Direct Your Attention: Casey Neistat’s Reinvention

By Owen Mason-Hill

PIA CONTRERAS

Before a week ago, Casey Neistat — famed YouTuber, filmmaker and vlogger — had uploaded 11 videos in the past eight months. In the last 10 days, he has uploaded 10 times. His comment section is filled with different versions of the same question: “Is Casey starting up the daily vlog again?” I wanted to write this article in part to answer that question so that Neistat doesn’t have to. Before you read more, just know that the answer is no, at least not in the way it used to be.

In a largely unwatched, minute-and-a-half announcement video released almost a year before the first episode of his daily vlog in 2014, Casey Neistat said a few key things that laid the groundwork for his meteoric daily vlog and subsequent reinvention. “I haven’t done [a daily vlog] yet because it just seems daunting,” Neistat said. He was, without a doubt, right in his thinking. After watching Neistat go about his life, it is immediately apparent that he has never half-assed anything. He is beyond hard working, sacrificing everything to create a perfect product. He even has the phrases “do more,” “work harder” and “do what you can’t” tattooed on his arms. Neistat’s personality in a single, all-encompassing word? Driven. 

Every day, Neistat would take his years of filmmaking experience and apply it to this new short film genre, creating novel and innovative vlogs, each seeming to come equipped with the production value of a 10-person film crew. Neistat carried around a much larger camera than his peers, allowing him to — with a significant amount of added effort — create a better quality image with clearer sound. There is a great video essay about Neistat’s hidden effort that you should definitely check out. For example, just to show himself walking a city block, Neistat would film five different angles, requiring him to reset the camera mount and walk through the frame each time. After all the extra labor, it would merely turn into a 15-second segment. Neistat mastered the art of making his vlogs appear to be effortless without them actually being effortless. 

After moving from New York City with his wife and two young daughters to Los Angeles, Neistat’s vlogs have changed tremendously. The scale of his storytelling is infinitely smaller, yet no less captivating. Neistat was on top of the internet world, winning numerous awards for his daily vlog. He was a king of the internet video world. And now, after a significant decline in output, Neistat has completely reinvented his filmmaking. No longer is he in a world of constant motion, barely having time to spread himself out among his various artistic projects. Now, Neistat is moving at a much slower pace, taking time to enjoy his family and new lifestyle. During its near 1,000 episode run, Neistat’s filming would overflow into his every moment, demanding all the energy and attention he could give. Today, it’s family first, vlog second. 

His vlogs have become considerably shorter, ranging five to six minutes as opposed to his previous 10-minute standard. It is not, I believe, a conscious decision to create bite-sized entertainment like other YouTube personality David Dobrik’s four-minute-and-20-second vlogs. It is instead an effort on Neistat’s part to create a less consuming daily vlog — one that doesn’t sap his energy and drain his attention. All of his vlogs include much more footage of his children, and it is clear that he doesn’t hesitate to put the camera down when something more pressing comes up. 

For longtime viewers of Neistat’s work like myself, these new vlogs are a glimpse into a different side of his life: a chance to see how Neistat has grown as a father and husband as well as a filmmaker. There is definitely a skill to making captivating vlogs like Dobrik, but to do so without any sort of spectacle is nothing short of brilliant. His new videos show nothing more than the mundane ongoings of daily life in an effort to create a greater sense of realism in the daily vlog world. 

One of his episodes, titled i started a fight i’ll never win” and my favorite so far, depicts Neistat in his ongoing struggle against the ants that have invaded his yard and home. Neistat likens himself to a Carthaginian general preparing for a total war against the imposing force of the Roman army-like ant infestation. Reading snippets from “The Enemies of Rome” by Stephen Kershaw, Neistat is able to dramatize a household chore into a full-on war. The video, like all his others, is mesmerizing from start to finish. He has managed to make a five-minute vlog about a non-story — something he wouldn’t even mention at the dinner table. It is his unparalleled storytelling capability and eye for editing rhythm that make his vlogs so captivating. Most of all, the video doesn’t seem to dominate his day; the five-minute video appears to take a backseat to his daughter’s playtime and his weekend getaway to a beach house, which force him to cut the segment short. 

Casey Neistat was an integral part of YouTube’s development and an iconic figure of the 2010’s internet zeitgeist. His nonstop quest for greatness undoubtedly cemented him as one of the platform’s best and as a transcendent filmmaker of his time. His vlogs were never intended to be effortless – just to appear effortless. And now, after over five years of vlogging, Neistat has cracked the code to this new form of video. He is by no means overexerting himself, but he has sacrificed none of the polish and craftsmanship that has gotten him so far. It is wonderful to see someone who was previously consumed by a hunger-pained drive for greatness now take the time to appreciate how far he’s come. 

Neistat has all the wisdom and patience of a retiree, yet still possesses an internal motor that perpetually pushes him forward. His time off seems to have granted him a greater understanding of himself as an author as well as a man, and he has come out the other side more well-crafted as each. Neistat has marched himself to the forefront of the internet filmmaking world. I’m as excited as ever to be a fan, and you should be too.