80s, 90s, Articles, Interviews — May 10, 2017 8:29 pm

Weird Paul: Working for Views and Recalling Peanut Butter

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We’ve written about and obsessed over Weird Paul for a year now, amazed not only by his large body of work, but also at his dedication to quality and nostalgia.

A new documentary about Weird Paul, Will Work for Views, is on Kickstarter until May 18, 2017. While the documentary has been filmed already, the creative team behind it needs extra funds for post-production and distribution. The documentary showcases Weird Paul’s talent as an artist, a musician, and as the “Original Vlogger”. It focuses on his journey to earn a living through his art.

Behind Weird Paul’s sunny demeanor is the all-too-familiar struggle of the artist—more specifically, in working toward your goal everyday, in the hopes of paying bills, when, if ever, do you give up your dreams?

We had the chance to sit down with Will Work for Views’ Director, Eric Michael Schrader, and Weird Paul himself to discuss the new documentary, peanut butter recalls, and all the other important things in life—like store-brand Dr. Pepper preferences.

Will Work for Views isn’t the first documentary to give fans a peek inside the life of Weird Paul. The 2006 film Weird Paul: A Lo Fidelity Documentary from filmmaker Stacey Goldschmidt, put the spotlight on him and now over a decade later, much has changed for Weird Paul—namely his love of YouTube.

“The first documentary was made before YouTube. That’s the difference. Will Work For Views focuses mostly on my involvement with my YouTube channel,” explained Weird Paul.

“In a lot of ways, the film feels like a mix tape—rewinding back into the 1980’s, showing Paul getting his start as a child, and fast-forwarding back to the present day, documenting Paul’s current adventures. The film’s tagline is: A Documentary 30 Years in the Making. And it’s exactly that. I also think for Weird Paul fans, there’s a lot of insight into his life that many folks might not know,” Schrader added.

Known as the Original Vlogger, and for good reason, Weird Paul has a seemingly endless supply of his home video footage, dating all the way back to 1984 when his family got a camcorder. From there, Weird Paul went on to record the first food reviews and unboxing videos.

Will Work for Views features a lot of Weird Paul’s VHS footage (Schrader notes they received over 900 videos from Weird Paul, which he estimates is likely only a third of his collection), but also includes some higher-res cinematography.

“The scenes we shot around Pittsburgh and in Hollywood were shot in HD. The film has a nice balance between old and new footage,” said Schrader. “One day during shooting, our cameraman Jeff Smee brought a drone that he’d just purchased over to Paul’s house. I’d never worked with operating a drone before. We gave it a try, and the footage looked great,” he continued.

For fans that have meticulously watched Weird Paul’s entire video catalog on YouTube, don’t fret—Schrader touts that Will Work for Views is the unreleased material that folks haven’t yet seen. “Our movie captures the behind-the-scenes of Paul’s work that viewers will want to see. Things like Paul’s excitement when he first plays his test pressing of ‘Peanut Butter Recall,’ what goes into the preparation of a Weird Paul show, the amount of time it takes to film and record his YouTube videos, and the everyday struggles in his lo-fi life. There was so much material filmed for this documentary that it was hard to let things go during editing”.

Does that mean we can expect bonus features, or perhaps a Marvel-style after-credits scene? Schrader can merely imagine. “If only the DeLorean Time Machine were real! I would love to show Paul 30 years later in the post-Marvel credits. Future Weird Paul would turn to the camera saying, ‘Hey YouTube, it’s Weird Paul,’ then a slate that reads Still Works For Views – Summer 2047”.

Long before YouTube, Weird Paul was looking for ways to get his videos and music out to the masses. “I saw shows on TV in 1984 that were already showing peoples’ home videos. I was making similar stuff, even though I had no idea how I could get it on TV. I showed it in my school occasionally and let some of the other kids borrow it (and they mostly did not understand what I was doing). Through the years I tried to show it to people who were mostly not interested. Then YouTube came along and now what I made back then is viewed as normal and entertaining,” explained Weird Paul.

