Interview: Irina Trufanova
Photo: Tigran Orgazmyan
What do you sacrifice for your calling as a YouTube persona?
Oh a lot of things. Sleep would be the least of it and believe me I love sleep. I barely have time to go on a trip solely for myself because I fly somewhere constantly. Starting from February I’ve been away every single weekend, so I don’t have time for a personal holiday. Happily some work-related destinations are really nice places. For example, last year in January and November I had a trip through California, because there was a project with the game “OVERWATCH”. But generally it’s just a trip to Moscow. I also sacrifice social media, I don’t use social media for myself or for being in touch with my friends – all of my social networks are work-related. They are simply instruments for my job: I make publications, I watch over the content, I make decisions what I can and cannot publish. The things I used to post on Facebook before are entirely different to what I post now.
Is it a disadvantage?
Yes, it sort of takes away some simple things from life. But it’s not like I’m crazy sad about it.
What are the advantages?
I don’t know really… I discover so many things and it all has to do with travelling to all these different places. I’ve been to so many places that I would otherwise never think of visiting. For example, I would never willingly go to Kostroma. It’s a great city actually, it’s very cosy. Or would I ever go to Kharkov? But today I came and I hope that I get a chance to have a stroll around the city. That’s definitely a plus to my job. Also the knowledge that I’ve acquired in these past 8 years. Call me the knowledge lover! I like discovering new things but my memory is no good so I forget things quite fast, but I love the process nonetheless. You know, you can always learn something again in a new way, so it’s not even a bad thing. So yeah, I find out about things that one wouldn’t find on the internet or elsewhere, life is unique in that way. I tend to complain a lot that I’m fed up with shootings but my friends always give me a reality check and say that some people hate their jobs and stay in the office from 9 to 6. In those moments I realise how much fun it all actually is.
What is the last thing you’ve done or felt for the very first time?
First of all, I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was actually my first ever experience of rock climbing. I climbed the highest point of Africa, but the highlight of my Africa trip was probably the moment when I touched a baobab for the very first time. I’ve had two trees I’ve always wanted to touch in my life – a baobab and a sequoia. I haven’t touched a sequoia yet, even though I’ve been to California. There was no time for that. But I managed to touch a baobab! And it wasn’t in a national park or anything, where you’re not allowed to exit the car during the safari, it was just on the side of the road. I simply saw a baobab and asked the driver to stop the car. It felt like touching a tree haha.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen in your life?
Out of the latest is the thing I’ve been talking about on stage just now, how I ran into a lot of videos and articles that seemed like a conspiracy. It’s about how Facebook is listening in on us through apps and how it throws ads at as accordingly to what we say. It seems like the truth because I’ve recently experienced it. A few days ago we saw an ad with a brand that we’ve been discussing and said its name out loud a few times. It was The North Face. 40 minutes later I get home, open IG, and see The North Face sale ad. I’ve never had IG targeted clothing ads before. Usually those were ads of games, other apps, gadgets, geek stuff etc. I’ve never had ads of fashion brands. So I was like ‘ok Facebook, now you’re not even trying to hide it’. It’s not the weirdest thing that happened in my life, not when people have stories of witnessing UFO, but it’s an interesting topic for me so I was weirded out.
What was the best compliment you’ve ever heard?
It’s not a compliment per se, it’s a question new people ask me when we meet for the first time: “What do you do for a living?”. That means that the person has never seen my show and that means he won’t have an established opinion of me. I lack these moments in life haha.
What is your weirdest habit?
My weirdest habit, which is basically a parasite phrase, is the reason how I got the whole Youtube thing going. I used to say “I think this is good”. So I’ve shifted it to ‘this is хорошо’ and there you have it. Also, some people think it’s weird how in our collective we tend to alter words. Since we’re such bilinguals and trilinguals, we love to have fun with words, and the things we do to the russian language seems wild and shocking to some. I sometimes caption my IG posts with disfigured words and people, obviously, try to correct me. I do it on purpose, but oh well.
Tell us about the biggest fuck-ups you’ve encountered throughout the time of your project.
