Interview – The Macfarlane Bros: Digital Dynamos Unleashed!

Revamp your online career aspirations with Digital Dynamos Unleashed: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Domination, an electrifying event at the AACTA Festival. This isn’t just any discussion ­– it’s a dynamic, insider look at how young, vibrant creators like Lachlan and Austin Macfarlane have carved their niche in the digital universe.

Get ready for an interactive and eye-opening session where these trailblazers will reveal their secrets – from conquering the ever-mysterious algorithms to creating viral content and sparking massive community engagement. It’s your chance to get real-world insights into their creative genius, learn what fuels their inspirations, and discover strategies that skyrocketed their online presence.

For more information about this panel, and access to tickets, head to https://aactafestival.com/events/digital-dynamos-unleashed-the-ultimate-guide-to-digital-domination .

Leading up to their event at this year’s AACTA Festival, taking place at Gold Coast’s HOTA (Home of the Arts) between February 8th and 11th, I spoke to the Macfarlane brothers about their journey with content creation and what people can expect from their panel, and the AACTA Festival!

Nick: I really appreciate you both taking the time to chat today! I’m excited to talk to you about your panel at AACTA Festival, and about your careers! Because it’s been 15 years since you uploaded your first YouTube video, ‘Great Garage Battle’. I love that you’ve keep those videos up when a lot of content creators would delete their old videos. It allows for us as an audience to see your progress over time! If you can take me back to 15 years ago, to the genesis of, not just that first video, but content creation in general, what inspired you both to start making your own stuff?

Austin Macfarlane: Honestly, it’s because I wanted to be in Star Wars! Pretty much like any person my age, I was obsessed with Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter. All that kind of stuff. So, there’s a million different ‘Great Garage Battles’. There’s a bunch of other videos of us, sort of, re-enacting scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean or the other movies like that. That was our way of having fun, but we just happen to have been recording it and uploaded it.

Lachlan Macfarlane: Yeah, we’ve always been into special effects. We were recording ourselves and then I started looking up YouTube tutorials on how to do lightsabre effects. How to do all these, kind of, visual effects, then making videos as little effects tests. Then we just kept doing it more and more.

And yeah, all of our old stuff is online. I kind of felt like it was better to have it on there because it made it feel a bit more, like, authentic. I feel proud of that, and how long we have been doing it. We started a long time ago, and a lot of those just started as escapism, or wanting to try out cool special effects and stuff. We’ve been doing it pretty consistently. It just started from there, and then you know, slowly got better and better.

Austin Macfarlane: I used to just star in a lot of the videos. So, there’s a lot of times where I think I got a bit too confident in Lachlan’s abilities! I invited a friend over and was like, “Let’s do a Jurassic Park video! You can do dinosaurs, right?” So, we filmed this whole five, ten minute video epic about us being chased by T-Rex’s around the house!

Then when Lachlan got home, and I was so eager! “You can do the T-Rex?!” And he was like, “I don’t know how to do that!”

Lachlan Macfarlane: There are a lot of videos we didn’t put up because they were too hard to do at the time. We had this whole like science fiction one with spaceships and stuff. We wanted to make it work out, and then never made it!

Austin Macfarlane: The funny thing is that we still carry this attitude today. We just love to film stuff and go, “We’ll figure it out!”

Nick: That’s awesome! I think about that mentality in comparison to James Cameron’s quote, where he says, “You can pick up a phone, film something, and now you’re a director”.  And it seems like that is both of your mentalities with filmmaking. So, having created content for so long now, what has that journey looked like over the last 15 years? And how has content creation changed of that time for you?

Lachlan Macfarlane: I guess when we started doing YouTube, or more around 2010 or 2011, there was “YouTubers”. People associated YouTube with, ‘Hey guys, welcome back to my channel’. Like, vlogs and lifestyle videos. Whereas nowadays, it’s a bit more diverse in terms of types of content. There’s YouTube Shorts. There’s also 3-hour long essays about really niche topics that people love to watch. There’s sketches. There’s like challenge videos.

I guess what I’m saying is when we started doing YouTube videos, they were pretty much comedy sketches. Whereas nowadays, we probably don’t consider them as much as sketches, and more like short films.

Austin Macfarlane: I agree. The last YouTube video we did was a short film we made in a competition.

