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If you're a fan of anything Harry Potter, you may have caught wind of the "Dark Lord Funk" video that's been going around social media the past week. A parody on the song “Uptown Funk” featuring Lord Voldemort in the Bruno Mars role, the song quickly gained popularity and turned viral within 48 hours of making it online. Not only is it nearing six million views as of this article, nearly the entire Harry Potter cast seems to have watched it, even drawing a reaction from author J.K. Rowling on Twitter. Today we talk with local filmmaker Keith Allen, the locally-based founder of the KFaceTV channel on YouTube that created the video, to discuss his career and sudden internet fame.
Gavin: Hey Keith, first off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Keith: I'm a 29-year-old living in Provo with an engineering degree and a love of making fun videos. I grew up in Palo Alto, California, but came out to Utah for school. I graduated in 2010 from BYU with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and worked in that field for two and a half years. But during that time I kept getting the itch to make my own videos for YouTube, since I had a lot of ideas.
Gavin: What first got you interested in filmmaking and what were some early influences on you?
Keith: I've always loved movies and films growing up, and it was a dream of mine as a young person, to become a film actor. I used to get excited about the Behind-the-scenes features on DVD's so that I could see how all these movies were made and what the actors were doing. I started making fun music videos on my little point-n-shoot pocket camera, and then moved my way up to better equipment. I had the idea for "Talk Nerdy to Me" a year ago, decided to make it a legit production, and the rest is history!
Gavin: You're originally from California, what brought you to Utah and how have you enjoyed living here?
Keith: I came out to Utah for college, and I actually like it here. It's beautiful and has almost any scenery I need for filming.
Gavin: What would you say was the catalyst that got you started filming here, and what were some of the projects you started with?
Keith: As a lifeguard supervisor, I used to make fun lip-sync music videos with my lifeguards, and then put them up on YouTube so they could all see them. I just kept making videos after that, trying to bring my ideas to life. They just kept getting bigger and bigger, to what you see now.
Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local film community at that time and getting to know everyone involved with it?
Keith: One big thing I've learned from all of this is that breaking into the film scene is achieved mostly by getting things done. A lot of filters are idea guys or equipment junkies. A lot of them learn about the craft and the rules, but don't actually go out do it themselves. They wait for big projects or features. I just loved doing it myself, so I would make my own videos/films. And they were terrible at first. But you learn from every project and get better.
Gavin: When did you decide to start your own YouTube channel, and why YouTube rather than your own website?
Keith: I had made a couple other music videos and such for fun over the years, and YouTube is just a solid platform to show anybody your work. At first it was all for fun, but once my productions got better, I decided to make a more legit channel for my big videos. I started it with "Talk Nerdy To Me" since that was the first one I really put a lot into, production-wise. Luckily, it took off.
Gavin: What made you decide to go more toward geek/nerd parody songs for the content?
Keith: Being a pretty big nerd/geek myself, that's the world I'm most familiar with. I've got an engineering degree, I saw the first Lord of the Rings film 7 times in theaters. I play video games, love Batman, and I've read Harry Potter all the way through several times. Yes, I dress up for midnight premieres of the movies. So, making these kinds of videos came naturally for me.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new video, from the initial idea to filming and execution?
Keith: Usually the song will just click with a topic in my head. That's how it's worked for all my successful videos. Once I have a topic I know will work with a song, I can get the lyrics down in a day because it just flows if the topic fits. "Dark Lord Funk" was written in one afternoon when I realized that if I put a "Don't" in front of the original lyrics "Say my name, you know who I am" from Uptown Funk, then it'd be like Voldemort saying "Don't say my name, you know who I am!" From there, the rest of the lyrics just took some tweaking to fit the story, and play along with Voldemort's pride.
Gavin: The first video you had that really took off was “Talk Nerdy To Me.” What was it like making that and then eventually watching it pass the one-million views marker?
