Lights, Camera, TikTok!

Lights, Camera, TikTok!

Whether or not the U.S. government votes to ban TikTok for its suggested promotion of propaganda remains to be seen, but until such a ruling, the app remains as not only a fun sort of virtual library where you can check out all kinds of short videos to enjoy or learn from, but from a practical standpoint, it’s like a film school in your hands. Indeed, if you are making TikTok videos, you are already a filmmaker—shooting, editing, scoring, and promoting your one or two-minute creations.

And the more TikToks you make, the more experience you gain, which will only help with any Hollywood aspirations.

How so exactly? Read on.


Before you sit down and try to write a 120-page script, or a TV pilot and treatment, why not challenge yourself to see if you’ve got genuine storytelling chops by making a TikTok?

Can you tell a compelling narrative in a mere 60 seconds? If you can be clever and deft in such a truncated time period, then you’re already ahead of the game in learning how to adapt your talent to various requirements.

Creating TikToks also forces you to be clear and concise with a definitive POV. After all, there are thousands of TikToks uploaded every day, so you’ve got to stand out of the crowd, and the more interesting or definitive you are in what you’re saying or showing, the better. And once you have your idea, story, or whatever you want to call it, TikTok helps you quickly bring it to fruition via some real hands-on experience putting your mini movie all together.


Most of the key below-the-line skills that a film or TV show requires are necessary to make a TikTok as well. Cinematography, editing, sound mixing—they can all be learned in elemental fashion on the platform. After all, you have to shoot your video, frame the shots on your cellphone camera, and edit them together. You’ll also be adding some kind of soundtrack to it as well, be it dialogue, narration, music, or sound effects.

Additionally, you can spritz up your TikTok via various apps that work with the TikTok one and will add even more nuance or sophistication to your video. CapCut is one that enables you to employ dozens of editing and cinematic styles, and the app even allows you to prerecord your soundtrack to edit to before uploading it all to TikTok. (BTW … that’s how I make my one-minute movie reviews on TikTok. I start with a recording of my script critiquing the film or TV show. You can see for yourself at JeffYorkChicago on the app.)


The wild card of any filmmaker lies in how good they are at directing actors. Your players can make or break the film because, as the late, great John Huston was fond of saying, if you don’t believe the actors in the roles, nothing else much matters.

So, if you’re going to film a story, present an opinion, or even troll someone else’s TikTok with one of your own, you better come off as professional as possible. And if your delivery isn’t clear or your actors are awful, you’ll find out almost instantly just how atrocious from those online just waiting to troll you.

Best to stave off the haters by at least looking as professional in your presentation as possible.


It may sound cruel, but did you know that the TikTok algorithms can tell you how many seconds your average viewer spends with your video? Yes, audiences can be fickle, but it’s a good reminder that they come to TikTok to be entertained and the quicker you can do so, the better.

They of course can leave hearts to show you love, or comments to tell you specifically what they like or do not like.

A way to ensure that your audience follows you is by making more and more TikToks. Like anything on social media, you build a following via engaging content and delivering plenty of it. The more TikToks you upload, the more looks you’ll get, and hopefully, the more likes, too.


What are the hashtags on social media if not buzzy advertising words beckoning you to engage? The more hashtags you can comfortably fit on your TikTok video, the more likely you are to connect your piece with those most likely to respond to such tags.

Even better, there are numerous tags you can attach to your TikToks that have already been proven to be catnip for consumers like #foryoupage, #trending, and #viral. Each of these tags is designed to increase your visibility and lead traffic to your doorstep.

FAME 101

Earning money for your TikToks isn’t easy. Generally, even with a million hits per video, the income made from that many is only around $20-40. Hardly worth it, right?

Hold up, because if you become well-known enough on TikTok, affiliate marketers will find you and pay you to feature their products. Then you can make enough to make a living on TikTok. The fame there, too, can lead to sponsorships outside of the app as well. And like in Hollywood, your first successes set you up for better paydays for whatever comes next.

Just look at 23-year-old Matthew Friend who has turned his celebrity impressions on TikTok into sold-out comedy gigs and an ever-rising profile in Tinsel Town. (Did you see him imitating celebs to their faces on the red carpet during the Golden Globes this past January? He was hilarious!)

Some other TikTok celebs making the most of their fame and followers are online NFL correspondent Annie Agar, Chef Reactions, newlyweds Corey and Sami Brooks, the UK dogs, Good Boy Ollie and Tato, and a number of squawky Bengal cats. (And yes, they’re all represented in my accompanying caricature, including the tuxedoed Friend.)

So …

Are you game? Care to see if you have what it takes to become the new Spielberg, Scorsese, or Nolan? Look, you’re probably on your cellphone constantly anyway, so maybe it’s time to make more out of your time there.

Who knows? TikTok just might be your ticket to Tinsel Town.  

*Feature illustration by Jeff York

Watch our free Symposium by Romi Moondi—"TikTok for Creatives."
"TikTok for Creatives"
Jeff York is an optioned screenwriter, film critic, illustrator, and ad man. He’s also a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, SAG-AFTRA, and a cat lover.
More posts by Jeffrey York.
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