A glimpse at some of Eric Striffler’s many videos on his channel Pretty Much It.
Get your virtual popcorn!
YouTube is a platform with an abundant amount of creative categories for people to participate in and watch. From the beauty community, to video essays, to taste testing foods, YouTube has pretty diverse content to offer. There is one category of content that shines in my eyes as the epitome of the 21st century, and that’s movie commentary channels.
I personally love movie commentary channels. With channels like Pretty Much It and Dylan Is In Trouble, as well as creators like Aaron and Jo and Trin Lovell, I thought that this was a universal opinion until one of my more brash friends said that movie commentary channels were “stupid.”
I couldn’t wrap my mind around this take because movie commentary has been a thing long before YouTube channels picked it up. Rewatching movies wasn’t exactly normal until DVDs became a thing and, once DVDs became normalized too, bonus features are what got people to keep buying them. With gag reels, behind the scenes and sometimes movie commentary tracks from the cast or crew, special features are what made hardcore fans start collecting.
On the TV show “Community”, one of the characters acquires a “Dark Knight Rises” DVD with a three-hour long movie commentary by Christian Bail. Even though this character knows the movie like the back of his hand, this DVD is still his prized possession because he hasn’t heard Christian Bail’s take on the movie. I bring this up because it perfectly encapsulates the point behind movie commentary.
Movie commentary was originally intended to give the viewers and fans a different point of view from their own, and maybe even a chance to learn some new information about one of their favorite movies. Whether its behind the scenes facts and details or just funny opinions or jokes, movie commentary tracks were a well established thing before YouTubers picked it up.
The thing is, when YouTubers decided to make their own movie commentary tracks, they didn’t really have the same kind of information to offer. Let’s take the creator Dylan Is In Trouble for example, although he occasionally drops some interesting suggestions about camera work, plot predictability and lighting, for the most part, he provides the audience with additional laughter and, most importantly, company.
Similar to many YouTubers origin stories, the creator of the movie commentary channel Pretty Much It Eric Striffler didn’t know that his life would turn into what it is now. Originally starting his YouTube channel in 2005 as a way to share comedy videos he made with his friends, people outside of his circle stumbled upon his videos and began tuning in regularly.
“In 2013 we released our first commentary track and of course we’re still doing it to this day,” Striffler said. “It’s also been a joy to bring my friends along for the ride. Whether it’s movies or TV shows, good or bad, we just have a lot of fun doing this and that’s always the most important thing.”
The aspect of providing that “company” previously mentioned is at the forefront of Striffler’s mind when making his videos. Striffler never thought this channel that he started over 15 years ago would take off the way it did, and over the years he has accumulated a whopping 825k subscribers.
“I remember when I hit 1,000 subscribers and feeling like that was such a massive amount of people,” Striffler said. “To be nearing 1,000,000 is barely conceivable, and the best part is that I still recognize names from over a decade ago that have stuck around. The PMI audience is a great mix of old and new.”
Being a movie commentary channel on YouTube provides an extra challenge that other channels don’t face as frequently: YouTube copyright. Even though these videos include footage from movies and TV shows that these creators don’t own, they should be covered under fair use. If YouTube does try to throw a copyright claim at any of these channels because of fair use, it can be disputed.
With the added challenge of copyright strikes, movie commentary channels need to make sure they make enough of the video their own with editing and their overall presence. Striffler is no stranger to YouTube’s policies and algorithm after years of making videos himself and having friends on his channel.
“Typically we know we’ll have a successful video if a certain movie or show is really popular and we’re getting a video up for it quickly,” Striffler said. “But the nice thing about PMI is that we also find success with niche movies and shows that we love and don’t expect anyone else to care about.”
Despite views being one of the driving factors towards becoming an online following, and what often determines income for online influencers, that’s not all that matters to Striffler and his friends.
“Obviously getting lots of views on a video is great,” Striffler said. “But … the most important thing is that we’re having fun so we don’t necessarily let potential views concern us when deciding what videos to make.”
The best part about Striffler’s channel is that he in no way makes it feel like a competition between him and his friends that he invites onto his commentary tracks. Striffler has the ability to flow with just about anyone he talks to, which makes for great content.
As a long time viewer of the channel, it’s easy to lose track of just how many recurring friends and special guests from other channels Striffler has had on his channel, but all are equally compatible with Striffler’s sense of humor. Everyone has their preferences and recommendations as to which videos encapsulate the “Pretty Much It” energy most, but why not hear it straight from the horse’s mouth?
“‘13 Reasons Why’ is definitely up there as one of my favorites…” Stiffler said. “ I love getting together with Miles, Andrew and Nick for a musical track, and to be honest, I also enjoy when I sometimes record on my own because it feels like the old days. Tends to make me, and anyone who’s been watching since the beginning, feel a bit sentimental.”
Intimacy is not something you would think could be captured in any sense when referencing an online influencer’s relationship to their followers, but movie commentary channels, like Striffler’s Pretty Much It, do actually provide a sense of connection that not many other online categories are able to abridge.
“The goal of launching PMI was to discuss movies and shows with my friends, and while much has changed over the years that’s still essentially what we’re doing,” Striffler said. “I’ve never gotten bored with the commentary tracks. I’m very lucky that I can sit down and watch a movie with a friend and we can just make each other laugh, which then makes hundreds of thousands of other people laugh, and at least right now I can’t imagine wanting to stop doing that.”
The beauty of movie commentary channels like Pretty Much It on YouTube is what makes them the epitome of the 21st century: they’re just another way for people to feel less lonely while looking at a screen.
Here are some Pretty Much It video recommendations: