The one time king of YouTube has been cast in an independent film opposite RJ Mitte (“Breaking Bad”) and Paloma Kwiatkowski (“Bates Motel”). “Who’s Driving Doug” is a film by writer William Carnick that tells the story of a disable recluse of considerable intellect taking a road trip with his new driver. Production details are pending and no date has been released for the start of filming. This film is the latest in a series of projects Johnson has been attached to outside the traditional YouTube sphere signaling is desire to translate his online success into traditional cinema.
Formerly YouTube’s most subscribed creator Johnson recently stepped away from Equals Three, the viral video clip show which has been his most prominent online video endeavor in favor of producing short films and web series alongside girlfriend Anna Akana through his production company, Runaway Machine. He remains active on YouTube posting video versions of his popular podcast Runaway Thoughts. Last year he was involved in a highly public dispute with Maker Studios over ad revenue which ended in Johnson severing his contract and threatening legal action. Johnson later signed an exclusive content deal with BlipTV only to see the fledgling platform acquired by Maker Studios months later. The status of Johnson’s deal with BlipTV is unknown but it is safe to assume that contract was nullified by the Maker acquisition.
Johnson was one of the first major stars of YouTube who managed to translate his online success into a business model rather than relying strictly on ad revenue from his YouTube partnership Like other early YouTube success stories he has expressed a level of dissatisfaction with the YouTube ecosystem on both a functional and creative level. He has criticized the site for what he characterized as the unfair share of ad revenue YouTube claims from its creator partners. In pod casts he has also expressed doubt about the medium’s ability to sustain more long form content though his recent web series, Riley Rewind, performed well on the platform despite its longform episodic format. It’s likely that Johnson and peers like Phillip DeFranco and Shane Dawson will be the trailblazers that clear the path for others to expand their media careers beyond the YouTube subscription box.