Jack and Dean Interview

Sitting in the center of busy west London, YouTube sensations Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs are kind enough to join me for a cup of coffee. Although we’ve crossed paths in the past, this was the first time we’ve had the chance to have a proper chat, and the candid ‘buddy-buddy’ atmosphere of the interview was a welcomed surprise.  While it is possible to make the assumption that the past year of increasingly ‘mainstream’ success would have gone to their heads, the duo seem to have their feet firmly on the ground.  Though both are now 23 years old and living a widely successful life in London, we started by taking it back to where it began.
“Well,” Jack begins, “We were married in–”
“Shut up,” Dean laughs. “We were in Maths together in like year ten–”
Jack interjects, exposing the depth their friendship goes. “No, year eight mate. Yeah, because we were like 14 or 15 years old. We were talking about a band I liked, called Green Day – you may have heard of them. And then he suggested another band–”
“Panic! at the Disco,” Dean declares, finishing Jack’s sentence.
“Yep, Panic! at the Disco, which I still like to this day and I’m not ashamed,” Jack jokes. “And then we kind of just became friends because of that. At the time, I was sort of editing fan trailers for Spider-Man, which you can still find online today and I regret to say are still the most popular thing I’ve ever made.”
Even with a bit of prodding, Jack wouldn’t reveal where in the shadowy pits of YouTube those videos reside, although he did admit that they have nearly 4 million views — which is unquestionably impressive.
While Jack was caught in his web of editing, Dean too was experimenting with video-making. With the help of another friend, he was making a parody to a show he didn’t even know existed. “It was called Country Kyle,” he clarifies. “ It was a gardening program about the ‘great outdoors.’ Looking back, it was actually a little smarter than it probably should have been. We were going to make a film out of it.”
Jack explains that after a while he began to get bored of editing other people’s footage and asked Dean if he could be involved in the film. “Long story short,” he says, “that film didn’t happen but Jack and Dean did.”
It goes without saying that when starting their channel in late 2008, neither predicted what was to come. At the time, YouTube was a genuine place for trial and error, which is reflected in their older videos. While other content creators notoriously hide some of the earlier work on their channels, the vast majority of Jack and Dean videos remain public. Jack admits that he likes that you can track their progression, saying, “We always knew the kind of stuff we wanted to make; it’s just the more and more we’ve done it, sort of the more polished it’s become. We’ve kind of improved every time, with every video, because you can see that we’ve learned something else.”
He continues, “I think the best example of that is when we made ‘Silent Disco,’ which is the first time we ever used multi-set ups and extras and things like that and the idea of cutting around was a good idea, but we didn’t really know how to do that yet. We kind of did it randomly and didn’t really plan it so we didn’t do it any order and just left it to the edit — which was then a couple of months of me and Dean stressing over it. Then the next video we made after that was ‘Balloons,’ which again, has multi-set ups, but we thought about it so much more in the writing stage.”

After years of working out the mechanics of filmmaking and solidifying their identity, people outside of the Internet-world finally began to recognize their talent. Late last year, New Form Digital, a company that caters to funding and distributing short films from online creators, approached the duo about working together. Following a whirlwind couple of months of meetings, pitches, and planning with producer Jack Ferry, the process culminated in a suave London restaurant.
“Then we met Ron Howard for dinner,” Jack says nonchalantly, as if eating with Hollywood royalty is an average Monday night.
“And then we had him for dinner,” Dean quips. “Honestly, it was horrific.”
New Form, founded by Kathleen Grace, Brian Grazer, and Ron Howard, is behind the likes of PJ Liguori’s Oscar’s Hotel, which has been picked up by Vimeo to be turned into a series. Knowing this, Dean admits that going about writing their own short, which is titled GFC: Ghost Fighting Corporation, was different than what they were used to. Dean explains, “we were thinking about the bigger picture and the bigger story we want to tell.”
Jack jumps in, saying, “it’s kind of like, instead of writing a short film, we just skipped ahead and wrote episode one. We were just like okay, going to write episode one without any other episodes planned ahead.”
With more pressure and money behind this video, I asked if it would still be the style the audience knows and loves. Jack nods vigorously, explaining, “it’s ‘Jack and Dean’ [the characters] completely, but we try and give them a bit more depth. We’re trying to go, ‘what are they doing as real people?’ rather than just establishing them in a situation like ‘here they are, Dean walks in on Jack naked.’ But what’s their life? What’s their actual situation? Doing that was nice.”
Continuing, he adds, “we actually started questioning, ‘does it make sense for this person to do stuff like that’? With this, we knew we were building an arc and a story while trying to build actual characters rather than just a four-minute little bite-sized thing.”
As seen in many previous videos, I ask if their short features cameos from other members of the YouTube community. They divulge that they discussed casting some of their friends to appear in a scene that introduces a new third character, but ultimately decided against it. Explaining their decision, they say they feared there would be an ‘oh, there’s that person’ moment if a prominent YouTuber was included and that it would take away from debut of this character who is critical to the film.  “She’s [the third character] just sort of wedged in the middle of us and can point out that ‘you two are weird.’ We didn’t realize how weird they were until we had a normal person in the middle,” says Dean.
While there are no ‘YouTubers’ in this project, Jack exclusively reveals that, in a surprising twist, they’ve hired Ian McKellan to play Dean. Although clearly a joke, it does spark an imaginative tangent between the two.
“Yeah, and I play him,” Dean goes on. “It’s weird.”
“I would literally love that,” Jack manages between laughs. “We have a sort of flash-forward to older versions of ourselves and we see McKellan and Patrick Stewart.”

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