It takes a certain kind of talent to richly capture an experience on film—one that is rare to come by. The odds of stumbling across such talent during a random YouTube search is even rarer, yet I found just that while scrolling through videos of Slope Day 2018. A few clicks later, I discovered an entire playlist of videos by the same content creator and watched them all in awe. The gift of storytelling pulses through Cornell alumnus Lionel Chambers’ YouTube series, The Good Ol’ Days, in a rhythm that is uniquely its own. Chambers’ masterful direction and cinematic visuals make for resonant episodes which showcase the range of emotions one feels during their final semester of college in an eloquently relatable fashion. Apart from its artistic flair, the series positions itself as a behind-the-scenes look into what it means to be a Cornellian. And for that, viewers will continue to be drawn to this series. Eager to learn more about the development of this production and the future of Chambers’ channel, I reached out to him and engaged in a Q & A with the talented creative.
What made you decide to share your final semester at Cornell in the format of your The Good Ol’ Days series?
What made me want to share my final semester at Cornell in this format was ultimately me pushing my own creativity and telling myself I needed to make 10 videos about my last semester. There is something special about knowing that everything is coming to an end soon that makes you appreciate every moment, and I wanted to capture that final chapter of my life in college.
As a person who consumes YouTube content every single day, I wanted to make a vlog that did not seem super “vloggy,” but still had a vlog element to it. You don’t see a lot of vlogs with a “cinematic” twist to them, which I think made my videos stand out visually. I describe my series as a hybrid of a vlog, reality television, and a documentary.
Making it a series that has every episode have the same kind of “feel” to it was very important to me. Having a “glitch effect” before and after a cinematic sequence, to the series having its own sound signature for every single episode, was crucial because I feel like it really helped tie the series together from one episode to another. Most of all, I wanted to create something that literally anyone could enjoy and appreciate, whether they watched typical YouTube videos or not, and I think my format had a lot to do with that.
How did you go about choosing what you wanted to capture?
Funny enough, everyone who was a part of the vlog was actually a member of Cornell’s Varsity Track & Field team. I felt like the story of the growth of our friendship would have gotten lost if I captured track stuff so I omitted that aspect of our lives completely from my videos, even though it consumed our lives literally every single day. I also didn’t think a student-athlete video series was relatable to a majority of people so that was another reason why I didn’t film anything surrounding that.
I was lucky enough to be in a position where all of my friends didn’t mind being on camera so that definitely allowed me to not necessarily think about what I should or shouldn’t capture. I also think that my friends are hilarious and they thrive on camera, so capturing them making light-hearted jokes all the time was amazing. My friends that were in it are all incredible and genuine people in their own way, and filming them was lowkey a way to show the bond that we had that I knew was something special.
Every time we went out somewhere as a group, even if it was Walmart, I captured it. Essentially, moments that were when we were together and hanging out as a whole house were ones that I wanted to capture. Knowing that I can edit things out later made things easier for me to feel comfortable trying to capture everything. Obviously, things that were really personal I didn’t film, or I would ask people if I could use a clip or not if it was on the borderline of being personal.
As weird as it is too, in order to make my videos more interesting, knowing that we needed to capture things forced us to do things around Ithaca. That was a blessing in disguise because we were living up our last semester and seeing things that we may not have otherwise.
What comes next for your channel?
There are a lot of things coming for my channel that I am excited about. First, I am in the process of making a series about post-college life. I feel like everyone talks about the “coming of age” story online, but no one ever talks about what happens when you are “of age.” I feel like a lot of post-grad life is very similar for a lot of people (because it’s a STRUGGLE), and it’s definitely a story a lot of people could relate to. In addition, I will be making cool cinematic sequences and edits of places/events that I go to. I feel like that is just quick and consumable content that anyone can enjoy. I am also slowly making videos that are more story-based that I am really excited about. By this, I mean content based on life experiences, cool/odd stories that I have, random funny content, and putting myself out of my comfort zone. So overall, I think I will be doing a lot of experimenting on my channel, trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. I essentially want to get back into a groove because that’s when I make the best things.
What’s something you feel people who are considering documenting their Cornell experience should address? What are we not seeing enough of online?
I feel like Cornellians who are considering documenting their Cornell experience should just address the fact that Cornell isn’t what a lot of people think it is. Cornell is an incredibly diverse university, and I think that people don’t even necessarily know that. I also really wanted to break the stigma that kids at Cornell, or any other Ivy League students, just spend a majority of their time studying or in the library. Students at Cornell are very similar to students everywhere else! People go out, they party, they participate in Greek life. I feel like with the “Ivy League” label, people think one thing, but online we aren’t seeing enough of how we aren’t all about the books.
Additionally, I feel like online, especially with YouTube, we don’t see a lot of college friendships. A lot of content is based around individuals, but at least for me, my friends are what made my college experience special. I think that people can easily relate to genuine friendships, and seeing friendships is encouraging for upcoming students because it is something that they can look forward to forming when they get into college.
What is your best advice to other Cornellians who are thinking about sharing a bit of their Cornell experience online?
My best advice to other Cornellians who want to share their experience is to just simply go out and do it! One of the things I regret is not vlogging/capturing my Cornell experience earlier. I think that you should also capture what it’s like for you personally to go to college and for you to share your own story. Put your personality in it! People will gravitate towards that more because I think it’s more honest and relatable. Everyone at Cornell can do “Get Ready With Me” or “How I Study” videos, but your own personal story will always be unique from everyone else. At the end of the day, remember that these videos will always be great to look back on and enjoy for yourself, which is the most important thing!
Whether you’re an incoming student, a current Cornellian, a graduate, or just someone interested in life at Cornell, the work of Chambers and his crew is golden. There isn’t anything Cornell related like The Good Ol’ Days online right now.
Youth is fleeting, so take after Chambers and capture the moment.