Dan Dobi [Interview]

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YouTube often times feels sort of like a gift and a curse.  A curse to honchos like MTV who can no longer play music videos because everyone is watching them on YouTube (while everyone complains about the generally shitty stuff they do play), which in turn is a gift for us!  But as we all know by now, YouTube isn’t simply a place you can go when you are drunk, alone, and desperately want to hear “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy.  No, YouTube has essentially become its very own universe which, rightfully and obviously so, has its own stars!  YouTube channels are watched more often than the same old re-runs of Seinfeld or M*A*S*H you consistently find on basic cable.  Folks who are practically average Joes have the ability to become stars!  So much so that, on some occasions, the folks are able to quit their full time jobs to focus on their “art” of managing a YouTube channel.  It is truly marvelous and endearing.

And filmmaker and acclaimed music video director Dan Dobi wants to tell you all about it with his new film, Please Subscribe.  Dobi profiles some of the biggest stars in the YouTube universe in his debut documentary about this world that is absolutely astounding with brilliance of these, our modern times.  We were fortunate enough to be able to steal a few words from Dan to discuss Please Subscribe, his past works, and what the future holds for not only YouTubers, but for the man himself.  Enjoy!

 

What inspired you to make Please Subscribe?  Are you a YouTuber as well?

I’ll answer your second question first.  Yes, however I feel anyone that uploads videos on YouTube could be considered a “YouTuber”.  A lot of people upload to YouTube and call it a full-time gig which to thousands, it is.  A lot of people on the outside of the bubble don’t really understand it and view it as more of a hobby than a career.  I wanted to make the film to educate the bigger percentage of the population that doesn’t understand what being a YouTuber is like.

Were there other folks you would have liked to speak with but didn’t get a chance to?  

Yes, absolutely.  To my own fault, I think I left out the musician and beauty guru side of YouTubing however I DID reach out to a good amount of them and heard nothing back so hey, I tried!  I do feel that the final cast we assembled was perfect.  If I had to do it again and had my pick of the litter, I would still go with who I chose for the final cut.

What was your favorite moment in the process of making the film?

Majority of the time I spent with each YouTuber seemed more of “just hanging out” rather than an actual shoot.  I think doing a documentary yourself (IF you can), is the most personal, most intimate way you’re going to get the truth and real life situations out of people.

Have the folks you profiled in the documentary watched it yet?  If so, what is the general consensus? 

Yes and they love it!  All of them have all had super positive reactions to the film and have been helping promote it to get the word out.  For Hannah Hart (who was featured in the film), I shot her JUST when she made the move out to Los Angeles to take her channel to the next level.  I think for Hannah, looking back on this film (already) is an awesome time capsule of her life.  Mitchell Davis shared a very personal, intimate secret on camera and I know at first he was iffy about.  Shortly after the film went to theaters, Mitchell thanked me for encouraging him to speak about his issue on film.  He told me that he’s received so many positive messages via twitter and Facebook that allowed a lot of fans to relate to his situation.

As a fellow Kickstarter campaign success grabber, I know how stressful the campaign can be.  How was the experience for you raising over $12,000 to get this film made?  Much stress?

It’s a lot of work!  You think “oh, it’ll just HAPPEN” but no, the project wasn’t fully funded till about 2 hours before the deadline!  A lot of people have immediate success with crowd funding sites, but some of us have to work/promote/ask people for favors and at the same time, not get too spammy about it.  I was stressed for a little bit, but a lot of people came out of the woodwork to help promote the campaign.

I have come to understand you have worked with the likes of Jason Mraz, P Diddy, Gym Class Heroes, and many more.  What do you believe to be your most prized work on a personal level (besides Please Subscribe, of course)?

I was the editor of a feature film (that was actually SHOT on 35mm) that I spent roughly 4 months on.  It was a company from Brussels in Belgium that had seen my editing work and hired me on for it.  The film was in french and I don’t SPEAK French so I had an English Script and a French script and I just figured it out!  I would call that my most prized work, because it not only came out great, it really changed the direction of where I wanted my career to go.  For the longest time I was focused on music videos and commercials, however after doing cutting the feature, it made me JUST want to do features from here on out.

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What is next for you?

