Following the incredible success of the YouTube channel Great Art Explained in 15 minutes, arts writer James Payne has launched a brilliant new series offering a fresh look at world literature.
Great Books Explained is a collaboration, this time with academics and journalists. The first release was one of the world’s most difficult books, James Joyce’s Ulysses and the second is the ever popular Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The clever new channel follows the same winning formula as Great Art Explained, taking complicated theories and ideas and making compact informative films about single books. The channel is clearly already creating debate as the Ulysses film has had over 200,000 views in its first three weeks. If you’ve ever struggled to understand Moby Dick, Heart of Darkness or Atlas Shrugged, this is the channel for you.
Each episode is about just one book and explores history, wealth, politics, gender, race and sexuality. They are only 15 minutes approximately but are packed with a lot of information and visuals. There are no gimmicks, no fancy graphics, no jargon. Just words, facts and images.
In addition to explaining plot, the films place the book in context, of history, of geography and the lives of authors.
The original channel, Great Art Explained now has over 1.4 million subscribers, and gets more than one million views per month. In total, the videos have had over 44 million views. Why are they so popular? Clear language and engaging storytelling are key factors. The most popular video is about Vincent Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night, which has over 5 million views. Michelangelo’s sculpture of David has 4.5 million views and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, 4.3 million. The art videos are now shown in schools and colleges and have also been used in museums around the world.
Great Art Explained is the brainchild of London art consultant and guide, James Payne, who showed tourists around Europe for over 20 years. These educational tours often focused on the history of art and his films for Great Art Explained are an extension of these talks. His fine art degree from London’s prestigious Central St Martins, plus his work as an art gallerist and art and film writer make him an ideal presenter of these short films.
Each film in the ongoing series combines entertaining storytelling with clear concise information, presented in a 15-minute format that packs in more details than most full-length documentaries. So who is watching? The audience is diverse although somewhat surprisingly, 62.6% are male viewers, aged between 18-34 years old. The big majority at 35% are from the United States, followed by the UK, India, Canada and Germany.
Thoroughly researched and cleverly presented, with stunning visuals, James Payne’s motto is “Don’t patronise, don’t dumb down and never assume the audience has more than a basic knowledge of the topic. ” He’s applied this winning formula to books. Future episodes will be on Beowulf, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein and the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
Great Books Explained, like the other series, is free to view so do subscribe now to take full advantage of this informative and entertaining new channel.