Vlogumentary is an upcoming feature-length documentary that delves into the lives and nature of “vloggers,” a new genre of YouTube video creators. We talked to producers, Corey Vidal and Shay Butler on the goal, the challenges, and the process on working on Vlogumentary.
What was the goal in creating Vlogumentary and how has that goal maybe changed throughout the past years you were working on it?
Corey: My favourite part working on it was the fact that it kept evolving. When we started rolling, we had this real luxury because we didn’t know what we were capturing and we started at a really great time. If you look at what happens across 2013-2014, those were the biggest periods of change for Shaycarl and Charles Trippy and we didn’t know that was going to happen. That was one of the beautiful things about it, knowing the basic things we needed to tell but having room for our subjects to guide us.
Shay: At first when I started creating videos on YouTube, I thought, this was not going to last, i’d be lucky if I got another two more cheques from this thing. After three years, I could not believe that this was still a thing, and it’s growing! That’s when I was like, I’d love to make a documentary telling the story of not only me, but the community of people, YouTubers, who are digital media companies in their own light. All by themselves, they edit, produce, shoot, write, make music; you have to be a one-stop shop for everything production if you’re a YouTuber. I wanted to highlight these people, who are taking it upon themselves to not go through the traditional doors of Hollywood and wait for permission to make something cool. They are taking the tools and they are using them to make amazing stuff, and they’re connecting on a level that no other artist is able to do on such a quick global scale like these YouTubers are.
What was it like working with not only your team and Shaycarl and all the other creators part of this documentary, but also Morgan Spurlock?
Corey: My initial reaction was that I hope it happens! It felt like it was too good to be true, so when those conversations began, it took a really long time of being a ‘maybe’ to being a ‘yes.’ It was a collective holding of breath and it felt like this dream where I was waiting for something to go wrong, I was waiting to wake up from this dream to be told that it was not true, but it turns out that it was! That felt like incredible validation, it felt, for Shay and I both, ecstatic.
Shay: My favourite part of making movie was travelling with the Apprentice A all across the country doing interviews. I met up with them for a week and that was the best part. Corey is a great director, he really knows how to ask the right questions because he’s been in this industry for so long. One of the coolest parts was watching him interview all these YouTubers. Morgan Spurlock was so cool, especially working with somebody you’ve been looking up to. Me and Corey both are huge Morgan Spurlock fans and never even dared to believe that he would collaborate with us on this documentary. The three of us are buddies now.
Throughout the process of creating Vlogumentary, what do you think was the biggest challenge you faced?
Corey: I think for me the biggest challenge was not being able to communicate everything to the audience. We come from this world of YouTube where things happen instantly and there were so many times where it would take months for Shay and I to move forward in post-production, and not being able to communicate with the audience was the most difficult part. When I see people asking questions that I knew I could answer but I couldn’t, that, for me, was torture. But I believe the weight was worth it; finishing the film with Morgan Spurlock, premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, announcing at VidCon by YouTube that YouTube Red purchased the film, then premiering it to the public at Buffer Festival; that took longer than I would ever be able to explain, but I believe all of that was worth it.
Shay: Just the time. I’m the YouTuber where when I say something, I want to put it on the internet. Making a movie is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be because there’s a lot of parts to it. In hindsight, a good documentary shows progress of time. Things that are in the movie would have not been in the movie if we finished it in a year but because it took so long, more parts of the story revealed themselves to us and I think it makes for a better movie.
What was a highlight for you in creating the film?
Corey: The highlight was releasing the trailer at VidCon in 2013. That was particularly emotionally charged for me and my team, Apprentice A, because we worked on the film for 6 months straight. Walking out on that stage to an audience of 10k people, who were there and wanted to see that trailer, that was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in my entire life. That feeling I had there was a huge inspiration on what became Buffer Festival later that year.
Shay: The time I felt the most exhilarated was when I went to New York and went to Warrior Poets production studios and watched the very first cut of the movie for the first time. Just the experience of flying to New York, going to Morgan Spurlock’s office, and sitting at his edit bay with him and the same person who edited supersize me. That was one of the very first things I watched when I got on the internet, so being in that room with them was a really cool moment.
What can viewers expect from the Vlogumentary premiere at Buffer Festival?
Corey: This is our final Vlogumentary event, where we all come together. This is our final time as Vlogumentary cast and crew, coming together in this way and after 3.5 years, that’s kind of bittersweet. I’m incredibly proud of the film, what my team Apprentice A was able to do, i’m incredibly honoured to have done this with Shay and then Morgan Spurlock, and it feels like the curtain closing on my first feature film. I hope that people enjoy the film!
Shay: I hope everybody likes it and feels the spirit of the community. I hope the movie gives the viewers the courage and understanding that you can make your dream come true.
Janine Maral is culture writer and content strategist. She enjoys podcasts, Notion, and internet communities.