By: Ben Adelman
Out of all the newly minted celebrities the Internet has created in the last few years, none is more mysterious, or misunderstood, than the Youtube personality. These shadowy talents are often known only by their username, but their videos are viewed and enjoyed by millions. Dan Dobi, creator of the documentary film Please Subscribe, tracked down these web starlets and gave them a chance to tell their story. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and ask him a few questions about the creation of his documentary.
Ben Adelman: What inspired you to make this film about YouTube celebrities of all people?
Dan Dobi: I’ve been working in YouTube for a few years now and it became very apparent to me that not a lot of people understand what it means to be a YouTuber. Most people are very confused when they hear that people can make money just by creating and uploading videos. I started in traditional media and transitioned into YouTube and I’ve always tried to explain to my mom what I was doing and she never quite understood. The more I dove into the topic the more I got curious about the people who managed to make a career out of it, and I wanted to really understand it for myself. I wanted to make this film as a tool for YouTubers to be able to show their parents and friends and say “here you go, watch this… THIS is what I do.”
BA: Just how difficult was it to track down these people all over the country to interview them?
DD: The YouTube community is really tight so it wasn’t hard to track them down. These are all people I’ve grown to know over the years through meet ups, conventions, and just being fans of their content and reaching out to collaborate. It was a great experience to be able to sit with these people in their work environment and really see and document what it is they do.
BA: This project was primarily funded by online donations. Were you, at any point concerned that you weren’t going to receive enough to make the film, and if that had happened, did you have a Plan B?
DD: The community expressed such amazing excitement from the get go, any fear I had was whisked away by the tremendous outpour of support that I felt almost immediately after announcing the project. I think this film and the idea behind it resonates with a lot of people so my Plan B would have been to keep calm and trek onward.
I have a lot of faith in the online community. Time after time we keep seeing people funding great art because we are all hungry for a new kind of content. The YouTube community, especially, is a really supportive and collaborative one, so I just threw myself wholeheartedly in with the belief that they would catch me. I knew that they wanted to be represented by a film like this, it was time. If I wasn’t funded, I would have pulled from my savings and just made the damn thing!
BA: Was there one person not featured in the film that you would have liked to have been in it?
DD: Yes and No. Yes, because there are so many great stories to tell about YouTubers and no two are the same. There are a lot of layers to YouTube. We didn’t dig as much into the business as the personal, there are genres we didn’t hit like music and beauty, there’s a lot we didn’t have time to cover that would have been great.
At the same time, no, because the film is the way it is for a reason. It follows a very specific journey and adding any other YouTubers might detract from the story I set out to portray. I really wanted to capture different snapshots along the life of the YouTuber – from those who are starting out to seasoned veterans. Each Youtuber serves as a benchmark along that road.
BA: Describe Your Greatest experience while making this film.
DD: I’d have to say the opportunity to run around the country and show the film at different Google locations. Google has been SO supportive with this film, we owe so much thanks to them for their efforts in helping us along the way with spreading the word, hosting parties, showings, events and such.
BA: If you had to do the entire process over again would you have done anything differently? Why or why not?
DD: Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda right? Honestly, I probably wouldn’t change much. Although the film was funded by Kickstarter donators, it would have been nice to have a little more money to play around with. I actually went through the budget VERY early on and had to pull from my own pocket to finish the movie. I’m not complaining though, without the Kickstarter donations, this film would have been A LOT harder to make.
BA: Is it too early to talk about a sequel? Maybe one chronicling the lives of internet freelance comedy writers?
DD: It’s never too early to talk about a sequel! A lot of people have expressed a desire to see this turned into a docuseries or do one of these films a year, which intrigues me. I also have thought about doing this style of film looking at other groups of people whose existence is misunderstood or shrouded in mystery, much like the elusive internet freelance comedy writer.
One thing that I find very interesting is the YouTube community outside of the US. I would love to have an opportunity to document them and see the similarities and differences between them and their US counterparts.
We would like to thank Dan for his time and his words, and we hope you will check out his film, and the inevitable sequel which will most likely star the deeply mysterious and misunderstood author of this article. For all the latest news about the film, be sure to follow Please Subscribe on Twitter and on Facebook so that you stay in loop.
If you’re a film buff, check out some of the other articles on our site about movies.