The Shaffer Boys
THE SHAFFER BOYS
The Shaffer Boys are a comedy quad who seem to have cracked the code for making viral videos. We sat down with them at 101 Cafe to chat about their process and didn’t stop laughing until we left. They’re hilarious guys and talented filmmakers, and anyone who lists 21 Jump Street as a creative inspiration is immediately okay in our book. Shout out to the Jonah Hill poster hanging in our living room!
Jake Collins and Zane Schwartz met in high school and both attended Chapman University’s film school Dodge College, where they met Daniel Burke and Parker Friedrich [not pictured]. Comedic chemistry ensued and the foursome teamed up to form the comedy group The Shaffer Boys. Their moniker is named after the street they live on in college, where they come up with most of their ridiculous ideas.
[Jake] “We’re real deadline-huggers. Our most creative stuff seems to happen out of necessity. I work well under pressure, otherwise I get too much time to think and it makes it harder to make decisions. But once we get in our groove we sit around on couches with a laptop open typing down ideas, and just bounce things off each other - like a lil best friend pinball.”
Making the videos is a four way effort; however, traditionally Zane is in charge of the cinematography, Jake and Parker organize and act, and Daniel directs. [Jake] “But we’re all actors. We’re all creatives, I suppose that’s a good way to put it.”
Although their videos are hilarious, they don’t feel the pressure to create new ones every week like most other YouTube channels. They would rather focus on putting out quality videos they can invest time and effort into. Additionally, their less defined schedule has given them more creative freedom regarding the content of their videos. They don’t follow an established format beyond their comedy genre.
Their breakout Slip’n Slide video, which is quickly approaching 500,000 views on YouTube, was created on a whim one afternoon last November. Zane had a day off from shooting a documentary, and they decided to put the already rented camera to use. They were throwing one of their typical slip’n slide parties (something the friends are known for around Chapman University; the parties even have their own Facebook fan page, and their standard sliding tarp is 75 ft long...). They filmed some shots for fun, threw together an edit and laughed about it for 5 months. Zane eventually uploaded the video to YouTube, because why not, and nearly 500k views later, they had a bona fide viral video.
The group previously collaborated with some other Chapman students to make their first viral video, a technically complex narrative piece set to Daft Punk's Get Lucky. The video was featured on on EliteDaily, The Huffington Post, LA List, KTLA, ABC, Gawker and more. The idea, spawned during a hot tub sesh, was created as a way to use Chapman University's annual Undie Run (a school-wide bi-annual lingerie jog through the streets of Orange) to it's full potential.
[Daniel] “We just thought the backdrop of Undie Run had more potential than the ways it had previously been used. Ideas were thrown around; a friend suggested a dubstep video, then we said let’s do it backwards…That was crazy, it was the first video that I’ve been a part of in a key creative role to have blown up.”
Creating a viral video is something at which many make an attempt but few succeed. With that in mind, here are some tips from the Shaffer Boys in your next pursuit.
Secrets to making a viral video:
Length - Make sure it’s not too long, like the Slip’n Slide video, which was under two minutes. [Jake] “Not too long, not too short. We had to cut it as soon as it hits that number 2 before the colon… otherwise it’s too long.”
Reddit - Post your video to Reddit; the group credits posting to the site as a main factor in their virality. [Zane] “I posted Get Lucky at night, and by the next morning it had so many views. I just kept Google searching “Chapman Get Lucky” and articles kept popping up. I started seeing like, Huffington Post writing about it, and then Gawker; it was crazy! We started getting messages asking if they could put it in their TV programs, things like that. That kind of attention is a really cool feeling.”
Your team - Make sure your filmmaking crew works well together and enjoys each other’s company and talents. [Daniel]: “We’ve definitely found that we work well together as a group. We all have complementary talents, and we gel well with each other, that’s really a key thing. Zane wants to shoot movies, Jake’s true calling is in front of the camera, and I just love directing. So it’s a great crew.
Fun - Make sure to enjoy the process. The most important thing, as with any creative endeavor, is if you’re not having fun you should stop doing it. [Daniel] “The main thing is that we’re having fun while we’re working. There’s no point in just making something for Youtube unless you’re going to have fun doing it.”
The Shaffer Boys see creating popular internet content as the future of filmmaking. The Internet is the epicenter of entertainment democracy - that’s where the public is watching videos and deciding to promote or share which short form content they enjoy most. Success on YouTube or Vimeo can potentially be life changing for a filmmaker.
Daniel: It’s definitely the future. I mean, Jimmy Tatro’s is a main character in 22 Jump Street, and he’s from YouTube. Of course, there is a lot of work that happens in between those two steps, from YouTube to features, but it’s a model that’s working. Doing this can open a lot of doors.
