The Sam Kolder Effect - A Lesson for Aspiring Filmmakers
Updated: Jun 29
Starting out as a filmmaker is both challenging and exciting. Holding a camera in your hands for the first time, you likely wonder about all the buttons and settings at your disposal. You may be confused by terms such as aperture, shutter speed, or ISO, but it doesn’t take long until you get the gist of it.
As with everything else, filmmaking is a learning process. Every time you pick up your camera, you will become a little better at what you do. Every time you edit a video, you will improve and develop your craft further.
Let’s be honest: Your first videos won’t win you any accolades. The good news is that this is absolutely fine. Looking back, your first videos will be a great indication of how far you have come.
At some point in your filmmaking journey, you are bound to stumble upon a YouTube video from a creator who has made it. Think Peter McKinnon, Casey Neistat, or Sam Kolder.
Those creators are a valuable resource of information and experience and often a big inspiration for young filmmakers to ‘go out there and create’.
Funnily enough, some people still claim that social media influencers do not assert any actual influence. Those people have clearly never heard of the previously mentioned. Or seen one of their YouTube videos.
Sam Kolder, mostly known under his YouTube alias kold, is a talented, determined, and inspirational filmmaker. He has been shaping - you might even say influencing - the YouTube creator sphere for the past years. His creative use of transitions and the cinematography of his footage have helped countless people improve their own video skills.
But, here's the catch.
While many people have been inspired by Sam Kolder and have incorporated elements of his style into their own, others go overboard to straight-up copying his videos. Yet, all those fancy effects are only exciting the first couple of times you see them. Sam Kolder is successful because he is one of the first using those transitions. After that, every person copying the style creates exactly the same video.
YouTube is flooded with videos of people doing backflips, running slow motion into a Bali waterfall, hyper lapses, jump cuts, Odesza music, teal and orange colors, and luma fade effects. Sam Kolder creates a video titled My Year 2016. One year later, countless other creators follow suit.
With his hilarious My Year 2018 - Cliché Travel Video parody, another YouTuber called Sam Newton ironically captures this phenomenon.
All these creators are so inspired, that they straight up copy Sam Kolder’s work.
I present to you: The Sam Kolder Effect.
The Sam Kolder Effect stipulates that talented filmmakers copy another creator instead of understanding that they are gifted individuals in their own right.
They manage to pull off spectacular drone shots and have the skills to apply time-consuming editing techniques, but they forget the most fundamental rule for every video.
To tell their own story.
As with most art and communication, making videos is about telling a story. To share your unique perspective of the world. To create a narrative nobody else can or will.
So the question arises: Why would you tell the story of someone else?
It seems to me that many young creators are affected by the Sam Kolder Effect because they perceive his style to be the ‘right one’. Because they see how successful others are with it and feel the need to take the safe route. But to me, that is not what filmmaking is about. Creating videos is about taking risks, about finding your own style, and about sharing insights that nobody else can. It is only then that you can add your voice to the community of successful filmmakers.
And don’t get me wrong, it is not just rookie creators making these mistakes. German conservative political party CSU made headlines last year for their poor attempt at catering to a young audience by using hectic cuts and superfluous sound effects. They, too, failed because of the Sam Kolder Effect, although it must be said that they copied the style of other YouTubers instead.
I am by no means suggesting that people should not watch Sam Kolder’s videos. For me, they are pieces of art, but they should be taken as inspiration, not as blueprints.
So what does all of that mean for aspiring filmmakers?
Find your own style, write your own stories, and create original videos that people will enjoy watching because of who you are, not who you think you need to be.
There are many simple rules when it comes to filmmaking:
The best camera is the one you own.
The best subject is the one in front of you.
The best story is the one you can tell authentically.
By all means, watch and learn, but never forget that your own story is worth telling.
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