Alan Melikdjanian is a Latvian-born independent filmmaker. He is the founder of Amelik Entertainment, LLC, a South Florida-based video production company specializing in unique and inventive films, web series, commercials and music videos.
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I've been making videos on my channel (http://www.youtube.com/CaptainDisillusion) since 2007. They've crawled up to the Reddit front page a couple of times (thanks!). Recently, Patreon has made it possible for me to turn the production of Captain D into a full-time job. Just barely.
I like filmmaking, visual effects, animation, science and skepticism. And challenging as it is, I love making the series monthly. Sometimes I get things a little wrong, and sometimes I'm not funny in the way I intended to be, but I always learn as a result. I'd like to continue making the show bigger and better, faster and hotter.
If you want to help out or are interested in getting a behind-the-scenes peek at the process, consider patronizing here: http://www.patreon.com/CaptainDisillusion
Also, someone has made a Captain D subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/CaptainDisillusion/
I don't run it, but check it once in a while. Could be a good place to submit potential videos for me to examine in future episodes!
My totally not-photoshopped proof: https://twitter.com/CDisillusion/status/881705776905105408
Have you been "threatened" by any producers etc for any of your work?
Never. Not yet, anyway. I like to think most people who make stuff for public consumption understand that it may be praised, criticized or adopted into other derivative creative works. I try to be fair, good-humored and inventive about the way I present the subject in a video. It's as much an expression of admiration as it is a "debunk".
What video were you surprised to learn was actually real?
Most recently, that water slide clip where the guy zooms all the way to the edge of the pool and steps out. That looked so crazy, I studied it in every way I could think of and couldn't find anything substantially suspicious. Then someone posted a different video of a different person doing the exact same stunt from a slightly different angle. Now I kinda want to go to that resort in Jamaica and try it myself.... WAIT A MINUTE. I'VE BEEN PLAYED!
Love your content! I absolutely adore all the details in your videos, so my question is which subtle visual effect in one of your videos was the most complicated?
This is a great question and I really wish I could remember the answer because whenever I'm working on the effects, I'm thinking "this is the hardest thing I've ever had to devise and no one will even notice this part". At the moment, all I remember is in the most recent video, when I talk about the trick with the color-changing ukulele, I needed to actually change its color. But I couldn't do it via color-correction because the YouTube video was way too compressed to do it cleanly. So I ended up hand-rotoscoping the ukulele and EACH STRING throughout the shot. What am I doing with my life?
What started the idea of your... Get-up? The yellow jacket, sweatpants and silver makeup ?
Also, thanks for one of the greatest lines in YouTube history:
>Give me black my son!
I literally just picked random items I had laying around. I got the silver makeup prior to that, not knowing how I would use it. I think I found it was too complicated to make all of me silver so just settled on the bottom half of face. I tries to make a perfect black separation line, but it came out messy, so I added some dripping streaks to hide it.
Any updates on the Cicrit Bracelet?
Not yet. GIVE THEM A CHANCE, MAN.
Have you ever thought of re-uploading some of your older videos? I've gone through them all and they're great but it's painful nowadays to watch a 240p video on a 4K screen. Do you have the original files in higher quality?
The earliest, awkwardest videos were shot in SD and exist in only slightly higher quality than what's on YouTube. I feel it wouldn't be much of an improvement to re-upload them. But a few years ago, I put them on a DVD that you can get on m'website... (not trying to push merch)
Do you have any other favorite Skeptic YouTube channels? Anyone in particular you admire or look up to (skeptic or otherwise)?
This makes me feel like I'm having to list thank-yous in an Oscar speech in 30 secs. I... er.. I mean, Vsause of course, I enjoy the various Brady Haran-produced science serieseseses. Skeptics' Guide are consistently great. George Hrab is not often active on YouTube but I listen to his podcast every week. I like Julia Galef's YouTube videos because they make me feel intellectually minuscule in 3-5 min chunks. There are quite a few others - I'll have to get back to this when I think of them!
To get my gushing out of the way, I'm a huge fan and have been for a little over a year. I plan on showing my daughter your videos when she's a bit older as an introduction to skepticism. You have some seriously incredible content, thank you for producing it!
I have a few questions.
-What do you immediately look for that makes a video suspicious?
-What are some YouTubers you enjoy watching?
-Any plans to work with James Randi again?
-Finally, and absolutely most crucially, what exactly did Captain say to poor Alan in that Skype call at the start of "Amazing Feats of YouTube Debunkery?"
-I just took a stab at answering that somewhere above
-I'd love to work with James Randi again. I do not meet him often. Whenever I do, I always assume he won't remember me, but he raises his hand in a mock salute and says, "Captain."
