The newest member of Nerdist’s ever-growing Nerdist Alliance, a collective of creative people making content on the internet, is Sneaky Zebra, a YouTube channel which makes quality geek programming, parody films, and Cosplay music videos. The channel is operated by Nick Alcott and Gary Scullion, two very creative cats from the UK who have put their passion for creating films together with their love of humor and reference to form a truly unique YouTube experience. We spoke to the Sneaky Zebras to get a better picture of their history, present, and future.
NERDIST: When did you guys meet and start making videos?
NICK ACOTT: We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. We met at school through studying music and some mutual friends and got to know each other after spending way too much time playing N64.
GARY SCULLION: I started making videos back in 2006, terrible little fan films, that I would drag my friends into. and then in 2007 I went to Film School, where I learned first that I was doing everything wrong and second how to do things right! And after leaving there I tried to make more film, and fortunately Nick outlasted everyone else in my pestering to keep people helping make them.
NA: After that we got an opportunity to be YouTube partners, and in late 2010, Sneaky Zebra was born.
N: You certainly don’t just make parody videos or just make music videos; you’ve got a lot of variety to your work. Was that something conscious when you started or did it come about naturally as a function of making more and more things?
GS: That’s always been a very conscious thing, at least for me. I never want to be the guys that you can put into just one box. With YouTube I think you have to be flexible and original with what you do and always keep your audience guessing at what’s coming next.
NA: We love making new content and quite a few of our friends where cosplayers, we’d seen some of the awesome people make other cosplay music videos and not really anyone in the UK doing it, so we got ourselves a flycam and added our own little style to them. We’ve got so many ideas floating around short films or parodies to make, and it’s all stuff we’re fans of or think will be entertaining; there’s no real agenda set out just yet, it’s just whatever we can manage to make next with our resources.
N: What do you each find is your favorite part of making the videos? Is it the writing, the performing, the directing, the editing, etc?
NA: I love coming up with ideas and directing on the day. We pretty much do a bit of this each, so we just try to have fun with it. Performing, not so much, but we’re no actors, so I always cringe a little when I hear myself on screen. Gary does all the post production, so I get to sit and watch him work his magic and polish some of my dodgy camerawork.
GS: I work as an Assistant Editor/Editor, so I guess I naturally gravitate towards post, but with these videos, I have a lot of fun with writing stuff and the production side of directing, shooting and occasionally acting! Mainly, as you’re making stuff a lot of the time that a studio or production company wouldn’t, my logic is, if no one else is gonna let me edit a film where Thor’s Hammer goes up against a lightsaber, then we just have to make it ourselves!
N: You’ve done quite a lot of Star Wars-themed videos; what is it about the franchise that you guys like, why do you think it’s endured for so long, and why is it so fun to make videos about?
GS: I grew up on Star Wars, I’ve sat through the saga back-to-back, walked home 4 hours just to see midnight screening of Episode 3. It’s been a cornerstone of why I wanted to work in film from a child, and it’s become the go-to when I try and come up with a parody.
NA: Star Wars is just the ultimate geek fandom! And love every part of it from the original films, to the games and the Clone Wars series. It’s that little bit easier to come up with ideas when you’re a fan of the franchise. One thing that’s awesome is just how many fans there are – makes telling the jokes a little easier when we have like-minded friends and our subscribers agree with what we’re saying. We can’t wait for the new films to be able to get some more ideas!
GS: It’s kind of a universal cornerstone of entertainment, it’s something that crosses outside geekdom into the main stream. I have friends who have no idea who the captain of the Enterprise is (It’s James Tiberius Kirk, by the way), but can name all the main characters of George Lucas creations.
N: Are there any films/games/genres you’ve wanted to dive into that you haven’t yet?
NA: There are soooo many! We’ve got a few ideas of certain games but its tricky to pull off our ideas on our budget. Genre-wise, we are working on a Doctor Who project, which we’re very excited about (being huge fans and British, of course!)
GS: Bioshock is a recent thing we’ve been throwing around, but it’s a big ambitious universe to step into! Being big fans of the Marvel films, I think we’d love to delve into some of the unseen characters of that universe.
N: The parody videos you do are extremely accurate to the source material. The look and sound (and effects!) of everything is so spot-on; how important is it to you to have “truth in comedy,” as it were?
NA: I think it helps sell the jokes a lot. The closer we can get it to the source material, the better, or if it enables us to chuck in a few extra little one line jokes, it all helps. We’ve been very lucky to know some awesome look-alikes for some of our videos.
GS: I think the big thing for me is, as a fan of the stuff we parody, I think, what would I want to see, I think when it comes to it you have to get as close to the source material as possible, the closer to the film the more your audience can engage with the video.
N: What are some videos that you’ve done that you feel best represents Sneaky Zebra, for people who are coming in fresh?
NA: I think Prop Wars is our flagship video – it sums up our geekiness in one go. Very proud of our cosplay music videos, such as the last one at MCM Expo that really shows off how awesome the cosplay scene is in the UK.
Check out all of Sneaky Zebra’s filmmaking prowess by subscribing to their channel.