Just as he breaks 100,000 subscribers, TenEighty talks to Tim Hautekiet about Project: Library, maintaining integrity on YouTube, and his plans to move to California.
Tim Hautekiet has always been a bit of a dark horse within the YouTube community. He’s collaborated regularly with YouTubers on theirs and his own projects, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. His own videos have developed from simple, well-thought-out vlogs, to fast-paced sketches, to the dizzying heights of his recent action/comedy series Project: Library. He is also the new voice of Edd, in Edd Gould’s popular animation series Eddsworld, which has been kept alive by Tom Ridgewell since Edd’s passing in 2012.
Yet despite Tim’s prominence, his own brand, audience, and channel have perhaps taken longer to grow than others. “My brand is just basically, ‘it’s going to be made by me and my face will be on it somewhere’,” laughs Tim. “I kind of built up momentum early on, when I decided to upload a video once every week, but then I slowed down. I realised to create really good videos you need more time, and you need to be able to develop every idea well.
“To some degree, you could put where I’m at with my audience down to the fact I haven’t been particularly consistent on YouTube.” Nonetheless, the pace of his channel’s growth hasn’t hindered Tim, but helped: as he breaks 100,000 subscribers, Tim truly feels like he’s earned it. “When I upload a video now, the comments that I get on most videos are ‘you’re underrated, you deserve much more’, and I’d have that any day over ‘you got luck this one time’, or ‘you just collaborated with the right person’,” he says. “I’d endlessly prefer being that little niche person.”
Tim keeps himself grounded, by reminding himself that YouTube isn’t the be-all and end-all. “By which, I’m not saying that I ever imagine moving on from it, or leaving it behind completely,” he says, “but I’m doing my best not to value what I’m doing based on numbers. As hard as that can be.”
Aware of who he is and what he represents, it’s clear that Tim has a certain amount of integrity that keeps him in check. This can be difficult to maintain, however, especially considering how easily most YouTubers become consumed by their numbers, and often make easy fan-pleasing videos. “There’s an ego that kind of stops me doing those kind of things, oddly,” reflects Tim. “It’s not necessarily an ego that comes from numbers, either. I guess you could describe it as pretentiousness, and where that comes from, I can’t necessarily say. It’s not out of any contempt for people who do.”
“I want to do things that creatively excite me, I want to do things that feel like I’m pushing myself…”
For Tim, it’s about creativity, and making himself better at his medium, whether it’s his ideas or his skills. “I want to do things that creatively excite me, I want to do things that feel like I’m pushing myself,” he explains. “I feel like I’m a competent video editor, a competent director; I can make something of quality, whereas I can’t necessarily guarantee millions of views.”
His biggest and boldest concept to date was Project: Library, a comedy action series about a man who owes a library £1,000,000, which Tim reveals was conceptualised three years before it was made. “It was this concept, with characters we all knew as friends. We’d quote it to each other, in real life, before we’d even made it. We had a Troy voice, before there even was an actor to play him.”
One of the main hurdles that delayed Project: Library early on was finding funding. “I had a few failed attempts to get it funded,” he says. “The year before, I had a meeting with a company in LA, and at the time I was very inexperienced with meetings, so I brought Tom Ridgewell along to ask the hard questions. Tom basically said ‘no, don’t go with them, they’re going to give you a really bad deal’.
“Then there were various small pitches to companies over here,” he continues. “There was a point where I just decided I’m gunna make it regardless of whether or not we get funded. Now I don’t recommend this approach, because it was reckless as all hell, but it did get it made!”
Two weeks into production, The Multiverse at ChannelFlip came on board, giving the project a much-needed boost, but there were still hiccups along the way. “Locations fell through,” he explains, “sometimes people at said location didn’t know we were coming! So we’d be there, in their office, with all the lights and equipment, having moved all their stuff around, and they’d walk in and go ‘what the hell!’
“We also had to get it done by the end of summer, that was the deadline,” he continues. “If anything, half the crew were students or were about to go into new jobs, so we couldn’t have production run on until December.”
