The Closer Look is a YouTube channel written, produced, and hosted by London-er Henry that’s dedicated to examining pop culture in ways beyond your typical praise, hate, or egg hunting.
The Closer Look features topics such as ‘How to Make a Great Villain’ or ‘How to Harm an Audience.’ The latter delves into Wonder Woman 1984 and picks apart the blockbuster film in ways you won’t find on many other channels. Henry wasn’t a fan of the film, but his videos don’t devolve into hate but instead a deeply curious analysis of the movie, its themes, merits, and narrative construction.
PopAxiom spoke with Henry about the film that blew his mind, his early days as a content creator, and how passion led to the success of The Closer Look.
Blew My Mind
“I’ve always loved cinema,” Henry begins, “but I guess the moment where I realized that I love film to bits is when I saw Interstellar in the theater. It’s a weird film. It’s either the best movie ever or terrible. I’ve never met someone who doesn’t hold one of those two opinions.”
Henry was around 15 when he first watched Interstellar. “The way it would work is that I’d go to the cinema with my dad. On the drive home, we’d rant about how terrible or good a film was. But with Interstellar, I was not in the mood to talk about it at all right after. I was blown away. For an hour or two after, I was spaced out; I was lost in the movie. That very rarely ever happens to me. I’d say it’s my favorite film of all time.”
Henry’s no doubt a Christopher Nolan fan, so what does he think about Nolan’s last film, the polarizing Tenet? “I think it was Nolan experimenting. Or maybe it’s some sort of mid-life crisis.”
About The Closer Look
Henry’s close to a quarter-century into his life. His journey into content creation started nearly a decade ago. “I started trying to be a YouTuber when I was around 14 years old. For anyone who didn’t watch any of my old videos, you are not missing out. I did a very, very, VERY, let me stress that, very bad gaming channel.”
“For four and a half years,” he continues, “I knew that I wanted to make YouTube into a job. So I was grinding my ass off trying to grow the channel. But, in the end, it only got to around 8,000 subs after all that time. The reason why is because I was incredibly incompetent and didn’t know what I was doing.”
Henry’s aspirations to be a professional content creator diminished slightly. “After all that time, I said, ‘I’m done trying to grow a YouTube channel.’ So, I just kept doing it as a hobby. Then, I started making videos about films, something I’ve been deeply passionate about.
That first essay about movies was “How to Make a Great Villain. Bear in mind, on my old videos, I’d be lucky to get 300 views per. But right now, that video is sitting at two million views.”
“After I did about ten videos,” he says, “it hit me that the channel was growing. As cliche as it sounds, me following my heart, my passion, literally was the best call I could’ve made.”
The brilliance of YouTube is the insane variety of content. There’s a home for every kind of channel. So, it’s important for content creators to follow their philosophy. “The thing that defines a good video essay is if it’s insightful. Sure, it should be entertaining; that matters. But the substance of the essay should be genuinely insightful and provide fresh points.”
“The best possible response to get for a video essay,” he determines, “is ‘thank you for putting into words what I knew but couldn’t express.’ That’s your goal as a YouTuber.”
Henry’s well aware of feeding the YouTube algorithm, but he also follows his sense direction regarding what topic to focus on next. “I only ever make a video if I think ‘Ooh, that’s a good angle to discuss.’ But if I see that’s already being discussed, I won’t continue.”
However, he also adds that the process for making videos “… varies. Usually, I work on one project at a time. Firstly, I’ll think of an angle for it. I’ll brainstorm points. Then I’ll write the script and record the video.”
“About eight months ago, I made a Knives Out video,” he continues, “and I realized it’s gotten easy for me. I feel like I’ve got the format down to a degree. So, that’s why I added the green screen. It was different.”
Managing personal challenges and successfully navigating the algorithm is tricky. “As a YouTuber, you have to be aware of what’s best for the algorithm. But at the same time, if you keep doing the same thing again and again, it’ll get repetitive for you. So I like looking for ways to challenge myself.”
The new challenge for Henry is making more and more use of the green screen. “I’ve been working on a Cyberpunk 2077 video and using the green screen for that. It’s going to be absolutely mental. But it’s such a big project that I’ve been working on it since Cyberpunk 2077 came out.”
“Christopher Nolan is a big one,” Henry says about filmmakers he admires. “Before him, I sort of felt movies either had to be smart but boring or fun but shallow. He showed me you could do both.”
Henry mentions a storyteller from another medium. “Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite novelists. I’m working on a novel. I hear other writers say that something like Lord of the Rings or Dune, some classic changed their lives. For me, it’s the game Mass Effect. It left a permanent imprint on me as a human.”
With that said, it’s no surprise that Henry’s novel is “a standalone sci-fi story with a unique, crazy concept. I’m trying to write something that has something to say, but it’s also a fun story.”
Until the book is complete, Henry will continue to create content for The Closer Look. “I know for a fact that I have one of the best jobs in the world. I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.”
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Thanks to Henry for making this interview possible.
Find more interviews from Ruben R. Diaz right here!