The rise of social media and independent entertainment platforms has brought attention to so many talented people, but it’s not always easy to find smaller creators. In this interview series, I’ll be chatting with some of these criminally underrated folk.
First up I had the pleasure of interviewing video creator and musician Joel Blundell, because there are some brains that really ought to be picked, and because it’s a nice and substantial way to share some of his best work with you all, so, without further ado:
Jamiedoesthings: Hi, Joel! Thanks for agreeing to a chat! I’d love to jump right in with the series that got me into your channel – The King Of Sleep.
JDT: A smorgasboard of green screens, original music, and guest stars, this was one of your first bigger projects, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (even before I was lucky enough to play a small role). How was your experience working with others for this? What factors came into play when casting voice actors? And do you plan to make another project like this again?
Joel Blundell: Oh I absolutely loved it! I really love getting people onboard for a million reasons, but especially because it means I don’t have to listen to my voice the whole time!!! At first, I was anxious that the whole thing would fall flat and people wouldn’t want to get involved, but I posted something about it on social media and was overwhelmed by the support I got. Everyone was very supportive and happy to help out and I think it really helped raise the quality of the series. I’d absolutely love to make something like that again! It was fun to tell a story in a “series” format, and I’d love to take what I learned the first time and apply it to another series in the future!
JDT: What’s the first thing you can remember creating?
JB: I made a video to advertise a show I was in at the time, and it was TERRIBLE! We were doing a production of Aladdin and there was a competition running to see who could make the best advertisement. The winner would win an Xbox. So I wrote this rap and recorded it and made the most awful video of me in my show costume, with sunglasses and one trouser leg rolled up. It was truly cringeworthy, but we won the competition! Although, I never did get that Xbox…
JDT: Wait, they held out on you? I feel like calling the police! So, have you always wanted to create? Has your idea of what you want to create changed over time?
JB: I think so! I was very into arts and crafts as a kid and I’ve always loved performing. I’ve been at a theatre group since I was maybe 10 years old and from that, combined with watching a lot of old-school YouTube, I started making standard vlogs and writing short ukulele songs, but then I got bored of it and started making sketches. That’s evolved more recently into more ambitious stories and short musicals, but I don’t think I have a set “thing” that I like to create. I’m too indecisive and eager to do a bit of everything to stick to one specific area!
“Ambitious” is right – here’s Joel’s 360 degree musical set inside his own mouth. The cast? His teeth.
JDT: I feel you on that one! I don’t know how anyone manages to confine themselves to one area of work. Can you share one of your ultimate goal projects?
JB: So I’ve got like a million things I want to work on at some point, but currently I really REALLY want to write a musical. But not for the screen, like a big all-singing all-dancing stage show. I’ve got an idea for one (it’s utterly BONKERS), and I’ve started writing some of the songs too. If I could manage to bring that to reality and see it on stage one day, that’d be fantastic!
JDT: I’m really hyped to see that happen! I hope it starts to take shape in 2018 and the creative groups (including the discord) can help make it a reality! So, how would you define success in your field?
JB: As much as we like to say that “the numbers don’t matter” (which they SHOULDN’T), there’s definitely a connection between views/subscribers and success, at least from the perspective of an outsider looking in. They work as a quantifier, definitely, and in the true grand scheme of things, having those numbers is a great way for you to branch out and prove your ability. However, I now try to define success as creating things that I myself am proud of. Getting to the end of a project and having something that I think is really good that I can feel excited about showing to people, and seeing how I’ve managed to improve and develop skills over the years, is success enough.
JDT: I agree with this one completely. Success can be entirely internal, and is often more satisfying when it is. Who would you say are your biggest creative influences?
JB: I’m always inspired by anything Tim Minchin and Lin-Manuel Miranda write. Their music and lyrics are really incredible. I also often feel inspired by Alan Menken, who essentially wrote all of the music to my childhood. Bo Burnham too. I often watch his opening number to “what.” because it’s jam-packed with so many great, funny ideas in such a short space of time. Then on YouTube, I love anything that KickThePJ makes. PJ is the most creative person I’ve ever seen and his storytelling is truly like no other. And of course, Dodie Clark is and always will be my favourite artist and really inspires me musically, too.
