Alfie Deyes and Marcus Butler who?

Pepe Diokno (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - You either know them or you don’t, but to a certain set of people, Alfie Deyes and Marcus Butler are two of the world’s biggest stars. They are YouTube creators — purveyors of silly online videos or voices of a generation, depending on your leanings — and each of them has over four million subscribers.

Last week, they tweeted a photo of themselves on an airplane, with the caption, “See you in 12 hours, Singapore!” Hours later, a crowd of 300 screaming kids showed up at Changi Airport waiting to meet them. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of new media — that two guys can, with a push of a button, incite young Singaporeans to public demonstration.

Alfie and Marcus came to the city-state to attend the Singapore Media Festival, a massive government undertaking aimed at positioning the country as the heart of media in the region. The film and TV events of the festival were attended by the likes of David Beckham, Michelle Yeoh, and our very own Michael V, but it was Alfie and Marcus’ appearance on the afternoon of Dec. 4 that filled an entire hall at the Suntec City Convention Center.

After spending two hours meeting with fans — some of them shaken and crying — we sat down with them backstage to get to know who they really are behind the screens.

SUPREME: There’s been a debate about “YouTube culture” and the act of idolizing social media stars like you guys. What are your thoughts?

ALFIE DEYES (AD): I don’t know if idolize is the right word, but — young people look up to YouTubers while some disagree and say that shouldn’t be the case; that we just make silly videos. I promote, and I always try to, such positive messages of, like, doing what makes you happy in life, working really hard. So if somebody wants to say they look up to me — and it does happen; people say, “Aww, you’re my idol.” — I don’t take it, thinking, “Oh, I’m so good!”, but I take it saying, “That’s amazing. Hopefully, they’re going to listen to the things that I try and preach.”

Fans do treat you like pop stars, though.

AD: We film our lives. We’re not acting or anything. Viewers do literally know us — they know me more than any of my friends will. So the fans, they get excited but after a couple of minutes of talking to them, it’s just like they're friends —

MB: Like a normal conversation.

Alfie and Marcus’ talk at the Digital Matters conference filled an entire hall of screaming and crying fans at the Suntec City Convention Center on Dec. 4.

AD: People forget that we live very, very normal lives. It’s not like this every day. We’ll go back home tomorrow and I’ll just be at home with my girlfriend and taking my dog out for a walk and having lunch and doing normal things. And then there’ll be moments where I’ll be walking and see a Madam Tussaud’s wax figure of me or be at the airport and have a hundred people waiting. It’s crazy.

Is there a special skill set that YouTubers have?

AD: I think it’s just that YouTubers are people who have been able to turn it into their full-time job. It looks like we’re just making silly little videos at home, and that’s literally what we do. But there’s so much stuff behind the scenes.

Do you keep to a schedule?

MB: Yeah. It’s not like we wake up and think, “Oh I have to be in the office nine till five.” We work whenever we want and often I probably work like, 10, 11, 12 hours per day. I find it sometimes hard to switch off from working and go on like, chill mode.

AD: I recently got an office. Me and my girlfriend had an office back home but I was just like, “Woah, I haven’t even seen my girlfriend outside of work for like two weeks. We haven’t even just hung out. I’m just working all day.” So, I got an office out of home just so I can mentally go to work and leave work.

Do you plan what you’re going to do?

MB: No, it’s completely, like, whatever you want to do at that time.  If I was gonna go, “Today, I’m gonna plan 10 videos,” I’d lose my creativeness. It’d be forcing it.

Andy Warhol once said that everybody will have 15 minutes of fame. Do you think of longevity?

AD: I didn’t start out to do this to be popular. I didn’t come in like, “I’m going to do everything I can to be as famous as possible!” Not at all.

MB: Say next year, no one watches our videos, it would still be a life experience. In 20 years, I’ll go, “Do you remember when we did these crazy things and people cared who we were? That was funny, wasn’t it? Mad.” That’s how I look at that.


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