all these things. When they are put in place, on the rare occasion that they do, then you have a moment of Eureka.