Storytelling

Why does Dodford keep going viral?

August 25th, 2023

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10

min read

This week, I spoke to rising YouTube sensation and softly-spoken-lovely-man, Danny McMahon (AKA, Dodford).

Dodford’s videos consistently outperform his subscriber count by an incredible magnitude, and… it’s easy to see why.

Particularly as a scriptwriter, I’ve been fascinated by his use of visual storytelling and the process by which he constructs his documentaries.

If you’ve ever seen one, you’ll understand.

With that said, I hope you’ll take some inspiration for your upcoming videos from our conversation…

Interview with Dodford

Me: How much does interaction with your audience guide how you make your content?

Dodford: Rule #1 of being a YouTuber is making things people care about. Being an artist means expressing yourself creatively. More often than not, those things do not align! It’s a lesson I’ve been slapped with a lot, which I’ll get into later.

If you want to succeed on YouTube, you can’t post whatever you desire and demand “ThEY jUsT dOn’T GeT iT, MaN…” But at the same time, create projects that speak to you, or you’ll go crazy.

I like to put feelers out there on what similarities my audience and I share. The more you create, the closer that’ll be! Those opinions matter.

Me: What does the process of turning piles of research notes into a complete script look like in your team?

Dodford: The ideation, research and scriptwriting workflow is about a four-week process. It’s twice as long as the editing, which I usually finish up at the ~6 week mark.

While two weeks can seem a hurry for the post-production, it’s only because we’ve oiled the scriptwriting stage down so much that everything clicks into place later down the line.

In short, it goes:

Subject ➡️ Preliminary Research ➡️ Angle Chosen ➡️ Quote Hunting ➡️ Categories ➡️ Unique Selling Point ➡️ Story Structure ➡️ Script Development ➡️ Paper Edit ➡️ Production ➡️ Post-Production

Me: Your Nardwuar video seemed to mark a change in both your content style and the trajectory of the channel. Can you talk through what happened at that moment?

Nardwuar: A Misunderstood Superstar

Dodford: Looking back, I think the Nardwuar video represented the shift from making video essays into making documentaries. Don’t ask me to define the difference!

Maybe it’s something to do with video essays tell you what I think, and documentaries make you think. But there are elements of that in my Sidemen, Logic and Try Guys videos too.

In reality, I think it was a culmination of several growing skills coincidentally falling into a great idea. It was also the preceding video after the Donald Glover video blew up, which helped it along.

Me: Two videos released in succession – Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore – were both, arguably, “outliers”. Is there anything you’ve identified about those videos that explains their performance?


Dodford:
I wish I had an easy answer for this.

The Drew Barrymore video is one of my favourites, but like I mentioned earlier, if your idea doesn’t overlap with your target audience, it won’t hit.

It was a tough one to swallow for me, actually. Especially coming right after the immense hype of that Sandler video! I was just getting used to showering in the YouTube Studio euphoria, when the platform reminds you that none of it is promised!

The Adam Sandler video had a curious concept and unique packaging — two things that can never be replicated twice, just the way it was.

There’s a lot of this system I’m confident with nowadays, but I can always use a hand with selling an idea.

Me: Is there anything you wish you’d spent more time doing sooner to hone your skills as a writer/editor?

Dodford: Learning After Effects elevated my game as an editor tenfold.

Having an extra couple pairs of hands is great for writing, too. But I don’t have any regrets or wishes about how I’ve gotten to become the creator I am.

I lost my mind a little on TikTok, resented a couple clients as a freelancer, and almost quit at least twice!

But I don’t really have any advice here, besides trust the process.

Me: Is there anything YouTube-related you wish you could nerd out about more?

Dodford: When picturing my future, I always saw traditional cinema and theatres. That if the opportunity came, I’d jump off YouTube in a flash.

But that’s certainly not true anymore!

I’m really falling in love with the creator that this website is making me become. I’d never have refined my craft as much as I have if there weren’t the affordances and constraints of YouTube.

The videos I’m making right now are truly, exactly what I want to make right now. And I have to thank YouTube for revealing that to me.

That process of chipping away the bad ideas in public is so fascinating to me. There’s something so endearing about building a YouTube channel in general. High risk and high reward, visible to all.

Creating is psychology and YouTube is your psychiatrist. Yeah, they might be annoying sometimes, and you’re definitely paying way too much for them, but listen to them!

Dodford’s latest documentary, “The Redemption of Robert Downey, Jr.” is out now…

Click to watch ☝️

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