If you’ve seen any of Will Darbyshire’s YouTube videos, you know there’s something about them. They have an elemental quality, a simplicity that’s irresistible. His channel is populated with quiet moments, still frames, poignant looks—and, to the untrained eye, they may even seem effortless.
As he pointed out, that could be further from the truth. In fact, Will’s been working for years to define his identity in the YouTube space. There’s plenty of noise on the platform, and it takes a good amount of effort and conviction to stick to your guns and be true to your own voice.
“Everything I upload now is not something I’ve been forced to make, it’s something I’ve enjoyed making. It’s not a game I’m trying to play. It’s something I’m passionate about,” Will told us.
This conviction is paying off, though. What began as a hobby, editing gaming and skateboard videos before attending film school, is now a full-blown career on the platform. Will’s channel has grown to nearly 700,000 followers and he’s achieved this success on his own terms. We decided to talk with Will about how and why he decided to find success in his own way, by oftentimes going the opposite way of the trends.
Here’s Will Darbyshire.
Musicbed: Heading into film school, did you have a head start from cutting videos for YouTube?
Will Darbyshire: I suppose there were more abstract things about editing films that I didn’t know about, but I knew the technical details. I knew how to cut a clip. I knew how to render things, basic playback things. I had a leg up because technically there’s a crazy amount to learn when it comes to editing a film or a scene. I did a short film two years ago, I was like, “I know how to edit, but this is so difficult.” It’s really hard to nail the timing of everything and to know when to pick up the pace, just the flow of everything.
Do you find there’s a certain amount of editing that comes naturally, just from your gut?
When I was younger, I was cutting gameplay to music or cutting montage sequences. I was really good at that. I can edit with music really well, and I think that was a big strength for me. I struggled more with the multi-cam stuff. Editing with music is something you can get wrong, and I’ve spent so much of my YouTube career trying to nail that down. It’s really hard to edit music. But, going into film school, that was something I already felt quite confident about.
Did you see yourself continuing your career on YouTube after film school?
Initially, I was going with the idea that this would probably be a stepping stone into my film career. But, I didn’t really know about grinding away, making short films, making money, and writing things. I didn’t know how to play the game of the film business if you will. YouTube was another way of getting into it.
For a while, though, it felt like a YouTube trap—being a vlogger and having to fit into the mold of YouTube. The people who do the best on YouTube are people who follow the trends. So it means a lot of people don’t really have their own style and I feel like I lost that drive to make films. The first two years of my channel were definitely a bit more vloggy. Now, it’s become a bit more like cinematic, definitely more focused on filmmaking and photography, which is great.
It doesn’t seem like you’ve sacrificed success for that, though.
No, but I think there is a lot of content out there on YouTube that’s just so hard to find. I don’t think YouTube does a good enough job of pushing good content to the front page or the trending page, it tends to push content that’s clickbait. I find it hard to find like niche YouTubers anymore. When I was younger, more people were doing interesting stuff. Now, people don’t even see the algorithm as an algorithm anymore.
Listen to Will Darbyshire’s Curated Playlist:
How did you get to a place where you felt like you could be yourself on YouTube?
The first video I made that felt different was called The Beach, which was just like a video of me and my girlfriend going down to the beach in LA. It just felt really different from all my other stuff and it had such a good reaction. I thought, Maybe I should just stop worrying about what people expect of me and just upload stuff that I want to upload. From then on, I decided to upload whatever I wanted to upload. If people like it, they like it.
I miss the authenticity of early YouTube, when people were just themselves and making these homegrown videos. They weren’t playing into any algorithm or any big factor.
I don’t want to compromise what I want to do just to please people. My audience is just so incredible, they tend to just accept and like anything I put up cause they know I enjoyed making it. Everything I upload now is not something I’ve been forced to make, it’s something I’ve enjoyed making. It’s not a game I’m trying to play. It’s something I’m passionate about.
Everything I upload now is not something I’ve been forced to make, it’s something I’ve enjoyed making.
There is something contagious about someone who’s passionate about their work, right?
People can tell when a video is something I’m passionate about. I have some videos that have done poorly and they’re generally the ones I haven’t been passionate about. Which is funny, it’s almost like they know that I’m not as passionate about this. That’s why I spend so much time in between uploads, because I’m just trying to think of something so it’s going to be authentic to me and I’m passionate about making it. Of course, I hope people will enjoy it as well.
What’s the most difficult part of that process?
The most difficult part is, I think, coming up with the idea for it. When I have an idea, it’ll all work together; it all makes sense. But coming up with an idea that’s interesting, interesting enough to last a couple of minutes and be something I haven’t done before, is hard. The big thing for me has been trying to come up with something as honest as possible, and I think a lot of my ideas stem from that.
How do you find that breakthrough?
The biggest thing is inspiration, going out and trying to find inspiration. That can be watching a load of films, I have a Criterion Plus subscription, or going to the cinema, watching new things, watching interviews with your favorite filmmakers, going to an art gallery, reading photography books. There are so many things you can do. Immediately after doing one of those things, I’m thinking, That’s a really good idea; maybe I can incorporate that into something. Also, there are other YouTubers who are doing really cool stuff as well. If you can find it underneath the trending and suggested pages, that’s a really good source of inspiration.
I’m very fortunate in my circumstances because I have the time to not force it, which is important if you’re creatively stuck. I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury, but for me, if I don’t have an idea, I’m just going to take a deep breath, go away for a week, come back and hopefully it would have solved itself. If you stress yourself out too much, it’s not going to happen.
Is it important to just push through it sometimes?
Yeah. I shot a video called Scenes From Summer about six months ago. I went with some of my friends to the Dolomites and I didn’t really know if I wanted to make a video. But, we got there and I just started shooting, locked-off tripod shots to set the frames. Just for the sake of shooting.
I realized that each frame kind of looked like a painting in a way. When I got back, I had all of this footage and I thought, What do I do with all this stuff? That actually happens quite a bit—you might not have an idea in mind but you end up shooting it anyway. In the edit, you just think about how you can turn it into something. In Scenes From Summer, I was looking at all these clips and they just felt like such a moment in time, just summer in Italy.
Probably 50 percent of the time I start shooting something without knowing what it is. Then, I would cut some of it and think, Why did I shoot this? I’ll reshoot and add things. Sometimes it can help to just pick up the camera and start documenting things. Document your life and bet you can work it out at the end.
How do you know when you’ve captured something worthwhile?
Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. You have what you think is a good idea and then you start shooting it and it doesn’t really work. It’s really hard. In the end, It’s probably a combination of things. If you’ve got a good idea, that’s one thing. But then, it’s about turning that idea into something that’s going to be substantial. Something that’s going to affect people. That can come down to music, how you shoot something, the narrative of it, structure of it, all those things. When they do fall into place, on the rare occasion they do, then you have a Eureka moment.