411Mania Interview: Shane Dawson
Shane Dawson has proven and shown that if you are creative enough, talented enough, and work hard enough, you can take You Tube and use it for other avenues in your career. Recently, he was a part of the feature film, Smiley, which hits DVD shelves on February 12th. It tells the story of an Internet killer and begs the question of what’s real and what’s fiction on the Internet. Recently, I caught up with Shane to talk about his role in the film, how You Tube has changed his life, how he deals with negative comments, his spoofs, and so much more. I have also included a You Tube clip which includes the full audio of the interview with Shane.
TONY: I’ve read in previous interviews with you, Shane, where you’ve said that you’re basically playing yourself in this movie. With that said, how did you sort of interpret playing yourself and how did you approach it?
Shane Dawson: I think I was definitely playing more of my high school self, which was cool because we were in a school setting so it was natural. There was nobody throwing food at me, so that was different (laughs). I definitely channeled that shy, nerdy, quiet kid, and it was like stepping into a time machine, so it was kind of fun.
TONY: This seems like a very timely movie with the Internet and everyone using it for various reasons. What was your take on what the film had to say about the Internet and how people use it in the context of a movie like this?
Shane Dawson: I think it was kind of a warning letter to people about the Internet because this is something that’s really over the top and crazy, but with the way the Internet is going, this is not out of the realm of possibility. It could definitely happen within the next few years. I mean, people feel completely anonymous online. They can say whatever they want, do whatever they want, why not go the next step and kill people through the Internet? Why not? You won’t get caught. I think it’s definitely a statement about how there’s no laws. If I get a hate comment that’s a death threat, I can’t really go to the cops because it’s on Twitter that means nothing. Well, what if it does mean something? What does that mean? I think that’s kind of what it was saying.
TONY: You’ve also mentioned in previous interviews how you’re very confident, so I’m sure being in a feature film, even though it’s daunting being in something like this, how did you prepare for it personally?
Shane Dawson: I’m not going to lie I probably didn’t prepare enough because I’ve worked so many times with Michael before. I’ve directed myself a bunch of times before, so I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just go in and read the script and walk on and be a nerd.’ When I saw the other actors really sitting down and highlighting and getting into it and crying, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m definitely not bringing it enough.’ So I kind of have to reevaluate what I was doing and came up with a backstory for him and I did all that actor stuff. It was definitely a new experience, but it was fun. I’m glad I did it.
TONY: You mentioned your fellow actors, and for most people who work on horror films, they can be very intense and take a lot of preparation, but everyone always says that a horror film has the best set because everyone is having fun, laughing, and joking around. What was the atmosphere like on this set and how much fun was it?
Shane Dawson: It was a lot of fun, but it was also very, very fast paced, so there wasn’t really much time to hang out with the other actors and hang out by the craft services and stuff because it was just so, go, go, go. Oddly enough, I got really close to some of the extras. That was fun. One of my lifelong friends is one of the extras because most of my scenes were with just Ashley, so I never really was on set with the other actors. She was always shooting. I was hanging out mostly with the crew and the extras, so that was definitely a fun experience, never done that before.
TONY: You mentioned how you saw all the actors on set doing different preparations and how you felt that you could maybe have done more. With that said, what do you think was the hardest part about acting in a feature film for you?
Shane Dawson: Hmm. This sounds very shallow, but the hardest part for me was knowing that if this movie went to theaters, my head was going to be huge on the screen. As far as acting ability and believability and all that stuff, because I’ve done this YouTube thing for so long, I’m over that. I know what I can do and I know what I can’t. Luckily, I didn’t need to be Al Pacino in this movie. There wasn’t that much acting, but knowing that it was going to be that big on the screen was terrifying. I would constantly look over and be like, ‘What’s my hair look like? Does my nose look big? Can you see the pimple on my chin?’ I felt like a woman. I was constantly running to the mirror. That was definitely different.
TONY: Do you have a desire to do more feature films, and if so what kind of roles and movies would you like to be a part of?
Shane Dawson: I have always been a director first and the whole acting thing just happened because none of my friends wanted to be in my videos, so I had to do it myself and wear a bunch of wigs (laughs). So right now I actually just finished co-writing a script for teen horror comedy that we have some interest in, so I’m excited to direct that. Just trying to be a part of the creative process and be involved in acting is fun for me. It’s fun to act, but for me, it’s more fun to actually create the character and act it out knowing that I know everything about this character. That’s more fun to me than just reading lines.
TONY: I always love watching your videos and seeing how open and honest you are. How has the Internet, do you think, helped you develop your personality and who you are and become comfortable with that?
