The entertainment entrepreneurs of YouTube and Vine are used to minimalist working conditions. In making the short videos that have catapulted them to social media stardom, they pretty much handle everything themselves: the writing, the lighting, the filming, the editing, the uploading — even the snacks.
So the move to feature-length films by a growing number of digital celebrities, the subject of another article this week, has proved an eye-opening experience for many of them.
“I’ve learned that someone else focuses the camera – which is really great,” said Grace Helbig, one of the stars of “Camp Takota” who recently finished filming the first season of a talk show on E!.
Cameron Dallas, the star of “Expelled” and the forthcoming “The Outfield,” said that becoming comfortable performing in front of dozens of crew members was one of his biggest challenges.
Kian Lawley, who will be seen in “The Chosen” next month and “Shovel Buddies,” echoed that thought. “It’s hard to act in front of a lot of people,” Mr. Lawley said. “When I do videos, it’s just myself.”
His solution: “I kind of blocked it out,” he said.
But the bigger crews and expansive productions did have their benefits.
The Smosh comedy duo, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, at first found the idea of stand-ins silly in the extreme. “I’m not a diva,” Mr. Padilla said. “I can stand there.”
Day after day of 12-hour shoots, however, changed his mind.
“We had several scenes in a cramped, tiny room and one in a closet. I’m not standing in there for an hour while they set up lights,” Mr. Padilla said.
Of course, the biggest question facing this digital talent looking to stretch is a little more basic.
Brian Robbins, the chief executive of AwesomenessTV, one of the more prolific producers in this emerging genre, isn’t worried about the fans following their favorites from short videos to 90-minute movies. “Was I concerned about can they act? A hundred percent.”
To help with the transition to playing fleshed-out characters, not merely themselves, the producers and directors worked closely with the talent. Michael Goldfine, chief content officer for Fullscreen, is also the co-director and co-writer of “The Outfield,” which stars Mr. Dallas and Nash Grier as varsity baseball players navigating their senior year of high school. He would have his stars come to his house on weekends and spend hours rehearsing.
Acting coaches were also procured. What may be perfectly fine for a four-minute burst could prove tiresome (or worse) in a super-sized serving.
“You can’t be crazy for an hour and a half,” Mr. Hecox said. “It has to be a little more real.”
The coaches encouraged the actors to develop backstories for their characters and discover their motivations. Hannah Hart, a star of “Camp Takota,” picked up a book by Uta Hagen, the actress and drama teacher. Lauren Elizabeth Luthringshausen, a co-star of next month’s “Bad Night,” was urged to think about her character’s favorite music and color, though she didn’t make everything up.
“We are not playing characters that are us, but we definitely used a lot of personal experience to drive us emotionally in certain scenes of the movie,” she said.
But sometimes the advice from well-meaning acting coaches was a little too abstract. Mr. Lawley recalled one suggestion that before a scene he imagine that a vulture was perched on his shoulder, offering advice.
“It just kind of weirded me out,” he said.
The most useful lesson for Mr. Lawley came not from a coach, but from an older actor on another forthcoming movie, the supernatural thriller “The Chosen.” He suggested jumping up and down before scenes to get the juices flowing.
“It gets me focused,” Mr. Lawley said.
Acting advice and character motivation aside, these digital stars understand that their feature-length performances need to be different from their turns in short videos.
“We always said we’re not making a YouTube movie; we’re making a movie and we happen to do stuff on YouTube,” said Mamrie Hart, the co-writer and co-star of “Camp Takota,” the 2014 film that helped start this boomlet. “We were super conscious that it didn’t feel like a bunch of short form shoved together.”