Friday, July 3, 2009

Interview with Charlie McDonnell

This week's interview takes us deep into popular culture, to one of the most popular sites, ever. YouTuber Charlie McDonnell created a huge level of fame for himself in the two years he's been Vlogging (and doing other crazy stunts like painting himself purple) and now has three large claims to fame from his experiences.

The first comes from a popular video, which Charlie discusses in the interview, so stick around and you'll get a chance to watch it if you haven't already.

Secondly is something he and his friends did: a Trock album (that's Time Lord Rock for the rest of us.) Chameleon Circuit (the band) put together a CD featuring songs about Doctor Who. The music is great to listen to, even if you're not a Doctor Who fan. I'm not, and I still love it (especially Exterminate Regenerate and Journey's End)

Finally there comes the most recent addition: Mr Twitter UK. Charlie, like a lot of people, has a Twitter account. After his mother nominated him for Mr Twitter UK a few days ago, Charlie broke through the lines of celebrities with a massive 13,000 votes (and counting). He currently stands at #1.

Now, onto that interview!

STN: Hi Charlie, you're one of YouTube's most celebrated vloggers; how did it all begin?

Charlie: I guess it all started when I typed "videos" into Google and came across this website with loads of funny videos of skateboarding dogs and so on. I made a YouTube account in the hope of uploading a short film that I was working on with a friend, but in the end we scrapped the film, I discovered some Vloggers on YouTube and thought I might as well give it a go, seeing as I had the YouTube account. After about a month of Vlogging I amassed about 100 viewers, but then the good people at YouTube decided to put one of my videos on the front page of the UK site, and I went up from 100 viewers to 4400 in just two days. I've been steadily building my audience since then.

STN: So how famous do you feel? Have you let it go to your head?

Charlie: When I first got featured on the front page of YouTube it went straight to my head, but I was young then, and I definitely don't take the amazing audience that I have for granted now. I do everything I can to be as honest as possible with them, and although I've had many opportunities to 'sell out' I avoid them, because I'm not here to profit from my audience in that way. The response that I get from them in comments, video responses, views and ratings is enough to keep me on the website.

STN: You've been seen on national television more than once, on a talk show and an advert; how different is that to vlogging, and how did it come about?

Charlie: I was interviewed on BBC Breakfast after they saw a piece that my local BBC news did on me, and the rest of the TV opportunities that I've had have all come out of people seeing me on YouTube and contacting me directly through email. I haven't done much in the TV area to know an awful lot about it, but the whole thing feels a lot more artificial and controlled. When I make my videos, I do everything from the filming to the editing and uploading, it's all me, so being in an environment where there's a team of people in the wings doing all of the different jobs is a bit alien to me, and a bit scary.

STN: Do you ever think you'll stop making videos for YouTube? Or what about making a career out of it?

Charlie: I'd never be able to make a career out of my YouTube videos alone, there's just not any money in it, but I've got no plans to stop because I do genuinely love doing it. I've learned so much over my two years on the website so far, so I'm looking to do more work in new media, but whether that means presenting new online experiences or producing them (or both) is something I haven't decided just yet.

STN: Now, there are many vloggers out there, and many more people who are perhaps too shy to go on camera; what advice can you give them?

Charlie: The advice that I always give to new Vloggers is to make sure that you have something to talk about. It doesn't matter if your quality isn't brilliant when you start, just as long as you engage your audience in something interesting. A good way to start would to either be to introduce yourself, or to post a video response to someone that you like watching. The latter is particularly effective when you're starting out, because people who watch the video that you've responded to will click though to your response, so you can start building up an audience that way. Most of all, don't try to hard, and be yourself.

STN: Who are your favourite vloggers and comedians?

Charlie: My favourite Vlogger is probably nerimon, and I'm not just saying that because he's such a good friend of mine, he is genuinely brilliant at it, and a lot of fun to watch even if he isn't talking about something that interesting, he makes it interesting. Plus, he's hilarious. WheezyWaiter is another great Vlogger, but I don't restrict myself to UGC (User Generated Content). TheOnion is a great example of a Youtube channel that's produced by a company, but is still really smart and funny.

STN: What are your highlights of your YouTube channel; the best bits and your favourite memories?

Charlie: Shaving my hair off for charity was a big highlight for me, even though I did that via live streaming and not on my channel. I recently reached the milestone million views on my video "How to be English" which is a huge thing for any YouTuber to achieve, so I'd definitely recommend that seeing as it's the most popular. Other than that though I don't have any particular highlights, I tend to enjoy the new thing I'm working most. I'm always trying to push my creativity and make sure that the latest video I've made the the best one yet, so really if you're looking at my channel for the first time I'd ask you to have a look at whatever my most recent video is - that's what I always do when I find someone new to watch.

STN: Anything else you'd like to say to your admiring public while you're here?

Charlie: I guess just thank you for watching and sticking with me, thank you for just liking me at all, and I love you. All of you. It's becoming annoying cliché for a YouTuber to talk about how they wouldn't make videos if it wasn't for the fans because I still feel like some people take their audiences for granted, but I really don't. If money wasn't an object, I'd still be Vlogging, because I love doing it, and I love the people that take the time to watch me

And thank you Charlie for your time (and videos!) Now, as promised, the video: How to be English. You can find more of Charlie's videos on his YouTube profile, and remember, Charlie is so cool like ;-)

You can also see him on Twitter:


Survive the Net is taking a short haitus, due to my own holidaying, but we'll be back soon with more interviews from interesting people on the Internet. Take care.