YouTube Takes Filmmaking to the Extreme

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

Palisadian Liam Collins has already led a colorful life, first serving in the U.S. Navy, looking after our submarine fleet and all things nuclear, and then, even scarier, in a law office, before he joined the burgeoning social media platform YouTube seven years ago.

It was the Wild West back in those long-gone days, even after it had been snapped up for a bargain $1.65 billion by Google. That propelled it into today’s world-dominating force.

Now Collins is head of America’s YouTube Space at Google LA, which means he hosts aspiring creatives, drawing them out to do their best, at YouTube’s buzzy studio, two cities south in Playa Del Rey.

There, in the former Hughes Aircraft Company hanger, where elements of Howard Hughes’ grand aerial folly the Spruce Goose were assembled (largely out of birch) in the 1940s, a circus of aspiring talent from comedians to designers to rockers strut their stuff.

It is recorded on state-of-the-art technology for broadcasting on the world’s second-most popular social media platform.

This has always been a hit and miss process, a bit anarchic, by design, and YouTube Red, the ad-free subscription service at the heart of this venture, is still fighting for eyeballs in a world dominated by Netflix, Hulu and old-school cable TV. But it’s evolving fast.

One of the most ambitious projects to come out of the Collins arena was premiered at a private diplomatic residence in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Jan. 17, attended by Collins and a Palisadian-Post representative who described the experience as “amazing.”

This was the debut of “Ultimate Expedition: Attitude over Altitude,” which answers the burning question: Where did Steve-O go after all those insane MTV-era stunts from “Jackass’?

Your first answer, if you are over 30, might have been “for a nice lie-down.” But for Steve-O and his coterie of adrenaline junkies, it had to be mountains.

Peruvian mountains, to be exact—the kind of desolate, dangerous, unforgiving places where aircraft crash victims eat each other.

So, the “Survivor”-like competition drops a bunch of athletic and YouTube celebrities—jocks and nerds, probably the only time these guys will ever meet—at the foot of Mount Tocllaraju, nearly 20,000 feet of ice and madness, and films them ascending.

And, hopefully, descending, not too fast.

(These are not your usual reality TV mountaineers: The insurance discussions must have been quite lively.)

Chuck Liddel is a UFC (mixed martial arts) middle division champion and Gus Kenworthy is a British-born Olympian skier.

But their colleagues, like most of us, may be happier in Playa than the northern Peruvian Andes.

These are names largely known to their millennial peers.

Chachi Gonzales is a fashion “influencer,” Punjabi JusReign offers a slightly nuts online advice column called “Ask an Indian Anything” and SSSniperWolf runs lunacies such as the “petting a 100 dogs challenge,” which attracts seven million subscribers.

Starring a llama
Photo courtesy of YouTube Red

So, massively popular, yes, but ready for the Andes?

For that answer, you may have to ask their worried families, their bold guides and a dazzling star llama (or is it an alpaca or vicuña?).

Or else wrap up warm and brave the 10 half-hour episodes that are now up on YouTube Red, quite possibly, thanks to Collins, one future of entertainment as we know it.