| David Gane

Casey Neistat - Show, Don't Tell

Over the weekend, YouTube vlogger, Casey Neistat announced that he was quitting vlogging. This doesn't mean he's giving up YouTube or filmmaking, but only stopping his daily vlogs so that he can focus on his other work. However, I've been a huge fan of his for a while and saying goodbye to his regular content brings me a little sadness.

His videos have always been entertaining snapshots of his day with a natural cinema verité style that brought the viewer along for a ride. I always appreciated his naturalness and his energy, and as Evan Puschchak from the Nerdwriter pointed out, he brought a decade of experience in filmmaking to an amateur craft.

I think Puschchak also came closest to expressing what I like most about Neistat's films: his ability to tell a story.

I find the most perilous trap vloggers fall into—besides those that try to imitate aspects of his style—is forgetting the core of his work and the most basic rule of visual storytelling: show, don't tell.

For Neistat, sharing an entertaining story always came first. All his cameras, all his drones, and all his tools were only a means to capture the story. In this case, the story was always his day, but he worked his ass off to make it interesting.

For Neistat, nothing ever, ever, ever was left as just a person talking to the camera.

It was a daily, visceral journal using multiple angles, lenses, and camera positions. The world was his playground and his studio. He didn't simply film himself in the world, but "used the world as his tripod". And when he told a story, it spread through time and space—from his apartment to his workplace to the airport—a life always in motion.

Even when he discussed specific topics in his studio, like his filmmaking process, his daily schedule, or his plans for the day, he always built a visual component to the segments. Hand-drawn charts, diagrams, and graphs were always present to illustrate details. Notes written on napkins and notebooks progressed the story like inter-titles from silent movies. Re-enactments illustrated what he wasn't able to capture.

What he never wasted time on were the phone calls, the meetings, or the actual speaking engagements (only the before and after). We rarely saw his daily habits, except for his runs, especially when they were with friends or special guests, but if he couldn't find a fresh way to share, he would just skip it.

In-between all of it, he gave us a story of the himself and the people and places around him. His vlogs were built out of his own energy, interests, and curiosity. They were natural constructions tension and release around asking, "What's interesting?" "What's can we do?" and "What's next?"

And I can only look forward to what he shows us next.

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