Creating cinematic content with Kinigra Deon (2024)

Creating cinematic content with Kinigra Deon

Creating cinematic content with Kinigra Deon (1)

Creator and Artist Stories

By Julia Lee Harter, Contributor, YouTube Official Blog

Feb 20, 2024 minute read

Today, Nielsen announced YouTube is the #1 streaming platform by watchtime for one full year. To celebrate this milestone, we sat down with a creator known for her cinematic storytelling — Kinigra Deon.

We grew up poorer than poor and now all of my family is creatives. Every one of them. It started out small, but now it’s birthing something so much bigger than us.”

Kinigra Deon

Over 70% of your watchtime in 2023 came from connected TVs. What do you think makes your content work so well in that format? Has that informed your content strategy and approach at all?

Kinigra: Our content is for viewers who want to sit down, get their popcorn, get comfortable with a blanket and turn on the TV to watch a really good story. It’s like watching your favorite show! You don’t want to be distracted and you want to watch in your bedroom or living room or with your family.

That’s because, when we create, we’re trying to make the content as cinematic as possible. On our team, everyone cares about what we’re doing — whether it’s the actors playfully competing with each other or the camera crew putting their best foot forward. We’re not gonna dismiss lighting just for efficiency and the editor is making sure we’re delivering the emotions needed to make our vision come to life. Even when we write, we’re trying to make sure that we’re creating something that our audience can relate to.

Creating cinematic content with Kinigra Deon (2)

You’ve also seen a 76% increase in watchtime on TV - what has that growth meant to you?

Kinigra: It means that we're doing something right. The more we film, the more we learn, right? When we started out, it wasn’t as high quality. Then, we hired actual videographers who came from television, but things were taking so long to film and moving too slowly for our channel. It wasn’t until we mixed the way that I create with the way they created that we started making high production content that people want to watch on their TVs.

In a recent letter, YouTube’s CEO emphasized that creators should be recognized as next generation studios- what do you think of that statement? How would you say your approach compares to how a traditional television studio would? What’s similar and what’s different?

Kinigra: The similarity is that everything has a pre-production and post-production. The difference is that we do things faster with far fewer people. For pre-production, it’s really me and my husband. We come up with the majority of the ideas and order all the props — but we’re training people now and learning to hand things off. We have our cast of 30 to 40 actors. We have a crew, which isn’t as big as Hollywood, but it still includes a sound person, camera crew, assistants, props and sets. Then, we send things to our editing team in post production who critique and make the final product.

Your channel along with many others has high production value, top notch storytelling and acting. You have over 3.7 million subscribers, the majority of which watch your videos the same way they tune into their favorite tv shows. So, why do you think digital creators struggle to be seen as legitimate creatives by the entertainment industry in the same way television actors, music artists or comedians are?

Kinigra: I think that's about to change, if it's not already changing.

When I first came to LA, I was a clinical scientist and I met some YouTubers who asked me to be in their videos. We did comedy sketches, maybe three to four minutes, and they were very low production. No one was directing me. We just said whatever with maybe one camera man.

Once I went to do my own channel, I didn’t want to just do the bare minimum. I needed my own team and I remember writing to this guy who I thought could really act, asking him to work with me. He thanked me for the compliment, but said, “I’m a real actor. I don’t act on YouTube.” I heard this story several times and I think people have definitely changed their minds. You can really act on YouTube. That shouldn’t stop you.

Starting out on YouTube, low production three minute sketches couldn’t be compared to television. It was more about being viral than being a true creative. Let’s go to now. The YouTubers I see now have professional cameras, entire studios and they’re creating this fan base with high quality content. We’re different from Hollywood now, because we have the quality and we also have a personal relationship with our audience. We can wear multiple hats and delegate. We know how to gain popularity and sell to our audience, because we know them. So, I think the perception is changing.

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With all this growth you’re seeing, both on your channel and the platform, what are you most excited about for the future?

Kinigra: Two things. First, we're working on building our own studio. We’ll be able to have sets for a hospital, jail, maybe a church, so that we can really stop limiting our writing based on the locations we have available. We’ll be able to start making these videos way longer and in even more effort. It’s gonna be so dope!

Outside of just creating, we have a group of actors. Most of them are teenagers, but we also have others who are in middle school, my niece who’s six and now my daughter who is two and recently got in a video. I’m really passionate about making them creators. I’m very vocal that unless you’re coming here to learn and be inspired, there’s no point in being here. Let’s ask questions. Here in Alabama, the knowledge gets passed down to us last. I’m here to teach and am very passionate about creating the next generation of creators. So, the second thing that we’re gonna work on is creating a content house where people can come in for free, learn and make content, because sometimes you don’t know where to start. You don’t have the equipment. I want to eliminate those excuses.

You describe yourself as the Tyler Perry of YouTube. What does that mean to you?

Kinigra: Tyler Perry started with nothing. He started with just this vision and then he started doing plays. He went from plays to movies, from movies to having this production company, and now, this massive studio. He has no limitations on what he can create. That’s what I’m trying to do on YouTube. We started with these comedy sketches, right? And now we’re making high production short films and we’re able to eventually build our own studio. We can make a movie if we want. We create a streaming platform if we want. We grew up poorer than poor and now all of my family is creatives. Every one of them. It started out small, but now it’s birthing something so much bigger than us.

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