Hey everyone, I know I promised a new Ranger Spotlight, but this took more precedence, I’ve finally have managed to get my first interview, and it’s with one of my favorite YouTubers, Oliver Harper.
Dave Cameron: How long have you been making your web series?
Oliver Harper: I started back in late 2011 with a review to Superman IV and have continued producing reviews ever since.
DC: What were your influences in making the Retrospective and Review series?
OH: I love watching documentaries and being from the UK us Brits are spoilt by a wealth of content produced by the BBC over the years. With my passion for film, I binge watched the documentaries on the ALIEN films produced by the very talented ‘Charles De Lauzirika’ and, during late 2011, I was pouring over the Resident Evil and Star Wars retrospectives produced by GameTrailers. I was aware of other YouTubers covering movies, such as The Nostalgia Critic, but he pushed a more comedic approach and wasn’t really about the facts and production of the movie. So when I came time to decide to review superman 4, which is a film that isn’t very good but had good intentions that I wanted to highlight, I decided to take the retrospective approach. With my video being a review of the film as well I just labelled it retrospective / review and went from there. At the time I don’t think anyone else was calling their videos a ‘Retrospective / Review’ and its funny, now I see it being used a lot so maybe I’ve had some influence on how others approach their reviews.
DC: What is Oliver Harper’s Retrospective and Reviews?
OH: It’s a channel dedicated to reviewing older movies presented in a documentary style that provides facts and trivia. I discuss the soundtrack, visual effects, video game tie-ins and mix it with a critique. But the channel has evolved over time to offer more to the viewer, for example reviews on new releases, audio commentaries and coverage on the latest video games and trailers.
DC: How did you come up with the Retrospective and Review series?
OH: See Question 2
DC: Aside from the Retrospective/Review series, what else do you do on your channel?
OH: I also produce audio commentaries, which the viewer can run in sync with their own copy of the film, these commentaries feature actor Duncan Casey, movie buff Richard Jackson and on special occasions filmmaker Tim Partridge. I do cover recent movies as well but not on a weekly basis, I look ahead to determine what films my audience would like to hear about. I review new video game releases but I’m very picky on what I cover, so I only do them if a game really encourages me to express my thoughts on it. I have started producing videos on film & comic conventions. I just shot some new footage for a small comic convention in Bedford and I will be attending the MCM con in October.
DC: I’ve noticed in one of your other videos you have an extensive laserdisc collection. How did you get a hold of them and why do you collect them?
OH: I got into Laserdiscs in the late 90s when DVD came out. I couldn’t get a DVD player at the time because it was new technology and the players cost in the region were £500 ($663.33). I looked at other options and noticed LaserDisc was coming down in price because many home cinema enthusiasts were jumping on to DVD. I was aware of the LD format as a kid, seeing them in HMV, and was shocked at the price of them, some titles cost £50 ($66.33) each so it struck me as a format for rich people really, not for young kids with limited pocket money. I had just started studying film at college around 1998 and noticed LaserDisc had loads of my favourite films in widescreen so I scanned the small ads and came across a player for £100 ($132.67) with a bunch of LDs, so that’s how my library started. Most titles were selling for £5-10 ($6.63-13.27) in hi fi and second hand shops so I built up a collection quickly. Over the years I’ve upgraded my players and my collection has decreased and increased over time depending what mood I’m in. I sometimes lose interest in the format and sell off some of my collection then I suddenly I get this urge to buy more. The beauty of laserdiscs is their sleeve, large LP size covers, which are a great show piece and the sound can sometimes be on par with Blu-ray. But you have to remember DVD/Blu-ray is better than LD in the picture department and you will have to invest in a decent player and video upscaler to make it match DVD in quality.
DC: How do you handle criticism (Rude/disgusting comments, and/or constantly being asked “when’s the next video”)?
OH: Being the butt of criticism comes with the territory when being a content creator on YouTube so you do have to have a thick skin. The more popular you get, the more haters you gain. If people are outright rude to my friends or me then I ban them instantly, there is no point in communicating with those individuals. My audience is mostly adults so they tend not to take part in silly juvenile stuff because they’re mature and sensible. However, you will always encounter someone who is very self-entitled and demands a lot from you and wants to dictate how you should run your channel. Often they’re polite about it and you can believe they support what you do but then suddenly they take a turn and hate you generally because you’ve said no to a review they want to see.
With regards to requests, I get so many on a daily basis and had to stop taking requests because it became too much to manage. There are some subscribers that constantly make requests and its easy to think they don’t really understand how long it takes to produce a video and often don’t appreciate the effort you put in, they just think you’re their personal jukebox which they can operate to select the next review. But all in all, those people make up a very small percentage of my viewer base and 95% are extremely supportive and appreciative of what I do.
DC: Do you have other ideas for Retrospectives/Reviews?
OH: I hope to cover more TV shows in the future, shows with a small number of series is a plus for me because I don’t have to watch too many episodes. Don’t expect a retrospective on ‘Smallville’ or ‘X-Files’ any time soon! I do need to cover the Rocky films and continue with some more 007 reviews. There is always something I’ve got planned so I’m never scratching my head thinking what to review next.