Despite all this, they pulled it off, delivering an action-packed four-part series which Tim looks back fondly on. “Project: Library was a massive undertaking, but one I don’t regret. One that I was in many ways unprepared for, too,” he says. “I think it takes a lot of goodwill and a certain amount of ignorance. Which is an important amount of ignorance. You need to have a part of your brain that, perhaps slightly incorrectly, says, ‘I can do this’. Otherwise you won’t do it, you won’t push yourself.”
“Any project the scale of Project: Library is like being on drugs for six months…”
Unfortunately, since the series, Tim experienced writer’s block, which started to affect his day-to-day life. “The only way I can describe any film project of the same scale as Project: Library is like you’re on drugs for six months,” he says. “You’re in sixth gear, and then suddenly slam down on the brakes, very hard, when it’s over. You hit the dash, and it takes you a while to realise that you’re not okay.
“I wasn’t in the best place,” he explains. “I couldn’t come up with anything new, and I kind of didn’t want to. I was very self-critical. You’re in that vicious circle of negativity, and you can’t seem to shake it.”
Tim addressed the issue in a recent video, Creative Crisis, which Tim believes has helped him overcome it. “Sometimes it can be quite cathartic to make a video about what you happen to be going through,” he says. “Doing something truthful like that, your audience can sense that it’s real, and you know that it’s real, because you’re going through it. You’re not really worried about ripping someone else off, because it’s coming from such a personal space.”
Back on the right track, Tim has a wealth of concepts waiting to be developed, but it’s all about picking the right time to execute them. “Onwards and upwards, but not necessarily in scale,” he says. “Whatever it is, I have to be pushing myself in some way, whether that’s creatively, or with production.
“There’s such a thing as the momentum of a project, the energy of it,” he continues. “We’ve currently got lighting in a bottle, so let’s go for it. Not to say that you should do everything spontaneously, just sometimes you’ve got to chase and follow that feeling.”
No doubt, Tim’s projects are likely to become more striking and profound over the next two years, thanks to him being accepted on Peter Stark’s Producing Programme at the University of Southern California. “It’s a rather well respected and competitive school, but I figured why not?” says Tim. “Applying seemed like a long shot at the time, but I’m a big fan of trying everything and seeing what sticks. Seems like this one stuck!”
The course is a two-year master’s degree, which is divided into traditional lectures, part-time jobs, internships and other work experience, but it also means Tim will be uprooting and moving to the USA. “I’m excited and terrified,” he says. “I love moving to new places and experiencing new things, but naturally it’s a little daunting to pack up everything and leave.
“I’m excited to be in a new place, to learn about new cultures and make films in different environments,” he continues. “But I am fearful of losing touch with friends from home. Naturally, I’m going to lose my immediate crew of people, so making sketches will be harder, at least at first. But you never know. I honestly can’t predict this one.”
One thing that could take a hit is his working friendship with Jack Howard, but Tim is confident it won’t. “Our friendship has endured worse challenges and somehow we’ve made it work,” he says. “Jack and I were friends while he lived in Nottingham and I lived in Belgium, then we remained friends while he lived in Lincoln and I lived in London.
“We’ve always run things by each other, but I usually tell him my ideas in person,” he continues. “He’ll instantly get excited and start pitching things he’d add to it. And then very organically, it’s like ‘you should play this character!’ I’ve even read Jack and Dean scripts and critiqued them. We’re often involved, even when we’re not involved.”
At this momentous turning point in Tim’s career, having completed his first epic series and a few months off moving to America to hone his filmmaking skills, it’s fitting that he’s about to break 100,000 subscribers. “It’s obviously insane,” he says. “I try not to worry about numbers, but I feel like milestones hit it home.
“Like, fuck man, that’s 100,000 people, I couldn’t fit them in this room. And they’ve all seen my stupid videos,” Tim gleams. “I do my best to remind myself it is an accomplishment, and remind myself to be grateful for it. I could be in a position where no one’s listening, but they are, and that’s incredible.”