How My 'John Wick' Video Essay Went from 0 to 30K Views

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In late October 2014, I published the above video essay on the action of John Wick. I had a great time watching that film and I wanted to put together a brief video that demonstrated my utter disbelief at the audacity the film's set pieces.

To create this video essay, I used film clips from John Wick's Electronic Press Kit. These kits typically include a few videos that broadcasters and videomakers can use as b-roll while putting together packages. They are intended to be shared broadly to generate interest in the film.

Originally, I wanted to run this video essay on /Film but ultimately decided against it because it was a bit too thin. So, I simply published it on my YouTube channel (which has around 4.5K subscribers) and just let it sit there with pretty much no promotion.

I was stunned when I checked the video in recent months, only to find that it had reached 30K views, surpassing the vast majority of video reviews I'd done for /Film. I know that 30K is not a high number, but typically, when I publish a video review at /Film (go here for an example), that review will bring in anywhere from 1K to 15K views.

Curious as to what had caused this traffic, I checked the YouTube stats. By far, the greatest number of people had come from YouTube searches. And what were those searches? Check'em out:


Tons of traffic comes from people just looking for specific scenes in movies. The other top traffic sources were YouTube Suggested videos, and from social sharing sites.

I know this information may be obvious to a lot of people, but when a film becomes prominently and well known for a specific attribute (e.g. John Wick and its fight scenes), then the more you can deliver on that with a video (legitimately), the higher the likelihood that it will be viewed thousands of times. Sometimes, the more specific you are, the better.

The Perfect Response

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Adam Sternbergh from New York magazine takes on the concept of "The Perfect Response":

[T]he Perfect Response you cheer for and re-post frantically also tends to be one that (a) confirms whatever you already believe and (b) sticks it to someone you already despise. The Perfect Response is, in essence, not a radical new perspective, but simply a person saying a thing you agree with to a person you disagree with. It’s a kind of linguistic record-scratch, a perfectly crafted gotcha that ostensibly stops trolls in their troll-tracks and forces them to deeply reconsider the sad wreckage of their wasted lives. Which means the Perfect Response is also largely a figment of the internet’s imagination.

I agree with most of what Sternbergh writes here - that an actual  "Perfect Response" is essentially so rare as to make its sharing more like an act of wishful thinking.

But I think this headline format has really taken form primarily because of sharing sites like Facebook and Twitter, something that Sternbergh acknowledges. A "Perfect Response" is simply more interesting and attention grabbing than "A Really Good Response" or "An Adequate Response." Publishers often need to exaggerate to get attention on your News Feed these days.

My question is: What is next in the Internet arms war for attention? What happens when Upworthy-style headlines are so common that all they receive in response is an indifferent shrug?

The Rise of the Sh*tpic

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Brian Feldman at The Awl charts the rise of low-resolution internet images that continue to degrade in quality as time goes on:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image. The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image.

As a photographer it's sad to me that, in a world where we can replicate digital objects with 100% accuracy, our most popular memes are those that have degraded to almost being unrecognizable due to unintentional compression.

Titanium and Young and Beautiful - Looping Cello version

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My latest looping cello video is some improvisation I did featuring themes from "Titanium" and "Young and Beautiful." Check it out!

'A Most Violent Year' Video Review

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I really enjoyed J.C. Chandor's latest film, A Most Violent Year. I hated Margin Call but loved All Is Lost. It's been really amazing to witness Chandor's growth as a filmmaker and discover how each one of his movies is so different from the others.

All About That Bass - Looping Cello Version

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I was so concerned with whether or not I could, I didn't stop to think if I should...

For more of my videos, go to DaveChenMusic.com.

My 15 Favorite Longreads of 2014

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This past year has totally revitalized my "reading life." For the first time in many years, I've read entire books (not just longform pieces online) and it feels great. I've also discovered a love for Audible, which is fantastic if you choose works that are performed well.

All that being said, I thought was still worth sharing my favorite online longreads of the year, as I have in years past. Here they are, in reverse chronological order:

Justine Sacco Is Good at Her Job, and How I Came to Peace with Her  - Sam Biddle tells a personal, self-deprecating story of how the person beyond your computer whose life you're raging against online is likely a well-balanced, real human being. The internet destroys people's lives on a daily basis, often for no good reason. This piece is a good reminder of how senseless it all can be. There are a ton of quotes from this piece that I am going to return back to from time to time, including, "She knew the only divine truth of the internet: Do nothing. Never tweet. Never apologize. Never say anything at all. Be an inert bundle of molecules and let the world tear itself apart around you."

