How Radio Silence Went From YouTube Celebrities to Studio Auteurs

IndieWire | 8/21/2019 | Staff
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The film collective Radio Silence first catapulted to fame over a decade ago, riding the success of YouTube videos that used an interactive feature the site has since abandoned. In the past five years, the trio have directed two studio films, with their second, “Ready or Not” opening this weekend — and nothing about the work they’ve produced on that scale suggests they’ve lost their DIY ethos.

But much has changed since the group’s early years, when one of them parlayed an office gig at New Line to sneak into the facility on the weekends to make future viral shorts with memorable names like “Roommate Alien Prank Goes Bad” (a smash hit with over 33 million views) and “The Time Machine: An Interactive Adventure.” Reflecting on that era, the filmmakers said in a recent interview, there’s no way they could have achieved the same success today.

Group - Matt - Bettinelli-Olpin - Rob - Polonsky

In 2008, the group consisted of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Rob Polonsky, and Chad Villella (since then, Polonsky’s moved on; Bettinelli-Olpin and Villella have been joined by Tyler Gillett). They made waves on YouTube after posting the first of their “Interactive Adventures.” Juggling humor with shocking and scary twists, the videos applied a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style storytelling to tell long-form stories in a relatively short period of time.

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Annotation - Feature - YouTube - Conclusion - Video

Using the “annotation” feature — which YouTube formally axed in 2018 — the conclusion of each video allowed viewers to choose which video they wanted to watch next, allowing them to continue the adventure based on their own preferences. “Our goal was always ‘let’s make movies,'” co-director Bettinelli-Olpin said, and while the collective started out with tidy short films, the annotation feature allowed them to pursue longer-form storytelling. “All of a sudden, we were making like...
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