-I'm afraid it's too vulgar for the Internet.
Hey Captain! I've been a huge fan for a while, I've watched every one of your videos, many of which more than once.
There are many people who believe that your channel would be even more popular if you abandoned the Captain D character, but left literally every other aspect of your videos exactly the same. They feel like the facepaint is a little strange, that it might be a little off-putting for new viewers, and it can be harder to get people addicted to your videos.
Personally, I've gotten past the initial weirdness of it and I've fully embraced the character. I would never suggest that a creator change their content to maximize views, subscribers, etc., nor should you if you don't want to. But I think these opinions might actually be accurate, even if it's something you'd never consider doing. So, my question is: What would you say to someone who thinks that abandoning the character would be better for your channel? Do you agree with that assessment? Would you ever even consider doing that?
Thanks! I don't know the answer to this. I made up the format and the crazy look both to stand out on YouTube, but ALSO because it jolts me into being creative and interesting and feeling like I know what I'm doing. There are many YouTube channels (and YouTube EMPIRES) I like where charming people casually chat on camera about interesting stuff. And that's great! But I don't think I don't think I'm capable of doing that genre well myself. If anything, I'm more interested in taking the series in a more stylized direction of having other whimsical characters and space adventures. I might never make it into the top 10 most popular channels of all time, but I'll thoroughly enjoy myself.
Hey Cap! How did you get started doing what you do? I saw the video about your early film projects and now I'm curious as to how you migrated towards Youtube as a content platform.
Also, I'm curious as to the origin of your sign-off phrase "love with your heart; use your head for everything else." Did you come up with that, or did you get it from somewhere else?
Love your stuff; keep it coming!
I always liked filmmaking. In high school I was in a TV production class. In college I majored in film production. I made a few short films throughout that time and then went on to work in various freelance capacities - filming, editing, doing effects on - small and slightly less small. YouTube seemed like a fun way to be creative so I tried it. But I continued to work as a freelancer for years.
As far as I know, I made up the catchphrase. The script of the very first episode was originally a sarcastic blog post on MySpace and that's how I ended the post. It just kind of popped into my head.
What is the greatest thing you wanted to debunk SO badly that it genuinely made you upset?
I don't tackle world-changing issues so I kind of look at it more from a fun angle and don't get too hung up on "spreading the truth". I think of it more as puzzle solving and try to enjoy the process. I do recall getting very excited while working on the Miss Ping episode. I just had such fun details to explain!
I've been a long time watcher, so of course I'm naturally skeptic of what I see on camera. That being said, are you made of flesh and encase your lower face in metal, or are you made of metal and cover the top half of your head in flesh?
Tsk tsk... This was pointedly addressed in two different videos... you must watch even more!
Just wanted to say, I saw your video on a post yesterday and instantly went through tens of videos of yours. I love your content and it's easily the best OC I've seen on youtube. I love how educational it is and your sense of humor. I'm flabbergasted by how much I didn't know on all those viral videos I see shared. You have a fan for life Captain
Did you learn all of your film tricks in your now non existent school or did you learn your skills afterwards? Any professional experience or all self taught?
Thanks! Film school was good for learning the teamwork aspect of making movies/videos. But I would say most of the skills I use for Captain Disillusion I learned subsequently over the years. I have worked as a freelance camera operator, editor and visual effects artist.
Hey Captain D! Big fan of your work, I'm actually in the middle of another marathon of your videos lol.
My question is: What made you decide to create your Captain Disillusion videos?
I know its been acknowledged in the video comments before that its really impressive how complete the Captain Disillusion character and layout seemed from the very first video. While you have added to the background of the character and more story elements, most of your show details have been there since the beginning.
Thanks for your time! :)
Thanks. I think it might just be my own stubborn unwillingness to change things :) I picked an outfit and a corner of a room and I kept filming it until the audience relented and started saying to themselves, "Ok, maybe there's something to this. Otherwise, this guy is just crazy."
Any funny behind the scenes stories?
Most of the time it's just me trying to get a cohesive sentence out over the course of 12 takes, so the atmosphere is pretty boring. But the times when I have guests is really fun. Paul Zaloom (Beakman) kept making us laugh throughout the day. Erica Linz, the Cirque acrobat actually demonstrated the stunt she refuses to do in the episode, as a bonus video for us. When I film with Lauren, who plays Holly, it's just a non-stop litany of bickering and making fun of each other's performance.
Do you ever get disillusioned (ha!) that no matter how many times you go over a topic, people seem to ask the same questions and are tricked by the same tricks over and over again?
