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Nino Film Blog | July 24, 2024

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How to Reach a Million Video Views -Part 1: The Set Up

How to Reach a Million Video Views -Part 1: The Set Up

Over the course of the next 5 weeks, a series of guest blog posts by the screenwriter and director Gregor Schmidinger will try to reveal the mystery about how to reach a million views with a (narrative) short film on the Internet. Find out more about Gregor at the end of this article.

You can like and connect with The Boy Next Door at TheBoyNextDoorFilm

A couple of weeks ago, after Nino wrote his blog post on content vs. technology, he asked me to write a guest post about my short film The Boy Next Door that has just reached a million views on YouTube(1) yesterday. Not only did the movie reach this magic number, it also received more than 600 comments that are predominantly positive such as:

Selected Comments from YouTube

I guess these are all comments every filmmaker would like to hear about his movies. We all want to make an emotional impact on our audience and we also want them to be willing to pay for it. Some movies achieve it and others donʻt. I take this as a chance to reflect on the project and analyze why people around the globe simply love the short film.

This is the first in a series of five posts that puts my thoughts and point of views into words. It‘s a great chance to structure my thoughts and share my experiences on the art of filmmaking that I made in the last three years.

Before we jump right into how to reach a million views with a short film, let me provide you with a rough roadmap for the series:

• This post is about how it all started, providing you with the necessary framework. I will also provide you with statistic data that outlines the road to a million views.

• The 2nd and 3rd post will be dedicated to story. We will look at what art really is and how it is different from commerce, how to be original and learn about aesthetic emotions and the monomyth.

• In the 4th post I‘ll write about finding a niche, defining your audience and how your audience will get to see your movie.

• The 5th and last post will raise the question what to do with a million views and how to turn it into useable value. I will conclude with a summary of the cornerstones we covered that you then can apply on your next project.

Now would be the perfect to time to watch the short film if you haven‘t seen it yet. Take the ten minutes to later understand the references and examples I will use throughout the series.


During my third year at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences I had the chance to go to the US studying with the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. The Boy Next Door was an in-class project for my Sync-Sound Production class. The assignment was to write five pages of script over Christmas brake, shooting them in spring semester of 2008.

Since I wanted to use the chance to shoot a film in the US, I put probably more effort into the project than was expected or required. E.g. I put a casting call in Backstage, flew to New York City and casted actors in a hotel room in Manhattan. I had them flown back to Ohio during the shoot that took place over the course of three days in a Best Western hotel in Bowling Green.

Casting in New York City

The crew consisted only of fellow students and friends. We shot with minimal equipment, that was provided by the university. We used a Panasonic DVX-100, three ARRI lights, and a basic audio set. Additionally, I rented a Letus adapter and a couple of lenses (I think it was a 24, 35, 50, 85 and 110mm). We recorded with the former DV Rack (now Adobe OnLocation) right to hard drive. Interesting side note, I did no color correction at all. We achieved the look and feel of the movie with set dressing and lighting. I only tweaked the levels slightly.


I tried to submit The Boy Next Door to film festivals while moving back to Europe and doing an internship at a commercial film production company in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Most festivals that I submitted the short to declined it. The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as well as a small short film festival in the UK screened the movie. All in all, the short did not good at the festival circuit and did not receive a lot of attention.

Luckily, I had not enough patience at that time to keep submitting the movie to more film festivals, so I put it on YouTube in February 2009. Well, let me put it that way, the movie did not really good the first couple of months either. Around 30 people watched the short a day. In July 2009, the views per day rose to a maximum of 600 before it dropped again.

All-time YouTube Insight Data

It was not until September 2009 that the movie started to gain momentum, steadily increasing its views per day. Maybe it was because more people started to surf the internet again in fall or it just reached the critically mass it needed. Anyhow, things started to accelerate and the short reached 100.000 views on December 11th 2009. The views per day kept increasing over the course of 2010 reaching 3.000 views a day and an all time views of 1 million two years after I uploaded The Boy Next Door.

Someone might say that it has been sheer luck that The Boy Next Door gained momentum. If it were a scientific debate, we would need to repeat the experiment and see whether the outcome was the same. Luckily, we can:

THE PROOF, a German web portal, did an interview with me about The Boy Next Door in 2010. In addition, they asked me to provide them with a version of The Boy Next Door that has German subtitles superimposed. They re-uploaded it to YouTube and even to my surprise, not even one year later, the short has yet again gained more than 150.000 views.(2) Other than the original version, it’s mostly German speaking users that view and comment on the movie. This clearly indicates to me, that the movie really does reach and affect a lot of people out there.

But why does the short work? The main reason is clearly its story. Thus, next week and the week after, we‘ll have an extensive look at story in general and the story of The Boy Next Door in particular.

Gregor is a screenwriter and director from Austria currently working as a multimedia designer and studying screenwriting at UCLA. On his blog BreakingIn he writes about screenwriting, directing and artistic development, documenting his attempt to break into the business. You can follow him on Twitter @Breaking_In.




