Ryan Higa’s NigaHiga YouTube presence has been the most-subscribed channel since August 2009, but when he appeared at NewTeeVee Live last year, he said that his real interest was in transitioning to making movies.
His YouTube presence has always reflected that on some level before, with original short films finding big audiences thanks to Higa’s online popularity, but today marks his biggest step yet towards that process: The YouTube release of the 35-minute film Agents of Secret Stuff, directed by Wong Fu Productions and starring Higa as a hapless teenage secret agent.
Agents, initially a self-funded production, has been picked up by the studio Digital Artists to expand its reach beyond the YouTube sphere, including mobile, television and film platforms. Strompolos Digital Media is credited with brokering the deal, making this the first known example of what former YouTube exec George Strompolos is up to now. Via email, Strompolos commented:
I’m interested in original programming created or distributed by people with audience and influence. Agents of Secret Stuff is a wonderful example of this concept in action. Ryan and I teamed up with the goal of releasing Agents in a way that is sustainable and on his terms. Our collaboration with Digital Artists represents a first-of-its-kind realization of this goal.
The actual film is a slickly-produced spy comedy nicely anchored by Higa, who plays a teenager who’s spent his entire life training to be a secret agent, and thus when sent undercover to protect a pretty high school student (Arden Cho) from danger, has no idea how to handle normal high school life.
Writing-wise, there’s some lack of sophistication: In the first two minutes, for example, jokes based on the various acronyms of the spy world (A.S.S., H.O.L.E., S.I.N.S.) have been beaten to death (at least for adults — younger audiences, your mileage might vary).
However, the use of animation to illustrate bits of the A.S.S.’s secret history played really well, and the acting had some strong points. Kassem G adds major spark to the high school action with his cameo as a high-strung, bitter teacher, and Cho not only has some nice chemistry with Higa, but stands out as a performer in her own right.
Agents, in short, certainly won’t disappoint any hardcore NigaHiga fans, but in terms of execution wouldn’t be out of place in any mainstream line-up of teen programming. (The key, of course, is finding one that doesn’t mind the slightly racy nature of the acronym jokes.) And where it ends up may lead to true trailblazing for web original content.
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