Keith: "Talk Nerdy To Me" was my first real attempt at making something big and good. I recruited my friend Keith, who's an amazing singer, and we recorded the vocals in my room. I got as many people with costumes to show up for the shoot and got some dancer friends to choreograph something for the chorus part. I had a vision of all these costumes and locations, and topics, and then brought that to life with the help of some awesome friends. In my head, the topic clicked with the song, so I tried to put a lot into the video to make it special. Not just something shot on an iPhone in a backyard. After working on it hard for two months, it was finally ready to be put up on YouTube. I felt good about it, but didn't expect it to really go viral. Then it did! it had 500,000 views in a week. It took about a month to get over 1 Million, but that was a really amazing time, especially because George Takei posted it on Facebook. After that, I knew my ideas could work for YouTube, and so I kept making more. "Dark Lord Funk" came to me in December 2014, or at least the initial idea for it.
Gavin: The big video that that's put you on the national stage has been the "Dark Lord Funk" video, and a lot of work went into making that particular video. How did the idea for the song come about?
Keith: "Dark Lord Funk" came about because Andrew Carver, a friend, and fellow student, wanted to get some people together to make a parody video. This was around October 2014, and they liked this new song called "Uptown Funk." It hadn't blown up yet, so we got lucky with that. But after a while, their group kind of died down for making the video, but I was looking to do a Harry Potter parody for my channel. Originally I was thinking of doing "Hogwarts Funk," but there wasn't any good angle for that. I couldn't get any good lyrics down for that idea. Once I realized it could be Voldemort singing the song, it was easy to write it. I called my buddy Elijah up to see if he wanted to be the Dark Lord in the video since he can sing really well. Elijah was definitely in, so it was just a matter of getting everyone else involved that we needed. Marcus and I had worked on another shoot together, so I recruited him to help shoot this for me, and help with the music. He made it look and sound really nice. Once the team was ready to go, we started building on our ideas, getting the Harry Potter newspaper in there, and a live snake, and the sorting hat, and all the other craziness that's in the video. A lot of people donated their time to make this, and I'm so grateful for that since it all came out of my own pocket. I didn't have a budget, I was just hoping that it'd do well. We were also lucky enough to get the locations for free. So many small things fell into place to make this video the best one that I've done thus far.
Gavin: Once the track was done, how challenging was it filming what's kind of shot-for-shot remake of the original?
Keith: The music actually took longer than filming. But getting everything ready to film took weeks as well. Finding all the locations, and having them be available at the same time that my cast of 10-15 were also available proved to be very challenging. We had to push the shoot back several times because people kept having scheduling conflicts. Rounding up costumes and good makeup was its own challenge as well. The music took about a month, since we re-made the track ourselves, changed it up, and got solid vocals in there. Quality takes time!
Gavin: How was it for you watching the views pour in and just take off online?
Keith: Watching the video take off was really humbling and overwhelming. Saturday night, March 21, we were all sitting around with most of the video edited, just looking at each other and laughing because we knew we had something special with this vid. We thought it could do well, but we did not expect it to BLOW UP like it did. Honestly, trending on Facebook, front page of Youtube, and J.K. Rowling herself seeing it, those were all dreams last week. And now that's exactly what happened. It's so exciting to see how people have connected with the video.
Gavin: The video has been seen by most of the Harry Potter cast, and as you said, J.K. Rowling even tweeted about it. How does it feel to see that kind of recognition from the very people you were inspired by?
Keith: I think I might actually frame that tweet by J.K. Rowling. Ha! I struggle with confidence sometimes, so having her say that really helps me remember that yes, sometimes my ideas don't suck and maybe I can achieve great things if I actually try. I appreciate so much the time she took to see my five minutes of work, and make a compliment about it. Ha ha.
Gavin: Now that you're in a position to have a much wider audience, what are your plans for a follow-up video?
Keith: I want to put out quality work, that's one of my main goals for YouTube. Since I'm a brand, I want people to know me for my awesome, high-quality videos. Not just pumping out crap every week to get out more videos. I've got a lot of different video ideas, that all fall under the geek/nerd realm, so I'll be doing those, and then also doing big parodies every couple of months.
Gavin: With all the possibilities you could take, what do you hope to do with the channel in the longrun?
Keith: I'd love to become a voice in the geek/nerd/gaming world, something that my fellow geeks can come to for quality entertainment. Since the production value has increased so much with my team, it's exciting to see what possibilities we have for the future.
Gavin: What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Keith: More awesome videos! And I've been thinking about a Star Wars parody before the new movie comes out this winter. We'll see!