You guys lived with Freddie and Brandon for a long time while working together. That’s just incredible.
Sam: And Jimmy.
It’s incredible to imagine all that talent just living together, just happened to find each other. How do you guys think that you helped accelerate each others’ talent, filmmaking abilities?
Sam: It’s really pretty straightforward as far as how I’d answer that. Basically Brandon and Freddie were friends at USC and we eventually met them after we moved to L.A.
Niko: We’ve been longtime friends of Brandon.
Sam: Yeah in high school blew stuff up in his backyard together and stuff, set things on fire, whatever.
Niko: Made short action films together, all the same stuff we do now but on a high school scale.
Sam: So basically moving to L.A. we basically were tasked with making a really VFX-intensive, low-budget monster movie that Brandon was working with us on, and Brandon didn’t really know much about the effects end of stuff back then; it seems crazy but basically we just worked with him for almost a full year and we tried to just teach him everything we know about anything and right when we were done with the movie they started their YouTube channel and we just kept doing it. We were there doing freelance VFX, and so we would be basically be passing tips back and forth on how to do different effects and things like that.
Niko: Basically as we gave them tips for how to do VFX, they were giving us tips on how to do VFX, they were giving us tips on their strategies they were trying with their YouTube channel.
Sam: Exactly, because they had a head start on their channel and basically we were learning things about how the online world was working as we were finishing these VFX gigs, and basically that was the way we were transferring stuff back and forth, and so eventually we started ours, and yeah, I guess we kind of had a lot of shared knowledge in that area.
Niko: Back then it started out as we’re all trying to learn to be the best filmmakers we could — and we’re still trying to be the best filmmakers we could — but it would be Sam and I spent a lot of time working on workflow and trying to get the most cinematically possible with — this is before DSLR, like right when they started to come out, and we were shooting on the HVX which was right over there — so we were shooting on equipment that wasn’t film cameras, we weren’t shooting on cinematic cameras, we were shooting on prosumer DV cameras and HDV cameras, and so we had a lot of practice in skills and techniques we were using to try and make a cinematic look and the whole workflow process that you need to do to get a cinematic look that we started shooting with Freddie and Brandon and they certainly knew about a fair amount of that stuff having gone to USC and been working on films together, but we still helped them refine their look and ideally make things more professional while in turn they helped us refine our strategy and learn how to go about making videos online to hook an audience. So at this point now we don’t really have the specifics to share anymore; not it’s just like, “I have a cool idea. What do you think about this effect? I need tips on how I might pull it off,” or it’s like, “Hey I’m trying to figure out a way to mobilize an audience over to this thing in a way that feels natural — give me thoughts on that.” Now we just talk about everything that we need to talk about, but back then it was definitely more of a Freddie and Brandon figuring out strategy for building an audience and maintaining an audience and building a YouTube channel and us figuring out strategies for good-looking visual effects, quick and easy visual effects, things that you can do with a group of two guys, and so that knowledge coming together is kind of what has lead to both of us having bigger YouTube channels.
I know you guys get asked all the time what your favorite video that you’ve made is, so what is your least favorite video that you’ve made?
Sam: That’s a good question; it’s a very sensitive one. Least favorite video …
Niko: We have a lot of videos, so I’ll have to think.
Sam: Yeah I’m trying to think through them too. I would say maybe …
Niko: Can I like cheat and look at our channel real quick? [laughs] Just scroll through the list.
Sam: ‘Cause there are certain ones I don’t think we can say are our least favorite videos.
Niko: What? You can say whatever you want. Don’t self-censor yourself. I won’t be offended [laughs].
Niko: Least favorite I think for us isn’t like, “Oh I think this is our worst video.”
Sam: It’s not like this is a bad video, it’s just like–
Niko: This could have been something different, and it wasn’t what I quite wanted it to be. For me that would have been our “Adventure Time” video.
Sam: Yeah that was really weird.
Niko: We didn’t get the vibe we were going for, and the video has funny things about it, some interesting aspects, but in trying to capture that vibe in the “Adventure Time” show and kind of make something that was inspired by it and was a little bit of a tribute to it and that kind of stuff, I feel like we had something that was kind of weird.
Sam: [scrolling through videos] I mean these are all pretty cool videos; this is a cool one. Most of them are pretty good. When it comes to a least favorite video, it’s like, I don’t genuinely dislike anything we’ve done. I mean we wouldn’t have uploaded it if it was that bad. Really I think the best way to describe it for me at least is each video has different strengths and weaknesses that I think could really be improved on. Some have more strengths or more weaknesses than the rest but it’s just really about how could be improve this better, how could it have turned out differently, things like that. It’s kind of different for each one.
Niko: It’s hard to say. I have these answers where I want to say this is my least favorite video but then I think of them more and it had things that I really liked about it and things I was trying to learn about. Maybe like we did a visual effects contest about two years ago and while it was incredibly cool to see how many people were like, “Yeah let’s take part in this VFX contest and try working with you guys and send you guys stuff to take part,” at the same time when we were done with it we decided it was contest so we have to pick winners, and we quickly realized when you pick winners, when everybody has put a lot of time into crafting these things, and you only get to pick one person and you go, “Yours is the best,” everyone is like, “No, screw this. I worked so hard on this. Why are you saying mine is not worthy?” so to speak, and so I’d say that was one of my least favorite videos that we’ve done.
Sam: Well how do you hold a contest if you don’t have a winner? But that’s the thing, it is kind of like the nature of the prom where you are holding a contest to award somebody something.
Niko: Everything people made was fantastic and incredible but the reason it’s my least favorite is because the way we handled it in terms of making a winner out of it and meaning everyone else is a loser is not the way I would go back and do it. I feel like we didn’t quite do everybody’s time and art justice because we had to make it a contest.
Sam: There are some pretty amazing videos submitted for that by the way. That was like two years ago at this point but–
Niko: I should have just been like, “My least favorite video: “Dubstep Guns.” That’s right, internet!” which isn’t like my favorite video [laughs].