Starting a YouTube channel at 59
Watching Jenna Marbles videos was a life changing event for me. Jenna is a woman in her late 20s whose humorous YouTube videos appeal mainly to teens and young women. I love the videos for their ability to accurately capture feelings we all experience at some time in our lives. These feelings are apparently strong enough to capture a multi-million size audience for her videos and 12,056,692 subscribers to her YouTube channel. Women's groups from young moms in American to girls clubs in Australia and Japan invite her to come speak with them. She's amazing in her ability to be such a non-starlike star. She's warm and open. After watching several of her videos and reading the lively discussions and comments posted by viewers, all I could think was, "older people need to be doing this type of connecting and sharing". Around the same time, the astronaut, Chris Hadfield, a baby boomer like me, came out with his music video from space, "Space Oddity". Chris is closer to my age than Jenna, but he had a lot of help from his adult son. The wild popularity of Space Oddity added to my feeling that someone my age had to get on YouTube and spark a connection to help us talk about the hard issues and fend off the isolation many off us feel as we age.
I had never used my computer's camera to make a video but had seen Jenna use her computer for this on several of her videos. Little by little, I learned how to not only make the videos, but also to edit them using the simple editing program that was already on my computer. It was slow. I was deadpan in front of the camera and couldn't break out of that monotone drone. I asked everyone I knew to do a video with me hoping that a conversation would go better than a monologue. I finally got a taker when a new friend, Katie, agreed to spend the day with me showing me around her home in the rural Vermont town of Perkinsville and making videos. We took a long walk, talked about relationships, ate lunch and recorded a few hours of videos. We didn't have a script and the videos were too long, but Katie loved my character's name, BoomerTuber, and the channel- Boomers Reaching Out was launched.
Then my husband and I left for a trip to Europe. While there I set up my channel and honed my editing skills whittling those several hours of clips to four short clips, all of them decreasing in length as my editing skills got better. From Europe, we went to spend the winter in Florida and I was without Katie. How was I going to keep the energy level up all by myself?
I sent the four original videos to anyone and everyone I could think of. Most people didn't react or reply. One couple wrote and asked me not to send them anymore videos. A few people sent encouraging and supportive messages. But, one was a critique and the greatest help to my channel. When I read the message, it was like a light bulb had been turned on. My friend, Hans, suggested props. He said the videos were too stiff; that the talking heads were boring. It was like I had gotten the permission I needed to be the character I wanted to be. My first video after my aha! moment, Technology Pointers for the Over 55 Crowd was me talking, but more animated. Plus I dressed up for it, nothing special, just a bright t-shirt and hair band, but it definitely added something. My next video, Dressed Like That was just what I wanted it to be. It was like going back to my childhood when I'd put on skits to entertain my quadriplegic father. This is what I wanted the channel to be, humorous, with a message that was hopefully thought provoking and would spark a conversation.
My videographer and editing skills still need improving but I'm making the videos twice a week and putting them on YouTube. I get comments, but privately. No conversation has been sparked, except among me and someone here and there. I have had 1,100+ views and 40 subscribers to my channel since October (2013). Yes, of course that's nothing compared to Jenna Marbles or Chris Hadfield, but every time there's a new viewer and/or subscriber I get really excited. Most of all, this experience has changed me and redirected where I put my energy. Having the channel has prompted me to talk to people about aging. I feel stronger and stronger each time I talk about the channel to someone my age or older- we need to stay connected as we age and we need to talk about the issues that come up for us. Maybe that's true of any age, but isolation seems to be more pressing for older people because we have less reason and opportunity to mingle and it takes more work.
I'm not where I want to be with my channel but every day I work on ways to spread the word about it and make videos that just might be the spark I'm looking for.