Yeah, sometimes. But it's usually easy enough just post a link to an existing video. What frustrates me sometimes is how the more detail I explain about something, the more things people point out that I didn't mention (even if it was a purposeful editorial choice). It's like, "the debunk of the gaps."
Hi Captain D, thanks for doing this!
I've always wanted to ask you this question but never got the chance, about how many hours do you spend on each part of making a video?
I spend an embarrassingly long amount of time just researching and writing the script of a video - sometimes nearly 2 weeks. Filming usually takes half a day, sometimes a full day, occasionally a couple of days. Editing, effects and sound design take every last second of whatever time remains in the month after all of the above.
How do you feel that given you've been doing this for years, that people just recently started to start recognize your work?
OUTSIDERS! HISSSSSS! No, it's great, of course. I'm really happy about it and I hope it continues. It inspires me to make better stuff.
What first made you interested in debunking stuff? How long have you been involved in the skeptic community?
I enjoyed making-of programs and science shows like Beakman's World and Bill Nye the Science Guy as a kid. Later I enjoyed shows like Penn & Teller's Bullshit. I think I started looking up some of the people featured on that online, including James Randi. When I was figuring out what to do on YouTube, I thought a skeptical approach with a dash of sarcasm would be fun. Then one day James Randi CALLED ME ON THE PHONE and said he likes my videos.
Do you ever plan on doing more story based content? You're a really funny guy and I think the "Undebunkable" is one of my favorite episodes. I feel like you could write/direct something really clever.
Thank you and yes, I am interested in doing this very thing. I enjoy explaining stuff, but I also love telling stories. I feel like my content is 70% former, 30% latter. I'd like to bring it closer to 50/50.
What's your least favourite video you've done? Do you have a favourite?
Ha, I'm the type of person who doesn't like their own work after it's done. When I post a new video, I watch it over and over for a day. Then I avoid watching it ever again. Some of the very early videos kind of make me cringe. A few hold up pretty well. I suppose I'm most proud of the Beakman episode as a whole.
Hi, Captain! Two things:
who's that Alan guy who gave your presentation in your place at QED? He looks a lot like a more awkward and more pink-skinned version of you. Is he an awkward person generally or was that just a bit of stage fright? And if yes, is his awkwardness part of the reason why the show is hosted by a chrome-faced hero?
I see that you're a Patreon supporter of RedLetterMedia. I think they have quite a bit in common with you, aside from the snark: you're both independent creators who have found a niche audience who admires and shares your passion. Some people (like me) see this kind of content as the future of entertainment, just because the traditional gatekeepers (TV, mostly) can't keep up with the demands of its audience. Do you feel the same way? In other words, do you think that independent online content is "the future", so to speak? And related to that: does the way you see your position in "the grand scheme of things" of entertainment affect your creative decision-making process?
The nervousness was an act, but I am informed daily that I did it TOO well and for too long. In my next presentation, either I or Alan are going to impersonate the the Fonze.
I think RLM are brilliant and the original Mr. Plinkett Star Wars reviews changed the way long-form movie reviews are done online.
I think traditional television and the best of web series are converging somewhere in the middle to form the future of entertainment. And it's called Netflix.
When I make my videos, I tend to put them through a mental checklist, something like:
• Do I like this?
• Will an average YouTube viewer be able to tolerate this all the way to the end?
• Is this going to be in any way relevant a week/month/year from now?
• Does this meet TV broadcast technical standards?
And I do my best to check all the boxes.
You've been debunking internet videos for years as Captain Disillusion. How have you managed to stay so consistent in your humor and style for all this time?
Well, I do my best to constantly improve. If I appear consistent, then I am failing. You have depressed me :)
How do you achieved your colab with Beakman?
One day I remembered how cool the show was and was just browsing clips of it online. Then I found out that the actor, Paul Zaloom, still does appearances as the character in live shows for kids. I contacted him and after a while he got back to me, checked out my videos and agreed to do it. It took a few months after that to come up with the idea, write the script and arrange everything. It was quite and experience!
First of all, I want to let you know that I am an enormous fan of your work and have seen every video at least 4 times!
My question: What as been your favorite video to make and why? Was it one where you used more effects or did a hoax interest you more than others!
All the best! :)
Thank you very much. Some of my videos end up being in slightly different categories from each other so it's hard to choose. In terms of just a technical breakdown of VFX, I kind of like 'Miss Ping Debunk' and 'Brusspup Outgeeked'. In terms of examining a product claim, I'm pretty proud of the 'Cicret Bracelet Debunk'. And as an overall edu-tainment achievement, I'm very happy that I was able to get away with making the 'Beakmallusion' episode.