KickThePJ’s influence is clear to see in this beautiful still from the third episode of the series, the eponymous The King of Sleep.
JDT: I’m a big PJ fan too, and as I’ve said many times I see and appreciate his influence in your work! I’d love to see more exploration of Tim Minchin/Bo Burnham-influenced comedy songs, since “Stephen Bridges is Aware” was a modern marvel. What drives you to create and keep creating?
JB: Just a love for it, really! The ability to take an idea and visualise it and make it a thing to people can watch and interact with is so fun and cool and I just absolutely love making things. I love the escapism too, of getting caught up in an idea and having a project to lose yourself in when things get a bit too much in the real world, you know?
JDT: You know, I’d actually not properly considered it as escapism. I love creating, but I think I often get caught up in what other people will think, and that can sometimes be paralysing – maybe I need to change up my perspective and really start enjoying creating for my own sake more than anyone else’s.
Have you personally had negative feedback? Are your family and friends supportive? How do you deal with uncertainty from others?
JB: Luckily, I’ve never received a lot of hate! I think my parents and family at the beginning probably thought it was a waste of time, but they never really said much about it, and just kind of let me get on with it! Nowadays, my family are big supporters of everything I make and share every video to their friends on Facebook and things, it’s very lovely. I also got a little bit of judgement at school too, but I think when you show people that you’re committed to doing something, and you’re not really bothered by what they think, they back off a little.
JDT: Great attitude – and that’s very sweet that your family share your work on Facebook! What is the best advice you could give to another creator (or your past/future self)?
JB: Definitely to just get on with it. It’s very easy to go “oh there’s no way I could make this thing. I don’t have the skills. I don’t have the equipment. I’m not good enough”, but it all has to start somewhere. Obviously, if you want to make a film and you don’t have a camera, that’s an issue, but as long as you have SOMETHING to use, it really doesn’t matter what the camera quality is or how primitive the equipment you’re using is. Just get making things!
Joel makes the best of a difficult situation by transforming his snowless garden into a winter wonderland for my personal favourite, The Carol Singer.
JDT: Who would you most like to work with?
JB: I would absolutely love to work with Sammy Paul and/or PJ on something. I’d love to do some kind of crazy short musical with PJ. His art style, with a musical twist, I think could be really fun. I really admire Sammy’s sketches too, so to work with him would be a really fantastic learning experience.
JDT: I’d love to see you work with Sammy and PJ, too. Here’s hoping we can swing that in the coming years! How do you plan to push yourself this year, creatively or otherwise?
JB: I just want to make as much as I possibly can, as well as I can. I’m actually trying to increase the quality of the things I make by pushing myself a little less this year. I’ve set myself a “one video a month” goal so that I don’t rush to make things that my heart isn’t it, and hopefully allow myself to really work at things that I am excited about. I also want to push myself in gaining a confidence in self-promotion. I think this leads into [my] “am I good enough” obstacle. I want to start gaining more courage and motivation to promote myself and seek collaborators and audiences outside of my initial circle.
JDT: I agree on this one. Creating is more two-pronged than people realise – you can put everything into making it, but if you don’t market or share it right, it’s like a tree falling in the forest with no one around. It’s hardest to toot your own horn, though. Again, I’m hoping the discord server will help us all support each other in this sense, too!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Joel – I really appreciated the chance to talk to you about these topics and I look forward to a time when I’m interviewing you in depth on your musical. Any parting words?
JB: Well, in light of the pretty crazy week we’ve had around the youtube partner program chaos, I think it’s important to stress how we should all make sure we’re supporting our fellow creators, particularly (but not limited to) the smaller channels. Give them all your love and support, and share their stuff around if you enjoy it. There’s a lot of really incredible talented people out there and we’d do well to help each other out in whatever way we can! And I guess in relation to that, thank you for talking to me!
JDT: Thanks again! #smallbutmighty
To check out Joel’s channel in all its glory, click here – and be sure to subscribe and hit the bell if you like what you see! If you’re a creator yourself, or aspire to be, consider joining the likes of Joel in a discord server for creative discussion, feedback, and support, and you might find yourself interviewed here soon!