You may not recognize YouTube sensation Freddie Wong by name, but if you spend any amount of time cruising around the popular video site and are interested in videogames, odds are you’ve seen his work. Wong, and partner Brandon Laatsch, started two channels on the site back in March of 2010 (FreddieW and FreddieW2) and now have over 3.5 million subscribers – making them the sixth most popular creators on the site. Fans are so supportive of Wong and Laatsch’s work that they’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund more projects. Some of the duo’s videos have over 20 million views.
Naturally, this has caught Hollywood’s attention – and studios and producers have been courting the team, but nothing has come of it yet. Part of that is because Wong insists he’s more interested in making YouTube movies than Hollywood ones…
“Making a feature film or making a TV show [as] a definition of success, that's out of date," Wong told The Wrap. "We're looking at where online content is going, where technology is going -- that's an exciting new frontier. We have this chance to carve out what the online world and digital-distribution world could look like, and that's infinitely more interesting."
It’s an interesting position, and one we tend to support. Wong and Laatsch fund their projects through fan donations, have a deal with YouTube that sees them paid for their creations (well enough to make a living, but they’re contractually obligated not to divulge how much money they’re making), and they get to make what they want without the influence of a studio and various “Yes Men” tinkering with their vision – which is something Wong’s infinitely more familiar with since he started his career as a freelance visual effects artist. Wong tells The Wrap, “Our sense the whole time was, 'Man, these revisions are making it worse.'"
This indie spirit sounds great, however we wonder if Wong and Laatsch might feel differently should Congress pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which could affect their livelihoods in a very detrimental way. Sites like YouTube would surely suffer at the hands of this legislation, which gives entertainment companies and other corporations unprecedented levels of power to shut down sites they deem are infringing on copyright. Even if Wong and Laatsch aren’t (which is questionable – they make short films inspired by games other people created), they could still find themselves out in the cold as SOPA allows for entire sites to be blocked to American Internet users, regardless if the majority of users are following the rules of the law.
That’s a discussion for another day, though. Now, Wong and Laatsch are prepared to embark on a new project – a feature length YouTube film entitled Video Game High School – which they describe as “a little like Harry Potter, but if Hogwarts was a pro-gaming instructional academy instead.” This project was also funded by fans – who’ve donated over $270,000 through Kickstarter.
Plans are set to release Video Game High in nine installments, each running approximately ten minutes, starting early next year.
In the meantime, check out some of Wong and Laatsch’s most impressive work – including their newly shot commercial for Battlefield 3 – an ad made for roughly $200.