While “Peanut Butter Recall” is clearly a favorite here in the Pop Rewind office, the videos that stand out more to Weird Paul are a little different. “The videos that are the most special to me would probably not be very interesting to most people. Those videos are the ones where I am talking about things that were important to me back then, like being played on the radio for the first time or interacting with kids in school. That’s the kind of thing where only I know what I was talking about when viewing it now. The most interesting thing about the old videos for me now is that my current vocabulary is full of quotes from the young me. No one, not even my girlfriend, knows what I am quoting”.

The story behind Weird Paul’s hit “Peanut Butter Recall” is so clever it elevates the message of the song that much more. With actual peanut butter recalls frequently in the news, Weird Paul decided to write and record a song titled “Peanut Butter Recall”, make an accompanying video for it, and get it to be the top search result on YouTube. “This is one of the only things that I have been truly successful at in my life,” added Weird Paul.

Outside of Weird Paul’s main YouTube channel, he also uploads his fan music videos to his 80’s Homemade Music Videos channel. His editing process, although primitive, is something any junior videographer can remember—although it’s doubtful anyone ever got close to Weird Paul’s prolific output.

“First we’d edit ‘in camera’. We’d press pause and stop the song on the tape recorder, then get the next shot set up and press play on the tape recorder and record on the camera,” he explained. “Then I started using two VCRs. I’d film everything (still with the song playing on a tape recorder) on one tape and then record it piece by piece onto another VCR. It was not easy to get stuff to sync up. By the time I made the last few videos, we had a VCR where you could keep the audio track intact and just replace the video portion,” Weird Paul continued.

Of course, Weird Paul’s career spans more than his incredible video collection—he’s also recorded more than 800 songs and appeared on 42 albums, over 33 years. As his catalog grew, so too did his recording methods. “I started out using one tape recorder, then bouncing between two. Then I used a trick my dad showed me where you could put a piece of film over the record head and put a second track on the tape,” said Weird Paul. “In 1988, I started using a mixer to feed one of the tape decks into. Two years later, I got a 4-track and I used that until 2004. Ever since then I’ve been using Garageband,” he continued.

To Weird Paul, his growing fan base and the response from fans is incredibly important. “Getting immediate feedback on my content is wonderful. I’m grateful that people who not only understand what I’m doing, but also enjoy it, are finding me. Of course, as the fan base grows, it gets harder to keep up with it. I am still replying to every comment, every message that I get. And I know I won’t be able to do that forever. A day is coming when the time I am replying to everything could have been used to make a video or write a song. But I will remember everyone who was there for me when it all started happening,” said Weird Paul.

Perhaps most importantly, Weird Paul discloses his favorite store brand Dr. Pepper: “Probably Dr. Topper from Dollar General. My least favorite Dr. Pepper is when my girlfriend gave me a glass of mostly water with a little Dr. Pepper in it. My band referred to it as ‘Dr. Water’”.

Plans for Will Work for Views includes a screening this summer in Pittsburgh. From there, the crew will be taking the show on the road, submitting the documentary to film festivals.

As for what the future holds for Weird Paul, “I want to do what most artists do: make a living from my art. It’s the only way I will be able to continue to give my growing audience what they want. I haven’t put out a new solo album since 2013, so that’s going to be my goal for the near future. As I concentrate on music more, I’m going to need more free time. I don’t want to have to sacrifice any of the things I do, but time is getting tighter and tighter. Ultimately, I want to be able to tour, performing my music and maybe showing my videos. Making convention appearances also seems desirable,” said Weird Paul.

Finally, Schrader leaves us with a poetic summary of what to expect from Will Work for Views:

“When the camera flashes red…
The story begins –
Who’s that guy with a Bone Disease in bed.
Peanut Butter! Peanut Butter!
It’s a Peanut Butter Recall –
Check out Will Work For Views starring Weird Paul”.

Well said! Be sure to check out the Will Work for Views Kickstarter. You can also keep up with Weird Paul on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official website (where you can also purchase his records!)

2 Comments

  • Well crap! I totally missed out on helping out with this project, and I’m a fan of Weird Paul! Crap, crap, crap! LOL

    Looking forward to seeing how this project plays out.

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