YouTuber Spotlight: MysteryGuitarMan
It’s been a while since my last YouTuber Spotlight, so I figured I’d bring you another one today, this time on the fantastic Joe Penna, better known as MysteryGuitarMan! Over the past four years, MysteryGuitarMan has built an audience of 1.8 million subscribers on his main YouTube channel, negotiated a deal to become a YouTube Partner and established himself as a consistently creative filmmaker and animator. I’ve been following his videos for the past year, and I’m constantly amazed at his dedication to his material and his efforts to encourage audience participation.
Read on for more about MysteryGuitarMan, including embeds of my favourite MGM videos, and to find out why his work is such a positive example of the YouTube “brand”.
Before he was MysteryGuitarMan, Joe Penna lived in São Paolo, Brazil with his family. They moved to the United States when he was a teenager, and Penna grew to love his new country. Like many of his soon-to-be colleagues on YouTube, a youthful interest in filmmaking led to him making videos in his spare time. His big break came when his video “The Puzzle” (The solving of a Rubik’s Cube cut to match the tempo of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”) was featured on the front page of YouTube in 2007:
That video attracted lots of attention, and Penna capitalized on it with a number of other notable releases, including a stop-motion animated commercial for Coca-Cola and McDonalds (in collaboration with YouTubers Rhett and Link,) and a video titled “Guitar: Impossible”, which also got him some attention from the major networks.
In between these big hits, MysteryGuitarMan kept up a steady stream of content for his subscribers. His style is to combine complicated editing and animation (“The Puzzle” has 562 cuts in only 2 minutes) with music. When he appears on camera, MysteryGuitarMan always wears a pair of dark sunglasses (hence the moniker “Mystery”) and is known for spontaneous hand gestures and crazy hairstyles. His videos usually feature a 1-2 minute main piece of content followed by a vlog of sorts where he addresses the audience and passes along useful information and links to upcoming or past projects.
In all the time I’ve followed MysteryGuitarMan, I’ve yet to see a video that doesn’t have at least one notable element. The music in his videos is created by his impeccable skill in video editing; he has been known to work for more than 24 hours straight sorting out the hundreds of cuts in some of his productions (One note per cut will do that). I’m amazed by his dedication – when YouTube first launched in 2005, it was known as the place where regular people dumped their grainy one-take videos. People like MysteryGuitarMan have helped boost YouTube’s credibility through their willingness to put hours of work into a format that used to only be associated with amateurs.
Aside from the meticulous editing in his videos, MysteryGuitarMan is recognized for his original and creative concepts. He incorporates cool camera tricks, special effects, and stop-motion animation into most of his productions, often implementing unexpected media like Poloroid photos or miniature easels. One of my favourite videos by him is called “Looping Again”, part of a series of mind-bending “Looping” videos where he seemingly appears in a number of places at once, all set to music. When I first saw this video below, I racked my brain trying to figure out how he did it without using hidden cuts. When a YouTube video is able to make me think like that, the person responsible almost immediately earns my respect. Check out "Looping Again" here:
MysteryGuitarMan, like many YouTubers, also maintains a vlog channel to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of his videos, along with the requisite social networking presence on Facebook and Twitter. He frequently encourages fan participation in his work; he often hides secret messages in annotations in his videos with links to bonus content, or posts a series of unlisted, non-searchable videos that fans can piece together themselves to make their own remixes. In this way he reaches out to his millions of followers and gives them something to do beyond passively absorbing what he posts.
Another great thing about MysteryGuitarMan is how he has fostered a creative atmosphere on YouTube by collaborating with some of the best content creators on the site. As I mentioned before, he has worked with Rhett and Link on a number of videos, and gotten help with special effects from the excellent Freddie Wong. It’s those kinds of partnerships that work to build the YouTube community, and help legitimize it as a place to find entertaining, thought-provoking content. Check out his "T-Shirt War" collab with Rhett and Link here:
If you’re new to MysteryGuitarMan, what do you think about the videos I’ve posted here? If you’re a fan, what’s your favourite one? What do you think about how YouTube is allowing promising filmmakers to test their material and build interest? Post your comments below, and go subscribe to MysteryGuitarMan’s channel – I promise you won’t be disappointed! Check back tomorrow for my review of tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Rebel Flesh”!