Nick: That was the Uber short film, right?

Austin Macfarlane: Yeah, that’s right!

Nick: It’s really interesting to see how content creation has changed, but also how it’s constantly changing. And I’m guessing your panel and the careers expo at AACTA Festival will also look at the future of content creation. Where you do guys see the future of content creation in the next few years?

Lachlan Macfarlane: The goal for us is to use YouTube and social media and this kind of content to jump hopefully to traditional media. Not that we’re going to abandon social media, but definitely using it because we want to do long form things like film and TV shows.

I looked at your Instagram and saw you interviewed the Racka Racka guys. They’re a big inspiration to us. They’re people who are also brothers who made that jump from YouTube to filmmaking. And there are a couple of other people who have done that who aren’t necessarily Australian! You got Joe Penna, MysteryGuitarMan, who was one of the original generation of YouTubers who made a film with Mads Mikkelsen!

Austin Macfarlane: There’s a whole precedent for it. You got people like Jon Watts [Spider-Man: No Way Home], David Sandberg [Shazam]. I used to watch Daniels [Everything Everywhere All At Once] in school.

The last two years, I used to work in traditional media, in the industry and just sort of did this [content creation] on the side. And now that I’m taking this up, sort of full time… I just love YouTube because it’s a training ground. For me, it’s the closest thing that we have to, you know, writing scripts, directing films.

Lachlan Macfarlane: It’s the easiest way to distribute things nowadays. If you put a short film into a film festival, 100 people might see it. Then the next month, another 100 might see it at a different festival. Then maybe two years later you put it on Vimeo or something. But if you put it on YouTuber, and you market it on Instagram, and you build hype around it, using social media as it’s main point of distribution, it can get more word of mouth. It has different benefits.

Austin Macfarlane: We’ve been doing YouTube for 15 years, but we only started short film at the start of 2022. It was really interesting how a lot of people saw that, and rightfully so, because like we weren’t big before we started doing short form content. A lot of people who think our short form content is the beginning, I’m seeing it as 10 years’ worth of practice . I personally think we get better each video. At least, I hope we do! So it just goes back to how it [YouTube] is a training ground.

Lachlan Macfarlane: And I guess in the future, there might be less of a sense of YouTubers who become filmmakers, and more seeing it as a way for filmmakers to distribute their stuff. I mean there’s always going to be the divide between theatrical movies and YouTube videos. But you know, when we mentioned Jon Watts, who did the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, he started with a channel that did comedy sketches. You can’t necessarily call him a YouTuber. But, he was making stuff beforehand and putting it on there. I think there is going to be a sense of feeling more legitimised.

Nick: I love how you both see YouTube as the training ground for filmmaking. And with AACTA Festival coming up, I can only assume that would also be a place with lots of essential information to help with that training. There are people who are currently in the spot of their creation journey where you were 10 years ago, so if you had this opportunity to do the AACTA Festival careers expo then, how beneficial would that have been for you?

Lachlan Macfarlane: I wish this was around when I was trying to get into the film industry! Which wasn’t that long ago! I think particularly, the idea of the careers expo, it basically runs all day with these different sessions covering different elements of film production. I think a good one to go to would be the ‘Life on Set’ talk. Because being on set is an environment you can’t really learn on your own. I like making videos and films, but being on a proper set with a team is not something you can do for yourself. I think that it will be a really valuable tool for people to go to.

Austin Macfarlane: I think that’s the common sentiment across the industry. I mean, we both went to film school, but then going on my first feature film set, like, I learned more in that two weeks that I did in two years essentially. And I don’t think that’s a controversial thing to say, because that’s obviously the point!

I think the fact that there is a variety of different talks at AACTA Festival that will be helpful. When I was sort of entering the industry, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew that I liked making stuff. And it was only after going to panels and going on sets and talking to people that I actually realised where my interested actually live. So that’s what I’m excited for. I’ve been sending Lachlan heaps of stuff literally all year about this festival.

Thank you to Austin and Lachlan Macfarlane for their time, and to ThinkThank Communications for organising the interview! Tickets are available now to the Macfarlane brothers panel, Digital Dynamos Unleashed: The Ultimate Guide to Online Domination. Head to https://aactafestival.com/events/digital-dynamos-unleashed-the-ultimate-guide-to-digital-domination for more info.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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