“Please Subscribe” — The YouTube Phenom

Are you as obsessed with YouTubers like Hannah Hart, Mr. Guitar Man, and Wheezy Waiter as we are?

Of course you are.

The Smoking Jacket recently talked to director Dan Dobi about his upcoming documentary, “Please Subscribe: A Documentary About YouTubers” – the first documentary to go behind the scenes of YouTubers.

Key cast members featured in the film have anywhere from 300,000 to two million subscribers and from 13 million to over 300 million views. Dobi formed friendships with all of the cast members through his own content work on YouTube, so the film is an authentic, inside look about what goes on in the lives and careers within this very unique online community. Some of the featured YouTubers are Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen, Mystery Guitar Man and SeaNanners.

“Those in the film, among many other very talented artists, have made their way into people’s homes with their work by riding into the cyber-wild west, taking advantage of new ways to do things where the rules are not yet defined. They moved across the country, quit their jobs, dropped out of medical school, and abandoned the traditional pathway to pursue their dreams how they wanted,” explains Dobi. “They are not afraid to take big risks. Happily, many have found great rewards. They are a generation of American pioneers.”

Dobi has worked with such high powered musical artists as Jason Mraz, Paramore, P-Diddy, Soulja Boy, Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes and Gym Class Heroes just to name a few.

The filmmaker raised over $12,000 through Kickstarter to bring his idea for the documentary to life.


The Smoking Jacket: I loved “Please Subscribe.” What made you want to make a film about the heroes of YouTube?

Dan Dobi: Thank you! Ha! Heroes! I love it, I’m sure the cast of the film would feel honored! YouTube is such an ambiguous and complex space, especially to the friends and family members of those who use it regularly.

I basically made the film for two reasons. First, to educate the general public about how being a YouTuber can now be a legitimate career, and is much more than cat videos and second, to create an “internal celebration” (if you will) for the YouTube community and allow them when asked “Why is it again you do this YouTube thing?” to be able to point to something and say “Here, watch this.”

TSJ: Are you a YouTube lover?

DD: Haha! A YouTube lover? I guess. YouTube can be a devious mistress though, she goes where she wants and sometimes leaves without notice. I’m just kidding.

I really do love YouTube for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest though is the way it’s changing how other creators and I work and live. If you made a short film 10 years ago and you didn’t get into a festival or wanted to share a moment in life you recorded and didn’t have an FTP to upload to, that was it! You would have to send them a DVD. YouTube opened up the world of video on a professional and a personal level for everyone.

I love the community that it’s built both of creators and viewers. I also love that its brought me to this place where I can make this film about some of the most inspirational people I’ve met who have really managed to make a life for themselves doing what they love.

TSJ: Have you made your own YouTube flicks?

DD:  Not long form, but I’ve definitely been known to make short sketches and what have you… For the longest time, YouTube has been known as “Tiny Entertainment” and I like that term. It’s been called that because whatever you post (that’s made for YouTube) should be under five minutes.

That is, however, changing as we speak — and a lot of people out there are making long-form content that strictly lives on YouTube… And I think that’s great!

TSJ: How long has YouTube been a part of your daily Internet diet? How are people generally consuming YouTube?

DD: I don’t even have cable so everything I watch is either on YouTube or some other streaming site (Hulu, Netflix, Crackle). It’s great because I get to curate my own on-demand playlist with my favorite video creators and watch them whenever I want.

“There’s over 72 hours
of video uploaded to YouTube
every minute.”

TV is trying to catch up to this model but they’ll always be limited in a way that YouTube isn’t.

There’s over 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s hard to imagine anyone catching up to that level of content. More and more premium content is also coming into the YouTube space. There’s something for everyone — moms, food lovers, sports fans, people looking to connect to others personally, music, literally everything you can think of.

As far as it being a part of my diet, I usually catch up with who I’m subscribed to during lunch. Going to back to what I was saying before about “Tiny Entertainment,” no one has time to watch an hour long episode of Dexter on their lunch break, but they DO have time to watch a few three to ten minute videos on their phone, know what I mean?

In general, when people watch YouTube they’re participating rather than just consuming. It’s a conversation, while with other media it’s a one way street. There’s a comment section, there’s a like button, there are annotations –it’s much more of an interactive experience than anything else which allows these content creators to really expand their creativity.

TSJ: A few of the people you interview in “Please Subscribe” talk about how they got their start with MySpace. How do you think YouTube’s evolved from MySpace? What’s next?

DD: Well, for one thing: Video. That’s a huge one. MySpace definitely played an integral part in the “online community” development, but YouTube brought that it to a more intimate level than ever before. It’s one thing to read what someone has written, and it’s something else to see and hear them as if they were in your room with you. The individual was given a voice and a face rather than just a name.

“What’s next?” is a hard question. I think A LOT of things are next. Some will be awesome but not succeed and some will take a hold of the market, but I think the way we consume media is changing forever. There’s no question there. It will be interesting to see where we land.

The flick premiere’s in theaters for one night only: Tuesday, February 5 in approximately 300 theatres across the country.
ALSO — “Please Subscribe” will be available for digital download through Chill as of March 22, 2013.

Related on The Smoking Jacket: 
TSJ Interviews Comedian Dan St. Germain 
Behind the Scenes of Pornstar Dater