There were so many actually. We’ve tried so many things, we’ve launched so many projects that didn’t work out, so we had to let go a lot of things. Those weren’t YouTube channel projects generally, but those that were close to this activity. It’s all because we’re bad businessmen. We love to do certain things, we love to create content, shoot material, but we’re useless at managing it all. We’ve had a t-shirt shop, a croudfunding platform, etc. I won’t focus on anything specific, but the general fuck up is that we are having a hard time pursuing things that are directly connected with finances.
In what film, cartoon, or tv series reality would you like to live in and why?
My feelings are still fresh on this topic since on the way back from Tanzania and my climb on Kilimanjaro, I’ve re-watched all the Bourne films and it was the first time in my life that I’ve felt so cool when I was passing passport control. There are a lot of scenes like that with Jameson Bourne – he always gets caught in airports and he has numerous passports and fake identities. So there was this final scene playing in my head, where he was standing at the passport control deck. Probably I’d like to live in something like that, but maybe I would end up dead in such a reality. But let’s not focus on the ‘death’ part.
What is the enemy of creativity?
It’s hard to say. Probably the attempt to structuralize it. We have this problem of balancing between being completely creative with our episodes and structuralizing them. The entire team is at work and we need to write a script in 3 days, but we might end up doing it in one day, so we improvise. We do have a lot of structures that we’ve created, happily. And these are not frames that someone created for us, these are the ones that we’ve framed ourselves to optimise the workflow. If an editor gets 4 hours of material without a script, he’ll need 5 days to edit it, but the deadline is 2 days. But if you organize everything and think through the details, then work goes smoother and easier for everyone. But one shouldn’t be fanatical about it, otherwise it kills the creativity entirely. Let’s name it a balanced creativity within borders.
What are the most common myths about YouTube vloggers?
The thing about them being celebrities. They’re just spoilt kids that are playing around. Also monetization. There are beliefs that they make insane amounts of money, but there are also beliefs that they don’t make money at all. But the main myth is probably around the effort it takes to release an episode. We constantly see comments where people say that it barely takes any time to produce an episode, when in reality there are days behind a single episode of “this is хорошо”: script, shooting, editing. I guess it’s a myth regarding any creative field, but it definitely works for YouTube vloggers.
Tell us a funny or awkward story from your childhood.
Once in kindergarten we were out playing and each group had their own ‘fun’ area, and I saw from afar some thing I could potentially climb on, So I went there and the tutor yelled at me and I got so frightened that I simply started crying and left, as in I went through the kindergarten’s exit. I ended up getting lost and everyone was searching for me. It was such a destabilizing experience that I still remember it so vividly.
What’s wrong with the modern world?
Everything is ok with it. What’s not ok is people saying that something is not ok. The thing is, it’s all the same, we complain on things that our parents used to complain about, it’s just all on a different technological level. Same goes on about our ancestors. Everything is cyclic. Every generation has a new type of entertainment that they become passionate about and the older generation does not understand it and says it’s evil. For example, books were considered as something that developed youth, because books were printed in big circulations so everybody would read them, but wait, this will devalue writers and it will turn literature into something cheap. So there you have it. I can say the same thing about music. The world is changing and that’s normal. It doesn’t necessarily change the way we like it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s getting worse. Everything is ok, everything changes. Perhaps this whole thing will lead to a post apocalyptic scenario but then I guess it would be meant to be that way.
What truth have you discovered after all these years you’ve lived?
Truth? That it’s ok to wear underpants during the winter when it’s cold. I keep repeating this truth a lot. I hope that at least 4 people will listen to me and wear underpants to stay warmer. I would be glad.
What’s it like to be young in Riga?
Boring. Riga is a very calm, quiet and pleasant city. It’s peaceful, so in general it’s good for me, since it plays like a contrast to my hectic and regular trips to Moscow, which is the busiest city out there. Living in Riga is soothing, I come there and I exist in peace. It’s this typical European city with a population of less than a million people, it’s cute, nothing ever really happens there, especially if you compare it to Kiev or Moscow. Moscow is gigantic, so it can’t even be an example, maybe St. Petersburg.
