Game of recaps

YouTube channel New Rockstars' Filup Molina and Erik Voss devote their channel to critique popular films and television shows such as Game Of Thrones (above).
YouTube channel New Rockstars' Filup Molina and Erik Voss devote their channel to critique popular films and television shows such as Game Of Thrones (above).PHOTO: HBO
YouTube channel New Rockstars' Filup Molina (left) and Erik Voss (right) devote their channel to critique popular films and television shows such as Game Of Thrones.
YouTube channel New Rockstars' Filup Molina (left) and Erik Voss (right) devote their channel to critique popular films and television shows such as Game Of Thrones.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Superfans of popular television shows such as Game Of Thrones use visual aids to break down each episode and engage a bigger audience in the process

LOS ANGELES • A few Sundays ago, as millions of people were sitting down to watch the season premiere of HBO's Game Of Thrones, those gathered at a small house party in the Van Nuys neighbourhood here were still figuring out dinner.

The host, Mr Filup Molina, did not have the right pizza delivery app installed on his iPhone, so he paused DirecTV's East Coast live feed to sort it out. "How many pizzas do we want?" he asked. "Two? Three?"

A half-hour into the much-anticipated episode, the doorbell rang, so he stopped the show again when the Domino's delivery guy arrived with three pies. All the while the armchair analysis continued apace.

"Do they literally bring winter with them?" Mr Molina asked about the White Walkers, referring to the zombie-like army of the dead descending on a mostly oblivious human population in the south.

His long-time friend, Mr Erik Voss, nodded as he finished a mouthful of pizza. "We've talked before about this idea that winter doesn't bring White Walkers - that White Walkers bring winter," he said. "It may be that winter didn't exist in this world until the White Walkers were created."

This is how America watches live television in 2017 - starting late, pausing to grab food, debating the finer points of a show's mythology. But for Mr Molina and Mr Voss, this is more than an enjoyable pastime - it is a living.

The two men run a YouTube channel called New Rockstars devoted to Game Of Thrones and other intensely followed genre television shows and films, one of a new breed of media outlets such as IGN, Nerdist and Emergency Awesome reimagining criticism for a digital age. In addition to what they call a breakdown video - an hour-long recap, review and analysis of an episode - they make videos that dig into trailers, deleted scenes and even the music behind films and television shows.

They are superfans - sophisticated ones - using visual aids to break down shows and movies for superfans. And their handiwork makes the audience for these pop-culture spectacles even bigger and more engaged.

"We are in a world where the cacophony of coverage - whether it's Vanity Fair or New Rockstars - drives the cultural zeitgeist around the show," said Ms Sabrina Caluori, HBO's senior vice-president for digital media and marketing. "That breeds the Fomo (fear of missing out) that's driving continued growth of the show this season."

The morning after the Game Of Thrones premiere, Mr Molina, 32, and Mr Voss, 29, started work at their one-room studio, which is across the street from Universal Studios.

Mr Molina watched the episode twice, made extensive notes and built the motion graphics for Westeros Weekly, a new show that New Rockstars is producing during this season of Game Of Thrones.

Mr Voss was in another corner rewatching clips from the premiere and writing a script for an hour- long episode breakdown that he and Mr Molina would begin taping the next day.

They have a comedy background and both are working on their own films and television scripts even as they are becoming known online as film and television personalities.

New Rockstars started in 2012 as a YouTube channel for interviews with new-media creators such as Grace Helbig and Tyler Oakley. At that time, the more popular videos generated 30,000 or 40,000 views, but most had fewer than 5,000.

In 2015, a three-minute New Rockstars video speculating how the next Fast & Furious movie would address the death of co-star Paul Walker generated 8.6 million views and New Rockstars promptly changed its business plan.

"The moment we saw the response to that Fast & Furious video, we decided to reduce all the coverage on all the YouTubers," said Mr Jeben Berg, a former Google executive and a partner in Zealot Networks, which owns New Rockstars. "People wanted to see heightened, sensible, intelligent speculation on what was happening on big Hollywood film properties."

New Rockstars videos typically generate a few hundred thousand views each. Several have broken one million views and one about Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 has neared five million.

Mr Berg said New Rockstars is using the intense fan interest in Game Of Thrones as an opportunity to ramp up production from a few to a half-dozen videos a week across all the movies and television shows that they cover. YouTube personalities Maude Garrett and Sam Bashor recently joined the channel, while Mr Voss and Mr Molina will continue writing and producing videos.

Mr Molina and Mr Voss have focused nearly all of their attention on the YouTube channel, which has about one million subscribers and is supported by advertising and sponsors, although this autumn, New Rockstars will begin making content for Facebook. So far, the company has not delved into podcasts, Instagram or Snapchat as some other sites do.

There is a do-it-yourself spirit and modest scale to the New Rockstars operation.

When Mr Molina and Mr Voss taped their breakdown video on Monday night, they were the only two people in the studio. They watched themselves on a monitor and advanced their teleprompter with an iPhone. No one yelled "cut" - they just kept recording.

The breakdown video reached 400,000 views within two days of going live, but added only another 100,000 over the next week. Two weeks into the Game Of Thrones season, though, New Rockstars was already working to speed things up.

"We just shot a show live to tape for the first time, which means all of our mistakes are baked in," Mr Molina said after posting a new Westeros Weekly episode.

"The mistakes drive me insane, but it means posting now instead of Thursday at midnight. People want to see it now more than they want to see it perfect."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Game of recaps'. Print Edition | Subscribe