When I think about YouTube, a few things spring to mind. There’s video game stuff. Heaps of it. There’s super massive celeb dudes like Mr. Beast. Then there’s the basement level garbage my children watch when I’m too busy or lazy to parent properly. Oh, and brands. Endless amounts of brands.
But as a sprawling, algorithm-driven, rendezvous point for a wide spectrum of content, everyone’s YouTube is different. It’s mostly… not great. YouTube tends to serve up the disposable. My YouTube, for example, is Premier League highlights, rock climbing tutorials, anime clips and that’s it. Depending on your interests (and whatever words you bashed into the Google Search bar in the last 24 hours) your mileage will most definitely vary.
Because of this it’s very possible – despite the fact that it is extremely popular and has racked up millions of views and subscribers on YouTube – that you’ve never heard of Dust.
Technically Dust is the sci-fi division of Gunpowder & Sky, a media production and distribution company based in the US. In 2018 Dust acquired and distributed the extremely good, a feature length movie starring Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher. But for the purposes of this article, I’m focusing specifically on Dust’s absolutely balling YouTube channel, which functions as a receptacle for hundreds upon hundreds of sci-fi shorts with surprisingly high production values.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi and you have around 15 minutes to kill, I 100% recommend hopping onto Dust and hitting play on pretty much anything.
As a spot for aspiring filmmakers to show off their talents, Dust’s videos mostly feature high-concept sci-fi – sort of like a post-modern Twilight Zone for zoomers. Almost all have surprisingly good special effects, decent acting performances and – above all – come bursting with grand ideas.
The quality varies dramatically. Some ideas are clumsy and unrefined. Others feel flat-out cringeworthy. Some feature clunky execution and bad writing, but you’re always just 15 minutes away from a brand new short and a brand new experience. Every now and then, you’ll uncover a gem.
Most feel a little like FTL – a little generic, but decent – focusing on space travel and alien encounters. Others are completely insane, like this video which has Genghis Khan traveling to the moon at a wizard’s behest in order to conquer it. Another, titled Regulation, tells the story of a girl who refuses to accept the “Happy Patch,” a behavior modification device all children are legally forced to wear in the future. (That came a bit close to anti-vax propaganda for me, but it was still a fun watch.)
I especially enjoyed Alientologists, an exclusive Dust short that topped out this impressive list from IHeartSciFi. In this short, Earth is completely kaput, exploded, destroyed. In its wake a group of quirky aliens are trying to make sense of humanity’s culture through the lens of its trash. Game Boys, bras and – ultimately – a jukebox all get in on the act. Unlike most of the videos you see on Dust, Alientologists refuses to take itself seriously and will frequently make you laugh out loud.
Don’t get me wrong: You’ll 100% run into some clangers on Dust, but the short run times make them easier to digest. More often than not there’s something worthwhile in every video you watch. If you’re a sci-fi fan who has drained the well dry, you could do a lot worse. Just don’t blame me if you watch something terrible. Something good is just around the corner. Just like in Alientologists, one human’s trash is another alien’s treasure.