When they’re not throwing slip’n slide parties, The Shaffer Boys are staying busy working on new videos and brainstorming more ridiculous ideas. They’re looking forward to what the future has in store for the group, and seeing where their recent success can take them.
[Daniel] “We all work well together and have the diversity to make high-quality content. Having an established group has always been a dream, but these are the first videos that have really worked so successfully, so we’re just taking it one step at a time. But we’ve also toyed around with just burning the channel and uploading our llicit vacation videos to the public, so we’ll see.”
Favorite brunch spot?
Unison: The Broken Yolk Cafe
J: Coke slurpee
D: Ribena from England. It’s like black-currant juice. My dad’s from London so it’s like my second home there.
Z: I’m really into coconut water right now.
P: Pina Coladas
Z: I think Tim and Eric would be hilarious.
J: Will Ferrell is my idol, that’s like my dream, to get to be in a movie with him. I feel like our age difference is such that it probably won’t happen, but anyone like that. Leslie Nielsen would’ve been cool…
P: I would love to work with Wes Anderson someday. He seems like a pretty interesting guy.
D: Nathan Barnatt, he started off doing Youtube, and now he’s branched off into doing commercials and bigger stuff. I’d say Tim and Eric is our collective answer. And Will Ferrell is the dream for all of us. Orrrr maybe Tyler the Creator.
What inspires you creatively?
P: My friends and I have conversations that escalate into us all making fun of eachother until we’re broken down and destroyed and only one emotionally-sound person remains. It really expedites the creative process.
J: I love 21 Jump Street, it’s the type of movie I want to make in the future. Where you can see that the cast is having fun. Like any Will Ferrell movie. Anything with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, all their films are fantastic.
D: This Is The End...
J: That one especially, because they’re all playing themselves. You just know that all these are guys are friends, and they really enjoy what they do. That’s essentially what we want to do. Make something that we care about and have so much fun doing it.
Guilty pleasure music?
P: I’m a big fan of Rupert Holmes.
J: I mean I have my standards - I still love Blink 182, anything pop punk, classic rock, I love Kansas, Motley Cru, I have random eclectic taste - I like songs more than I like artists or genres. I guess Im just kind of guilty that I don’t fit the mainstream while at the same time am not anti-mainstream enough; I’m just very bland.
Z: Yea I don’t have too much weird stuff - I love hip hop, I love trap, I like country, I like mainstream - a lot of different genres. Big fan of alt rock.
D: My guilty pleasure music is K-pop. I love Super Junior. SO much. If I could live any lifestyle to live, it would be being in a Korean boy band. They don’t make any of their songs, it’s all produced for them, and they’re all just best friends. They get to wear super cool clothes, and dance, and all the Korean girls think they’re beautiful... I want that lifestyle. I just want to live that borderline homo-erotic lifestyle 24/7 with me and my cult members. Or any popular music circa 2004. Nelly Furtado. Promiscuous…
Favorite movies or guilty pleasure movies?
P: I get a lot of flak for watching Field of Dreams. Apparently Laserdiscs are “out-of-style.”
D: The movies that I like are not traditionally considered ‘good movies.’ They’re like low-quality comedies that I think are genius. My favorite movie of all time is Kung Pow Enter the Fist, closely followed by Zoolander and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And then Dumb and Dumber, School of Rock, Ace Ventura… but then there’s Drive, and The Breakfast Club and all that too.
Z: I’m a big fan of the Hurt Locker. I really liked the movie The Spectacular Now.
J: My guilty pleasure movie would have to be Final Destination just cause like, it’s so stupid. The plots are the same in every single installment. Other people just hate it, but I love it. I’ve watched all of them so many times.
D: My guilty pleasure movie is The Fast and Furious series as a whole. I watch those movies all the time. And I genuinely love them because they are so dumb.
Haha something that you can just turn your brain off to, right?
D: Well, I’m more turned on by them.
J: Ooo. The Rock? Good to know.
What projects are you working on outside of this group? Long-term goals?
J: We just Slip’n slide all year long.
P: I would either like to be a professional cinematographer or really really super famous. Preferably both.
D: I definitely think it would be the dream to work together for the rest of our lives. Like if I have enough money to just make videos with my friends I would do that for the rest of my life.
J: Just buy a community…
D: A bungalow! That’s my all time dream! I don’t want to go to clubs to buy 30k bottles of wine, I don’t want fancy cars, fancy clothes, whatever, I want to buy a gated community in San Luis Obisbo for me and my friends to live and use as a communal vacation spot. It’s going to be called The Neighborhood. But not the Neighbourhood.
J: Dat block. Dat neighborhood.
[And you know it wouldn’t be a LYKA interview if we ended it before mentioning The Neighbourhood.]