Guy Larsen: artist, director, and illustrator. Delve with us into his quirky, creative pocket of the internet…
“I got into YouTube really late. As late as 2013. I hate admitting that,” says Guy Larsen. “I used to watch YouTube the same way I reckon my parents watch it. I didn’t subscribe to anybody or follow any particular YouTuber.
“It wasn’t until I applied for a job at Vsauce that I realised there was a whole community right there I didn’t know about,” he continues. “I loved that one creator led to three more and three more and suddenly there was a whole network of people doing fantastic, creative work.”
He went on to work with them for a number of years. “I felt like I didn’t impress at the Vsauce interview,” Guy admits, “so I made my own Vsauce video and submitted that after. It was about whether cooties are real. Turns out they are – they began as a form of lice in World War One… Maybe I’ll upload that video one day.”
Guy’s first foray into short filmmaking came with Girls Who Read in 2013, a collaboration with writer and actor Mark Grist which won Lovie Awards for Best Viral Video and Best Individual Performance, as well as two Webbys. Not bad for his first film.
However, it’s another collaboration with Mark, titled Keith, that Guy is most proud of, “for its surrealism”.
A piece of art that you may well have consumed in recent months is the music video for dodie’s Intertwined. Guy was the art director for the project, working with director Sammy Paul and a whole host of creators, including Maddy Vian, Jamie Jo, Chloë Dungate, Matt Ley, and Elliot Gough.
This was the second time that Guy and Sammy had worked together, the first time being on The Eternal Intern in 2016. With collaboration often being key in creating art, Guy felt very happy to be working with another director on Intertwined, which left him able to focus on just the art direction of such a large-scale music video.
The video had a somewhat mixed reception following its release, due to the juxtaposition of the softness of the music with violent imagery. However, Guy says that he personally was pleased with this response.
“I believe it’s healthy to sometimes challenge what people are expecting and make them reevaluate what they thought the song was about,” he says. “The video got a debate going – from an artistic point of view that’s the best reaction you could ask for.”
And he’s not the only creator to express that opinion:
— NEAFCY (@PNeafcy) April 8, 2017
The making of Intertwined might be the most viewed video on Guy’s channel but it’s the one just below, Donald Trump and the Wig of Evil, that is perhaps his most mainstream success, having gained notoriety in 2016 after being shared by the likes of The Guardian.
It’s the first in the series of “children’s books” that also includes The Eternal Intern, narrated by Sammy Paul, and The Lonely Emoji, featuring the voice of Dodie Clark. We can honestly say that there is nothing like this series online and that is incredibly refreshing.
The journey to create the physical book for the film was interesting, to say the least. “I strolled into Foyle’s. I think I took a Bear and Hare book by Emily Gravett because it was solid, had the right number of pages and was square,” recounts Guy.
“I measured it up, wrote, illustrated, and printed the pages, and then pasted them over the top of her innocent book. It just needed to look real enough on camera, so I filmed it and stuck it up.”
Guy had the foresight to know that “Trump’s record of suing everyone meant no publisher would ever go NEAR the idea of making it into a real book, and I really, really just wanted to make it”. The video garnered the attention of publishers Burning Eye Books, however, and the book is now very much real.
Filmmakers can often have a difficult time on YouTube, often battling against an algorithm that favours far more frequent uploads than the process of producing a film allows. “Who knew it takes a really long time to plan, shoot, and edit a film, right?” says Guy.
“Over time, I accepted the numbers are not what it’s all about for me,” he goes on to add. “I dropped the neurosis of sub counts and views, and long-term I’m glad I stuck with that approach. I sort of enjoy going dark and then popping up with a new project!”
Guy’s level of self-awareness and buckets full of talent makes him, in our eyes, deserving of far more attention on YouTube. Just look at his ability to replicate the work and style of Jean Michel Basquiat and prepare to be slapped square in the face by his artistic talent!
So, which creators is Guy watching? “[Colin Raff]’s animations are dark and disgusting but I love them. More people need to see his work,” says Guy. He would also recommend KrainaGrzybowTV, who “produces some of my favourite dark surreal kids’-TV-style videos that are really well edited”. And finally, “I’m really late to the party with Airforceproud95, but I’ve lost hours watching his flight-simulator troll videos recently. They’re so easy to binge-watch.”
Looking to the future, Guy reveals that has just finished work on a new film (featuring marionette puppets). We may not be seeing it on YouTube for a little while, however, as he plans to try it out on the film festival circuit first. “I’ve never tried the festival route before and there’s a lot I want to learn about it,” he says. Few creators have made a name for themselves on the much-lauded film festival circuit. We’ve got our fingers crossed for him.
Guy’s work reeks, in the best possible use of that word, of originality. But the concept of originality is something that doesn’t really sit well with Guy himself. “I really believe chasing originality can be an incredibly dangerous thing to do,” he reflects. “I’ve been paralysed from making things because it’s not ‘new enough’ or groundbreaking, and it’s a horrible feeling.
“I think originality happens when you put a new combination of those stolen ideas together to make something new, but I’d never call myself original. I think anybody who did would be lying.”
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