  1. awesome – I’m looking forward to reading more about this 🙂
    I’ll be happy to learn how to get to just 100000 views for a short

    • Thanks Phillip. Appreciate your comment! 🙂

  2. Very interesting. Thank you for taking the time out to share your experience. I look forward to upcoming posts.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience, but is it a quality criterion to have 1,000,000 views on youtube? It would be more interesting to see how to get that amount on vimeo.

    • Your question implies that it is easier to gain that amount on YouTube. Is it really?
      It’s true that only few videos with a lot of views on YouTube are narrative short films, but isn’t it even more impressive if you gain 1,000,000 views with a short film then?

      • I don’t know if it’s easier, but the number doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the film.
        On vimeo it’s more a credible mass.

        I mean, watch this:

        6 million views – so what? Good for your ego, perhaps, but rather telling something about marketing efforts than the quality of the clip.

      • Of course you have to look at the film itself to judge why it gained a lot of views. The view count itself is by no means a reflection of the quality of any video, but you have to judge the content. What else, if not the content, has drawn people to The Boy Next Door?
        Do you think it was such a marketing hype?

        An idiot trying to rap gains a lot of views because it is funny. I can’t find any other viral elements than “good story & storytelling” in The Boy Next Door though.

  4. I can’t see the reply button…?

    Well, I don’t know how it got so many views. But it doesn’t have to be the quality. Concerning storytelling – just read the elaborate comments on youtube and on vimeo. But that’s another thing.
    I just don’t like the title “How to Reach a Million Video Views” (too luring) and pretending this would be the effect of quality.

    • Hey Ringo!

      Thanks for your great comments. You are addressing some interesting points here.

      First of all, I chose the title on purpose. Yes it is luring, but there is an idea behind it. We all are looking for instant success and the short cut that gets us faster to our goals. That’s how our culture seems to roll whether this is good or not. With the title I wanted to imply “apply filter X and reach a million views”. That’s of course not how it works but sometimes we wish it would. On the other hand, it’s also not up to chance and there are things that work but are more complex and subjective then applying filter X. Only because they are more ambigious and harder to pin down doesn’t mean we shouldn’t adress them. I spent the last three years learning about these things that I now want to share. Hope you get the intention of the title by the end of the series.

      The YouTube vs. Vimeo discussion boils down to a question of audience. Vimeo is mostly filmmakers and artists that have a great background in the art and technology of filmmaking. YouTube is pretty much the rest. I would see Vimeo as a film festival wheras YouTube is the common cinema down the street. The Vimeo audience might judge a short with a lot more background information or even the intention, the YouTube audience doesn’t really care about it. Either it works (emotionally) or it doesn’t.

      I know that there are viral videos on YouTube that are considered to have less or non artistic value at all. But, The Boy Next Door is neither a cute cat video nor College Humor and it still works against the odds. In the end it’s really about how you define quality. If you want the appreciation of peers from your domain, that’s okay and necessary but probably won’t pay the bills. Personally, I define success to grab the attention of an audience, move them emotionally, leaving them thinking about what they saw and that is certainly what The Boy Next Door does.

      • Gregor,

        I must say I’m really looking forward to your next three posts and seeing the various factors that resulted in such a large number of views.

        Truthfully, I would consider 30 views a day to be a large step in the right direction. You may cover this in your next posts, but I am wondering if you were able to achieve the initial views by just posting your film, or did you have some promotion that assisted you in the beginning?

        Thanks again for sharing, and I look forward to the next installment.

    • Ringo, the replies only run 3 levels deep, you need to hit the last available reply button and all commenters of that thread will be notified.

  5. Charles

    Yes, it’s “good story and storytelling”(I do not understand the comment by Ringo).
    I’m a filmmaker and look for new ways to reach large groups of people for traffic education. From a scientific standpoint, the drivers are not told why they make mistakes in traffic. The causes remain hidden from the public and that’s a shame. This is literally a big drama. I want to tell this story in the form of a docudrama. But how to reach and audience of millions. Maybe I find this here. Well, a good story is of course the beginning …
    You have made a good movie (great actors).
    Greetings from West-Europe.

    • Hey Charles!

      Thanks for the comment. Appreciate it a lot and I hope you do find an answer or stumble upon aspects that inspire you. 🙂

  6. First of all “The Boy Next Door” is a great work especially
    after written introduction here explaining who did it, when and how
    it was done. Also, there was a budget, I believe, that covered
    bringing in actors, something that may not be always affordable to
    most, or it could be? The YouTube vs. Vimeo is well covered in
    comments so I’ll just add to it millions that get “boobs”
    strategically placed as thumbs on Youtube videos. Will read rest of
    it if not sooner than later 🙂

    • Thanks Kristijan! I am glad you enjoy the story. You are correct, there was a budget. Considering the flight, I think it was around 600$ for all the flight tickets which definitely was worth it. Story and actors are my top priority. 🙂

      • Gregor! I honestly think you can’t call $600 a “budget” 🙂
        That’s not even low-budget!!

      • It was 600$ for the flights only. The whole budget for the short was bit higher but still I guess the project is considered no-budget. 🙂

  7. great work you did ! i recently wrote an article about desire in news. in france, here, in Lille we are talking of digital journalism and i am sure that the most important of all is creativity. it is the lony manner to be unique ! and to reach millions of view. but it is not enough !

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