DC: Other than your web series/commentaries do you have any other interests?
OH: My YouTube channel takes up a lot of my time so when I relax I either play video games or try to catch up with my friends. I end up working more than 50 hours a week so it becomes a nightmare to balance your work life with your social life, so I try to keep that a healthy balance but most of the time I fail at that and work too much.
DC: You’ve done retrospectives/reviews of some of my favourite movies (EX. Ghostbusters II, Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, Star Wars), and some of your retrospectives introduced me to some new favourite movies (EX. The Phantom) do you have a favourite and least favourite retrospective/review?
OH: Well the videos I feel less happy with are my older retrospectives that were far shorter and lacking in presentation especially with my voice over in comparison to my current stuff, you’re your own worst critic. I think my early reviews of Ninja Turtles, Big Trouble in Little China, Timecop and Supergirl are below par for me. I do plan to revisit many of these earlier reviews to update them such as Superman III and Dragon The Bruce Lee Story. Those R/R’s I am most happy with is probably my ALIEN reviews, Galaxy Quest, Bladerunner and Superboy Part 1 & 2.
DC: Recently you’ve been doing remakes/re-masters of some of you’re older videos (most of which are exclusive Patreon supporters), are you planning on doing that for all of the older videos, or just a few at a time?
OH: Yes I have been cleaning up some of my older reviews (improved picture & sound) as an exclusive perk to my Patreon members and will continue to update a few more. I’m planning to revisit a number of my older reviews to expand them and cover the films again such as Superman III, Masters of the Universe, Dragon The Bruce Lee Story and Ninja Turtles 1990 which will be available for everyone.
DC: Are there any TV shows you watch?
OH: In the last 6 months I’ve ploughed through House of Cards, Daredevil and recently Stranger Things all on Netflix and the fantastic The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. TV shows have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years equaling feature films and often being far superior because of the advantage of having an episodic structure. I’m really looking forward to the new series of Red Dwarf. I really want to cover them in the future with a retrospective but the BBC are very strict on allowing people to use their products online even for a review.
DC: What do you think of the DC Extended Universe, do you think DC should keep going with their cinematic universe, or just stick to TV?
OH: If I had my way I would scrap the DC Universe on film and start again because the movies have clearly not been praised or received in the way Warner Brothers have hoped and for the most part they have been a huge disappointment for me. They want to capture the market that Marvel is dominating and in allowing Zack Snyder the freedom to push his bleak depressing vision for Superman and the rest of the DC characters its not going down well. There are fans of what Snyder is doing but I think the vast majority would prefer a more uplifting and colourful DC universe. WB’s TV shows are definitely going in the right direction, I never watched Arrow and only a few episodes of The Flash, which didn’t appeal to me, but I was very impressed with Supergirl, I think they nailed the tone and look. Melissa Benoist really captures the character of Supergirl and is some of the finest casting in years. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with Superman in season 2 despite his costume looking a bit rubbish but at least its colourful.
DC: Steven Spielberg once said the superhero genre would go out of style some day, what are your thoughts on that?
OH: I think there is some truth in that; I’m starting to get burnt out with the number of super hero films. Warner Bros output has really left me disappointed and soured my interest in the super hero movie genre. Wonder Woman looks pretty good from the trailer I’ve seen but trailers are designed to get you excited. I’ve heard a few insiders saying the film is going to be another let down which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. We will see next summer if Warner Bros can drag themselves out of this bleak depressing hole and take the DC Universe into a brighter more uplifting direction.
DC: Do you have any advice for people wanting to make their own web series?
OH: If you have a passion for a subject and want to produce a video expressing your views on it then go for it. However, be warned it’s becoming more and more difficult to get noticed on YouTube, it will take a long time to build up a following and to even generate any revenue (if you want to take advantage of that option) so treat it as a hobby. A lot of people don’t understand the effort that goes in to creating a successful YouTube channel and see it as a quick and easy way to make some money and be your own boss – it isn’t. You have to be truly passionate about what you are creating if you want a channel with longevity and a dedicated following – and you have to invest your time and money to maintain that. But if what you produce captures an audience and they tune in for every video, you will be rewarded for your hard work. Always think about presentation. If you’re going to be on camera, make sure the picture is good (don’t use your webcam) and of course be confident, if you’re very nervous or uncomfortable on screen then the viewer will instantly pick up on that so if being on camera is not your thing then provide a voice over to what you want to talk about. Make sure you have decent microphone so people can hear you clearly to get your view across. If you want to use clips of copyrighted material do some research on worldwide fair use laws because they have different restrictions on how you use the footage in different countries. Don’t go crazy and use long unedited clips because it will get flagged by YouTube’s automated system, which detects copyrighted material. Before sharing a video online show it to your friends first and get feedback so you feel more confident in putting your work out there for the world to see. Don’t copy other YouTubers, it’s great to be inspired by someone but you’ll have difficulty growing an audience that is already out there watching someone else.