What cities in Ukraine do you visit most often?
Kiev mostly and I like it a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to have a few evening strolls in the places with some sort of social activity. It’s very nice and it gives you a certain energy.
Was there a crucial moment in your life?
It wasn’t as crucial per se, but I guess that time when I agreed to be a part of KVN. It was the moment that introduced me to the world of scripts and a creative profession. I’ve been doing that sort of thing already but KVN introduced me to a more organized side of things. I’ve discovered that creativity can be organized and that humour has theory behind it. I guess it was one of those moments in life that formed me as a person.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who decided to become a vlogger? Normally I tell people to be prepared for a lot of negativity, especially if your channel becomes relatively popular. The bigger the audience, the bigger the negative comments, and that’s normal, that’s how the internet works. A lot of people tend to get scared and quit for that reason. They try to somehow deal with all this hate but the best way to approach it is with irony. When you approach things with humour and you’re prepared to accept the hate with a smile on your face, then it will all pass not through you, but around you. It’s one of those ultimate truths I’ve been talking about earlier. Be prepared to people throwing shit at you, laugh it off and be prepared that someone might not like something about your video. Better yet, think of what it might be before they do and make a joke about it first. It will take away all the power from the haters. It’s a simple method that always works.
What superpower would you like to have?
I’ve actually been thinking about it recently. To be honest, I’d be fine with some simple one, for example, a superpower of not eating. That would be great. It takes so much time. Or a superpower where you can live off without sleep, that would actually be better. Of course, I could pick something like telepathy, controlling fire, walking through walls, but not sleeping would be cool. Yet what I mean is being energetic without sleep. I barely sleep anyway, but it’s not a superpower because I feel like shit.
If you had to choose between YouTube and sex, what would you say no to?
Damn… I’d better say no to YouTube.
Sex or sprats?
Ouch, you got me there! Is sex without sprouts even possible? I don’t know, I always tend to cover myself in sprats oil before sex.
You can’t combine the two.
Sprats it is.
You choose sprats?
Obviously haha. Конечно. Sprats are not just food. It’s a cult.
Today, when you apply to primary school, you have to answer some weird questions like ‘what one thing does a hedgehog and milk have in common?’
Hmm… Mutual love? The hedgehog is a mammal so they have milk and they consume milk. Or will it go bad if the milk lays there for a while? Does it get too foamy if it’s heated up? I don’t know.
Why are sewer hatches round-shaped?
From an engineer point of view the circle is the most solid and lasting construction shape.Whereas if it was rectangular then there would be a lot of weak areas. The edge itself is solid but the middle would be wobbly, a lot wobblier than the circle. That’s the engineers view, but I wouldn’t know. But I’ve seen triangle shaped hatches.
What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
Well since I’ve recently bought a motorcycle and no one had a chance to ask about it yet… I bought it before New Years and I don’t have a licence to drive it, so I’m currently driving a scooter. I’ve had retro tech but I’ve never had a motorcycle license and I wasn’t planning on buying one, but so it happened that there was this commercial project and it worked out quite well with purchasing a motorcycle. But I’m getting a licence soon. I’ve only had a run on it in the winter but that’s about it.
Did you think through an outfit?
Yes. I despise the whole motorcycle look, it’s so cheesy. I found a simple brown leather jacket, it’s actually a motorcycle jacket, but it’s very minimalistic. Also a pair of matching brown gloves and a helmet by a french company. It’s the only brand that is at least trying to stand out of the whole cliche helmet look. The helmet is nice looking. The only problem that I’ve encountered – moto pants. They’re basically non-existent. I need blue ones to complete my look, but they’re all so 2000s, with zippers and other nonsense crap. And don’t get me started on finding the right size. But fear not, I’ve made a deal with a designer from Riga who is going to sue a pair of jeans for me and they won’t look shameful. I don’t want to look like the guy who wears sports glasses and who has a tribe tattoo from the year 2002. So yeah, it’s difficult to find a moto outfit.
Translation: Elena Savlokhova