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis - Jonathan Rauch explains some of the biological foundations of the "midlife crisis" and how to set yourself up for mid-life and late-life success.

I Regret Reporting My Female Boss for Sexual Harassment - Tana Ye┼čil describes, with great regret, an incident in which she had to make an incredibly difficult decision and the toll it took on her and her boss.

Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies - The sugar industry has been trying to convince you that it's not killing you for many years. Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens break down how we got here.

Amazon, Publishers, and Readers - Clay Shirky, a professor who I've been fortunate enough to be a student of, always puts out some of my favorite pieces, and this year was no different. Here, he explains why Amazon will win any dispute against publishers in the long term: because it has a vision for the future.

The Price of Blackness - Lanre Akinsiku describes the psychological toll of being black in a country that has seen numerous high profile cases this year of young unarmed black men shot and killed by police with no repercussions.

17 Things I Learned from Working on Other People's Films - It's been an enormous pleasure this year for me to get to know local talented filmmaker Megan Griffiths (you can listen to a /Filmcast episode we recorded together here). This piece on 17 things she's learned during her time as a filmmaker was useful for me to have, as someone who's in the process of making my own film this year. I've also enjoyed her writing on her personal blog as well.

The Greatest Story Never Told - I didn't even remember that Passion of the Christ was supposed to have a sequel until I read this gripping piece by Luke Dittrich. Apparently, there are pretty good reasons why it never happened!

The Trials of Entertainment Weekly - Few people write as intelligently about pop culture as Anne Helen Peterson. As someone who used to read EW quasi-religiously (before the rise of fan blogs like /Film), I found this to be a fascinating journey through the magazine's history that also functions as a commentary on the state of the publishing industry at large today.

The Day I Started Lying to Ruth - This is one of the few articles I've ever read that have made me openly weep. Peter B. Bach, a cancer doctor, describes his last days with his wife. That last paragraph will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

How to Write - Heather Havrilesky has been one of my favorite writers on the internet for at least 7-8 years now, and this piece demonstrates why. I won't say anything more about it, except that it is delightful.

Amanda, @TrappedAtMyDesk on Twitter, Dies, Age Unknown - Content goes viral every day, but often, it's not real. Jennifer Mendelsohn dives deep into the existence (or lack thereof) of Twitter user @TrappedAtMyDesk, whose death was repackaged into a viral video earlier this year.

Street Fighter: The Movie - What Went Wrong - Absolutely hilarious and unfortunate story by Chris Plante (fast becoming one of my favorite internet personalities - see his video essay on the racism in Gremlins here). Street Fighter: The Movie needs its own Lost in La Mancha-style documentary.

The Prophet - Unfortunately, this piece by Luke Dittrich (his second entry on my list this year!) is no longer available for free. However, the way it explores the background of Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) is fascinating and revealing. I was particularly interested in how the piece described Alexander's own reaction to the forthcoming the piece itself that Dittrich was working on as he interviewed him. It's rare to get a peek behind the curtain like that in these features.

Almost Everything in Dr. Strangelove Was True - Eric Schlosser describes in excruciating detail how the events of Dr. Strangelove easily could've happened.

Adele's Someone Like You - Cello Version

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There are roughly 8,291 covers of Adele's "Someone Like You" on YouTube. So I thought to myself, I should definitely make one of these!

The Top 10 Films of 2014

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I really enjoyed counting down my top 10 films of 2014 with Jeff and Devindra on the /Filmcast. Check it out here! My list itself is below:

1. The Babadook
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3. Birdman
4. Nightcrawler
5. The Raid 2: Berandal
6. Gone Girl
7. Under the Skin
8. Blue Ruin
9. Edge of Tomorrow
10. Grand Budapes Hotel

O Holy Night - Cello Version

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I put together this cello rendition of "O Holy Night" in the hopes of bringing everyone some Christmas cheer. This video is dedicated to my mother, Marilyn, who gave me the gift of music. Can't wait to see the whole Chen family in Seattle in a few days!

This is my first cello video using pre-recorded loops. I liked how it turned out although the arrangement is very simple - hopefully I'll be able to play with some more complex rhythms in the future. Find the rest of my looping cello videos at DaveChenMusic.com.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday season this year. To those who've read this blog and supported my endeavors, you have my gratitude.