Though you’ve likely never heard of Andrew Vallentine, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen his work on YouTube. This is because Vallentine works behind the camera, directing videos for popular YouTube creators from Meghan Camarena to Joey Graceffa.
At this point in his freelance directing career on YouTube, Vallentine has no trouble keeping busy with clients. Recently, he released two music videos for Trisha Pasytas, shortly followed by Joey Graceffa’s coming out music video, “Don’t Wait” (below), and Ricky Dillon’s “Stars,” which debuted the very next day.
How did Vallentine get so busy directing these YouTube videos that hords of fanboys and -girls everywhere have seen? Let’s start from the beginning.
Vallentine initially got into the YouTube business right out of college, when he applied for a job “to work at a YouTube network” on Craigslist. That network ended up being Fullscreen, where Vallentine became the 35th employee. Moving through multiple roles, he eventually started working as a director and producer at the company.
While at Fullscreen, Vallentine was also making videos for YouTube on his own time. “My first big video was a mock Adele music video for her song, ‘Set Fire to the Rain.’ I had a friend that was a dead ringer for Adele, and a few of my college friends and I made this music video over a Thanksgiving break,” says Vallentine. “The video went viral, with close to 9 million views. From there, I was hooked making YouTube videos. The idea that 9 million people watched something I directed was an incredible rush, and I wanted to keep doing it.”
Because of the Adele video’s success, Vallentine earned himself an introduction to YouTuber Strawburry17, Camarena. He still thanks her for introducing him to his other contacts in the YouTube community, which truly is tightknit. “The community of popular YouTubers is small in the sense that they are all friends and contemporaries who collaborate and support one another,” describes Vallentine.
Hence, Vallentine’s career today as a YouTube director, where the majority of videos he directs “almost always hit over a million views.” Being so successful when it comes to viewership, what Vallentine has learned about the ingredients of a hit are somewhat surprising, somewhat predictably mundane. “In a way it’s not so dissimilar from what dictates how well a film will do when it is released in theaters,” he says.
In terms of following in Vallentine’s behind-the-scenes footsteps on YouTube, it doesn’t seem like there’s a community of directors and producers in the way that there is for the creators in front of the camera. Perhaps that’s because many major YouTubers do their own work or have their own, personal teams. If you are looking to freelance, though, and “shoot as much as [you] can,” Vallentine says, “YouTube is the place where you can find a lot of creative people who are willing to take risks with other creative people.”
As for your own creative input, it varies when you work behind the camera. Vallentine describes it as a 60/40 split. “Sixty percent of the time, the creator comes to me with a song, and I pitch them on a video idea. They might have certain visuals or elements they want, which I take and put into a narrative. The other 40%, the creator knows exactly what they want, and they get to convince me of the concept, which I can then visualize and translate into how I’m going to shoot it.”
As much as Vallentine loves creating in the YouTube space, he’s still hoping it will lead to work in traditional media. Lucky for him, he’s also observed traditional and new media coming together in some pretty significant ways. “We are already seeing TV approximating the way YouTube content is consumed, while YouTube is moving in the opposite direction, approximating the content on TV,” he says, noting that more millennial filmmakers see a certain potential in digital, especially as brand partnerships and shifting ad dollars are increasing budgets online.
While he’s still working in digital entertainment, Vallentine has to acknowledge that a big part of being successful in the industry is being your own brand, and a very public one. In that sense, Vallentine’s truly breaking the mold. “While I can appreciate the people who love being in front of the camera, I’m the guy who loves being behind it,” he says. “I have absolutely no desire to be in front of the camera; I don’t even know what I would do…I guess maybe talk about movies?”
That being the case, we had to ask Vallentine the inevitable question about his job. Does he consider himself a “YouTuber”?
“I’m asked that a lot,” he says, “and I always say yes and also no. I consider myself a video director first and foremost, and then a YouTuber.”