Shane Dawson: I think it’s completely saved my life. I think before the Internet I was nervous about doing comedy because I felt like no one understood my comedy. I grew up really religious and I grew up with friends who didn’t really see me as anything more than that fat, quiet kid who gives really good hugs. I was just that guy. The Internet gave a place like, ‘Oh, I’ll do whatever I want now. Nobody’s going to see it anyways.’ Oddly enough, people started watching and I got more confident, comfortable with it. I thought, ‘Oh wow, there are other people out there who are just as fucked up as me and have this crazy humor that I do.’ I found my little home, so it’s nice.
TONY: You mentioned how so many people are watching you. Because so many people are watching you, do you feel a certain sense of responsibility in terms of what you put out there and the messages that you’re sending out?
Shane Dawson: Yeah, I mean, I try to put a good message or a good moral in each video. Sometimes it gets really covered in dick jokes, so it’s hard to find, but I try to throw something in there. I know there are a lot of kids watching and I didn’t ask for kids to watch. I never thought my videos were for kids, but it’s just the nature of the beast. Kids are on the Internet. That’s who’s watching. So I do definitely make sure not to go too far over the line. I don’t want to ruin a kid’s mind. I’ll damage it, but I don’t want to ruin it, so I’ll pull back just a little bit (laughs).
TONY: People always say when it comes to having success it can change you both in a positive and negative way. In a positive way, how do you think success has changed you?
Shane Dawson: I don’t know if it’s changed me. It’s more changed my living condition because now I can take care of my family and I can feel comfortable. Before all of this, I was practically homeless and my mom was out of a job. We were really struggling, so it changed my life in that way, which I think made me more grateful and more I want to work really, really hard so I never have to get back to that place. It definitely made me a hard worker, but I don’t think it’s changed my personality at all. I’m not afraid to make a joke at a party because I feel like there’s a chance somebody will laugh. Before, I was too scared (laughs).
TONY: I love all of your spoofs on your YouTube channel. I wanted to ask you, have you heard from anyone that you have spoofed and if so, have they said anything about it?
Shane Dawson: I haven’t heard directly from anybody. I’ve heard from people like, ‘The Kardashian’s people saw your thing and they said they hated it’ or ‘Oh, Miley Cyrus’ people said Miley hates you.’ I’ve heard that type of stuff, but until it actually comes from the source, I don’t believe it. What do they care? What does Miley Cyrus give a crap? She’s Miley Cyrus. She’s a millionaire. I don’t think she spends time watching me play her. It would be cool. I don’t think I’m too mean to celebrities. I poke fun, but I think in the end, they always win. I did a Taylor Swift spoof and in the end, she kills me and pisses on my head, so she won (laughs).
TONY: I’m sure it’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but if someone were to ask you, Shane, what have been the keys to your success, what would you say?
Shane Dawson: I’d say not giving up has been a huge, huge thing because as fun as YouTube looks and as easy as it looks from an outside perspective, coming up with new ideas every single week with no break and constantly trying to do things outside of YouTube and not have the time because I’m working on YouTube, it’s definitely been a non-stop hamster wheel. I think I just haven’t given up yet. I don’t plan on it, but that’s definitely been the one reason I’m still going and still doing OK.
TONY: You’ve said in previous interviews in terms of dealing with negative comments, you think you’re already thinking the negative comment before someone says it. With that said, with the Internet, it’s great to have the positivity, and the negativity can be really draining for someone to hear and listen to it. How have you learned to approach negativity and what advice would you give to someone on YouTube to not let it defeat your dream?
Shane Dawson: I literally think of it like these people who are watching me, most of the hate comments come from people who don’t really watch. They maybe watch one time or something. They don’t know me at all. They know what I’m showing them. They know this little sliver of me or this character I play or whatever. It doesn’t really bother me because if this kid met me in real life, he’d be like, ‘Oh, he’s cool.’ They see me as this crazy wig wearing guy and that’s who I am on the Internet, but in real life I’m a laid back normal person. For me, I look at it like I’m portraying a character online, Shane Dawson is this character that I’m playing, so when I get hate comments, it’s not directed at me, it’s directed at Shane Dawson. It’s harder for kids who are getting cyber bullied because they’re not playing a character. It’s them. That must be horrible and I can’t imagine. For YouTubers, I think they get over it pretty quick.
TONY: What are your plans for the future and what are you currently working on?
Shane Dawson: Keep going on YouTube. We’re pitching around the teen horror comedy that I want to direct. We’re also starting to pitch my own talk show, my own talk sketch variety type show. So hopefully this year/next year, I’ll be making something cool outside of YouTube.