Speaking of my last answer, I’m actually in preproduction to direct a narrative feature in the summer.  I can’t speak TOO much about it, but hopefully down the line, you’ll hear about it 🙂

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog just licked my arm 10 seconds ago… there’s your answer

Check out the trailer for the film on, you guessed it, YouTube.  Also find out how you can get your own physical and digital copies of the film as well!

Leslie Zemeckis [Interview]

Leslie Zemeckis

Through a bit of research, probably somewhere off the tracks of another John Waters bender, I learned a bit about the world of Burlesque.  This is a culture that is absolutely fascinating.  The history behind the shows themselves is absolutely enthralling.  A little film called Behind the Burly brought the subject matter to light in such a wonderful light.  As inspiring as it was, I wanted to know more.

In a yearning to learn more, I decided we need to speak with the films creator, Leslie Zemeckis.  Yes, yes, she is the better half of the dude who made Forrest Gump and the Back to the Future series, but we’re not here to talk about him.  We want to know about Leslie.  Some folks may remember her as Leslie Harter, during the glory days of classy adult entertainment on Cinemax, but Leslie has definitely taken her career into a wonderful different direction.  Her work as a filmmaker, writer, actress, writer, etc. is as as stunning as she is physically.  So sit back, and prepare to be schooled on the art of burlesque and so much more with the ever so talented, Leslie Zemeckis!

You are an established actress, writer, filmmaker, and more.  What aspect of the entertainment world do you find the most personally rewarding?  Why?

All my “projects” seemed to be linked somehow which is rewarding. To follow my passion, documentaries and writing and acting is a dream. Creating something of worth that hopefully will educate and entertain and overturn possible misconceptions seems to have become a mission.

In your personal opinion, how do you believe sex is portrayed or defined by the entertainment world?  Do any ideals towards what is “risque” seem out dated at all? 

 It’s too varied. Its portrayed in various ways, romantic, unrealistic, brutal, honest. Its pretty well covered. The whole burlesque era today would never be considered risqué, but in its time it was. There wasn’t any other outlets to see women in the flesh – and we’re not even talking nude, but legs! Burlesque became a rite of passage for boys, it was a fantasy and a dream for men. The women seemed obtainable. They were taking off their clothes – which was disturbing, outrageous and scandalous – in its day. Of course strippers today don’t even strip. They just dance around nude.

How did you initially become interested in the burlesque world?

I was doing a “cabaret-type” show which had elements of burlesque in it and I decided to educate myself on what burlesque was and who was in it. When I fell into a group of former performers – most whom had never spoken about their experiences – I thought it would be worthwhile to tell the world. To really explain what a show was and who these performers were. They had great worth, and should not be considered second class, which sadly they still are.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book titled the same as your 2010 Behind the Burly Qdocumentary, Behind the Burly Q?  Is it a companion story? 

It’s a companion, but goes further into the history. The documentary was told from the performers point of view, it’s their stories, as is the book, but I’ve expanded and told stories – and done hours and years of research on former famous performers that no one knows about today, that had wild and interesting lives. They really lived! With over 100 hours of taped interviews I knew I could not include all the great stories, but the book has them! There is a lot of behind the scenes photos that were given to me by performers that have never been seen. It’s really comprehensive.

What would you say is the most unusual story you have been told from the legendary Burlesque queens during the research your book and shooting your documentaries?

There really were so many on so many elements, from women never telling their family they were in it, to the involvement with the mob – most of the women appreciated them. All the way to the seedy bits, with men masturbating in the theatres and the girls having to dance in front of that. There were heartbreaking stories of children left behind while they went on the road. I wanted to know what their lives were like, not just their performances. There was also a surprising sense of camaraderie with the performers, and looking out for each other – an “us vs. them” point of view. “Them” being civilians. These performers were remarkably vibrant even at 70 – 80 and in their 90s!

Who would you say is your most favorite Burlesque performer you profile in your book?

I couldn’t say. That wouldn’t be fair. I fell in love with all of them. And they have remained my friends. Yet I don’t sugar-coat it, their lives and what they did and the choices they made are all there – for good and bad. I don’t judge, but I’m not hiding the seedy bits, the drunkenness, etc.  There are a couple I will continue researching and writing their stories, for full length books. One is almost done currently. It’s a fascinating era people know so little about. The lives were colorful to say the least. 

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What else does the future hold for Leslie Zemeckis?

Who knows.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My children.