Today we go back to the world of Youtube. I’ll be talking to Sunny and Amanda, presenters of The Marvelous Reading Room channel, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary.
SCy-Fy: Guys, this reading room is certainly marvelous, but it’s also very hot! Your show has some of the best quality video I’ve seen on Youtube – how do you prepare?
Sunny: We used to do the whole show ‘live’ and then edit it to the best of our abilities, but we’ve learned that scripting or at least outlining what we want to talk about beforehand helps the creative process more than hindering it. Then for any kind of skits, it’s a whole pre-production process of finding costumes, props, whatever we need and then doing the best we can to make it all work.
Amanda: Yeah, it really depends on the segment. Generally we write out what we’re going to say and try our best to memorize it or look down between takes at my laptop, which I usually set up in front of us. We could really use a teleprompter. One day! Then the set-up of lighting, mics, and camera takes about an hour before we actually start filming. We try and film multiple segments at once since the set-up takes so long. If we’re doing an Expanded Universe segment that day, we have to move everything into another room where we have a green screen set up.
SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?
Sunny: We’re always thinking about how we can do new things with our channel. Even in just the year we’ve been doing it, we have grown and matured so much into more of a production. We love doing it. We’ve always wanted to celebrate reading and books with the channel and we’ve been brainstorming ideas for how to inspire non-readers or people that don’t read novels very often to give one a try.
Amanda: We’re also currently incorporating a podcast into the Reading Room and we’d like to make that a more regular thing. It’s a great way to break our usual format. We’d really like to do more cinematic videos like our The Martian segment. That was a lot of fun and a great way to branch out from just doing book reviews.
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for online presentation in future?
Sunny: I think the key challenge anyone will face with any kind of entertainment and especially online is finding your audience. The internet has definitely made this more possible, which is wonderful, but it can still be very difficult to find the niche market that will really enjoy what you are creating.
Amanda: Making it a lucrative living and an only source of income. It’s near impossible to make a living these days off of just Youtube videos, especially with the way they’re constantly changing things.
SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting?
Sunny: Definitely try your hardest and learn everything you can about the production process. We’ve been lucky that we both currently work in entertainment production in one form or another, but we are always learning more about how to do things and what works for us.
Amanda: If you’re planning on making Youtube videos, go in with no expectations. Don’t do anything expecting to make money or “get famous”. Do it because you love it and for no other reason. We absolutely love our channel and it’s become a huge passion of mine that has me wanting to branch out into other mediums as well.
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
Sunny: YouTube!!! I cannot begin to list how many tutorials I have found super helpful when it comes to lighting and using cameras. I’m a photographer, but the video world was a whole new realm for me, so finding tutorials to watch was pretty vital. Film Riot and The Slanted Lens are some of my favorites. There are also a lot of great websites. Adobe provides a lot of great tutorials and we were lucky to find Creative Commons music on a site called TheFreeMusicArchive.com, but be careful – not everything on that site is Creative Commons, and the last thing you want to do is be more or less stealing other people’s creations for your own.
Amanda: Goodreads and Wikipedia. And yeah, what Sunny said.
SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?
Sunny: Don’t get sucked into the likes and dislike bar or mean comments. It’s not worth it, and typically are not very constructive.
Amanda: Mean comments. Trying not to take anything personally or seriously. Developing a thick skin is really really hard and one mean comment from someone you don’t even know can ruin your whole day.
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
Sunny: The house we shoot in gets really hot in the summer, upwards of 100 degrees or more and we have to turn all the fans off while we’re filming and it can be truly miserable –
SCy-Fy: That explains why I’m sweating so much…
Sunny: – but I think the thing that really keeps us going is seeing that people really enjoy the stuff we’re putting out there. Every time a comment pops up, or we get a like on a video or someone mentions us on their own channel, we are overcome with excitement and appreciation.
Amanda: Sticking to our schedule keeps me going. When we started, we decided that we would release one video every Wednesday and we’ve stuck to that for an entire year. So the need to absolutely stick to that schedule and make content definitely keeps me going during hard times. Also, the community and the amazing people and overall nice comments always makes my day.
SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?
Sunny: I guess the one thing that has come up is the idea of negative reviews. Believe it or not, as an avid reader you are bound to find the occasional book that makes you want to throw it out a window, and it would be easy to make a video tearing such a book apart and pointing out everything wrong with it. Entire entertainment networks are built on such an idea. But as easy as that would be, we do our best to always be positive. There’s no reason to inform people of a book they’re not going to like, so it’s better to just move on and talk about the next book that we enjoy. That’s always kind of been my mantra; ‘always be positive’.
SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented? Your personal favourite?
Amanda: The most popular by view count is my Darker Shade of Magic review which I feel weird about because it was an early review when the book wasn’t even out yet. I was given a preview of the first five chapters only, which I did not realize until I got to the end, and I was locked into reviewing it for Netgalley. So I didn’t even know how it ended or if it was even worth recommending. At the time, it was relevant since the book wasn’t out yet, but it has since come out, so I feel the video is already antiquated, but people keep watching it.
My personal favorite was our The Martian review. We used a green screen and put me in a space suit and sent me to Mars. It took about 8 hours to film a 37 second segment and 2 weeks to edit, but it was so much fun and I’m so proud of how it turned out.
SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?
Sunny: I was really surprised by some Michael Wallace books, of whom I’ve never read anything before, and that was a really nice surprise. Beyond that, Brandon Sanderson’s books always get me.
Amanda: This year my favorites have been Lexicon by Max Barry, The City & The City by China Mieville and The Martian by Andy Weir. I realize those are all Sci-fi novels. My favourite graphic novel this year is The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, hands down. Everyone go read The Sculptor by Scott McCloud!
SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?
Sunny: I’m actually really excited to read the new Harper Lee book. I have a strange soft spot for To Kill A Mockingbird; I think it was one of the first books I had to read in school and actually really enjoyed, so I’m excited to read another of her books.
Amanda: There are a few things out now that I really want to get to. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, Touch by Claire North, and hopefully a new Rainbow Rowell book will come out this year.
SCy-Fy: Sunny and Amanda – thank you both very much!
Amanda: Thank you so much for interviewing us. I feel so touched and honored. And to anyone reading, go read some comics! (The Sculptor, go read The Sculptor.)