Los Angeles

YouTube’s Spooky Space becomes a hangout for would-be horror flick directors

Halloween sets at YouTube's House of Horrors in LA.

Halloween sets at YouTube's House of Horrors in LA.  (YouTube)

Some creative Halloween videos are vying to become literally “legendary”on YouTube. 

The video sharing platform is teaming up with director Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary Entertainment to give creative types a spooky space where they can shoot frightfully good video. They’re also staging a talent contest of sorts: “YouTube Space House of Horrors: A Legendary Halloween.”


“Legendary loves Halloween, but we were wondering what we could do about it,”says Pearl Wibble, Legendary’s director of digital content. “I was working with YouTube and they said Halloween is the highest viewing time of year with the most traffic. We didn’t have specific IP (intellectual property), but it made sense to celebrate Halloween and horror” with the partnership and contest.


Del Toro took inspiration from his new film,“Crimson Peak,”and set the stage for the contest — designing the props, lighting and backdrops—at each of YouTube’s production facilities, known as Spaces. Del Toro will advise regional winners on their productions, and an overall winner, who will be named before January, will receive a film development deal with Legendary.


The Spaces are in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo, and one in New York is scheduled to open on Nov. 6 (although some shooting for the Legendary contest is already underway). YouTube is also partnering with a non-profit to open a Space in Sao Paulo.

Each YouTube Space, open to anyone with a YouTube channel, offers free workshops and networking events such as happy hours and movie nights. The facilities also offerestablished YouTube channels access to shoot in them, providing state-of-the-art equipment and unlimited editing access —all gratis if channels have thousands of followers (the minimum varies for each Space location). 


Liam Collins, head of YouTube Space in Los Angeles, says his team’s mission is to keep the creative types making engaging content for YouTube. “We want them to keep loving this platform,”he says. “We welcome competition, [but] I really want people to understand the Space is a place where people do their best work. I want us to be known for that.”
Collins characterizes the studio, housed in a former aircraft hangar once owned by Howard Hughes (across the street from the Spruce Goose’s onetime home) in the city’s Playa Vista neighborhood, as “a creative playground for people who make video,” known as “creators”on YouTube. And some of the platform’s best-known creators are taking full advantage of the facilities. 

“We’re making our home there … trying to get on a once-a-month schedule to utilize the space,”says Chris Riedell, who makes films and videos and acts with his brother, Nick, as The Brothers Riedell.

Adds Nick, “I always run into people I know, and I met the video effects artist for “The Rose Window” (their new YouTube short) there…It can be hard to connect (with other YouTubers); it’s nice to have a central location to go to.”

The multimedia maestros have gone from humble beginnings, editing camcorder home video with a pair of VCRs in the San Francisco Bay area, to more than 160,000 YouTube followers. They won the inaugural “Internet Icon”reality show and recently directed their first film, “Camp Takota.”

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s New Form Digital signed the Riedells for digital content, but they are looking to double-down on Hollywood with their entry, “Dinner,” in the Legendary Halloween contest.

“YouTube and Legendary working together is a dream come true,”Chris Riedell says. “You get to tell the story on a proper set with the incentive of doing something larger down the road. 

“If that doesn’t happen, it’s still great and gratifying, and it’s great content for our fan base …We see ourselves as a bridge between digital and traditional film.”

Another YouTube sensation looking for a Hollywood heavyweight double-dip is Paige McKenzie, known to her fans as Haunted Sunshine Girl. The 20-year-old and her Portland, Ore.-based team have been posting several short videos to YouTube every week for nearly four years. Her more than 190,000 subscribers are nearing 100 million views (about 200,000 per day around Halloween, her mother says). 

McKenzie and her team have attracted attention from Weinstein Co., which signed the Sunshine brand to a multiplatform deal that includes books and an option to put her on the silver screen.

On the Del Toro-designed sets of the Space LA’s Stage 1, McKenzie and her team laugh about moving from Flip cameras in their early episodes to having free access to YouTube’s cutting-edge gear.

“The cameras here are near top of the line, almost cinema quality,”gushes McKenzie’s business partner, Nick Hagen, who writes and directs the shorts. He wrote the 10-12 minute submission, which is not a Sunshine story, for the Legendary contest. “It’s a huge opportunity for any YouTuber to use this space and get this equipment at their disposal.”

McKenzie says this is the best set yet in their five trips to the Space, which helps improve her performance. 

“I’m not a character actor,”she says, “but it’s easier for me to see we’re in the solarium now—there’s the moon. This is creepy. OK, I’m a vampire. I’m a big fan of props and set decoration. This is a little piece of heaven.”

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