Entire libraries have been dedicated to writing the perfect interview: try “gotcha” questions, try to play dumb and make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible, just send questions in advance and try to interpret the over-thought answers, and so on. I never had the patience to read these books, so my rules for an interview were simple: step 1 – try not to be an idiot, step 2 – try not to show you’re nervous and step 3 – try to sound like you are capable of speaking the language in which the interview is conducted. Recently, I failed miserably at all of them. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t because the interviewee was overtly arrogant or gave the wrong answers, but because he was just so… normal.
The debut of The Dom
“The name is Dom. The Dom.” is the first line from the Youtube video where the movie and the book Goldfinger, by Ian Fleming, are compared. And that’s how you realize he’s not just any Dom, but THE Dom.
“The name started from the TV show Scrubs. I wanted to parody The Todd.”
He continues “I swear I didn’t realize the sexual connotations attributed to the name! I was already on Channel Awesome when I realized what I have done and it was already far too late to change it.”
For those who don’t quite catch where the name comes from, I suggest you count to 50 while under the SHADES of some trees and watch the GREY September sky.
“I will deal with this problem eventually, but I want that to be the joke. The Dom? The Sub? No, thank you, I don’t want a sandwich, but thanks for asking.”
The Dom, or Dominic Smith, on his mortal name, is the host of the online series Lost in adaptation.
I think the easiest way to describe the series would be: the media equivalent of that annoying friend, who already read the book that the movie you are about to see is based upon and will nag you throughout the whole film with similarities and changes, which may or may not interest you. Most likely, not.
Everybody has this friend and this is where the brilliancy of the show derives from, the simplicity of the idea: “What if people really cared what that friend has to say?” Thus, Lost in Adaptation and The Dom were born.
You would expect a character with his name, with such a pedantic show, to be the biggest snob lord, taken directly out of Downton Abbey, but no. Dominic Smith, the most atypical Englishman who ever “englished” (“I don’t drink tea, I don’t watch football and I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice”), is as ordinary as he is extraordinary.
Born in North Carolina, he spent a few years in the USA, then moved to England. Now he lives in Liverpool with his cockatiel, which he has since he was 11.
“He’s a dickhead. I have him since I turned 11, so he’s been here for a while. They say cockatiels are easy to domesticate, because they are really smart, but I did a bad job. If you go near him, he will come at you. He thinks he’s a pterodactyl. I named him Petrie.”
Dry. Very dry.
“Because of my dyslexia I transferred to more schools than many and I ended up in a special learning school. I moved to a private school for my higher education and I was notorious there.” Laughing, I ask him why. How bad could it be? “I never did any homework through grades eight to ten.” Pffff, so what? Who did homework in that period, ever? “and I was the only student to accidentally shoot himself.”
“It was a posh school, so we had riflery and a private land and I had a little accident with one of the pistols.” He quickly adds: “It was a small caliber.”
The room is spinning around me.
“The funny part was that they gave me a huge bubble cast, like how you see children have when they’re playing doctor.”
My palms are sweaty.
“I didn’t even feel it. I was like «Who put blood on my things?» and then I realized.”
I have a lump in my throat.
“Luckily, it went straight through.”
Something falls and I think the interview came to an end.
After the Awesome
In 2015, Channel Awesome, a famous community of online critics, gave twine in the country (Romanian expression… it means “they publicly announced”) that they are recruiting new talents. Over 1240 candidates sent their best videos or the best bits of ideas and hoped to be among the finalists. Out of 1240, only 30 managed to pass all the stages. Only 29 and a Dom. 29 and THE Dom.
“I wanted to record a video with «Hello, I’m The Dom» and I was alone in my living room and got stage fright. I was imagining being on Channel Awesome, next to my idols and I froze.”
And who can blame him? The idea of collaborating and speaking with the people who inspired you and whom you regard as if they are above-human sounds like a dream come true for most of us, but to actually succeed is already one of those moments you imagine, a life that isn’t yours, but God! how brilliant it would be if it were.
“I couldn’t even press Enter when Doug [author’s note: Doug Walker, aka The Nostalgia Critic] called me on Skype. I had to drink a bottle of wine before and ask my then-girlfriend to press the key. And since I’m in, everything seems surreal. The fact that I can talk on Skype with Linkara about Star Wars and about comic books is absolutely incredible. I was like the War Boys from Mad Max: Fury Road. Not War, but Fanatical. Starstruck Boy.”
I think everyone can relate to the tone of his voice, when he recounts with such pathos and so much in love with his work, when you see the gleam of passion in his eyes, when he tells how much he adores what he does and how much he works for the things he loves.
When he was younger he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Analyzing what he does, which is reading so many novels and series, then comparing them with their adaptations, you have to wince a little, thinking of the effort he makes daily.
“Dyslexia is a very general term for a wide range of problems, but it all boils down to a learning disability. We’re not incapable of learning; it’s just harder for us. For me, my brain is just wired that, if a teacher reads something from a book, it goes in and out of my head just as quickly. It is very inconsistent: my spelling is horrible, but my reading is very good. For other people it is in a visual way: words would juggle when they’re looking at them. Fortunately, I don’t have that. Each is like a snowflake. Every single case of dyslexic is unique. You can find something easy, hard or impossible. I was lucky, because, even though I was severely dyslexic and I found it hard to learn academically, I don’t have anything that is a straight-up road block. As long as I’m willing to try five or six times harder than others, I can learn or do pretty much what everyone else is doing.”
And here is the big picture: a man who is willing to do anything for his dreams, managing to get this far because of a stubbornness worthy of an Englishman. Maybe he doesn’t “english” so bad after all.
“As long as I’m willing to try five or six times harder than others, I can learn or do pretty much what everyone else is doing.”
And so begins the journey of the Dom. The music is dimmed, the lights shine brighter and the magic of being the annoying friend begins.
On your marks, get set, “Hello, beautiful watchers”
For any passionate person, who waited with their soul at the mouth (Don’t you love Romanian expressions? Basically, it’s “biting their nails”), spying those last seconds of waiting before the moment they will finally watch the movie they’ve been hoping to see for 3 years, to listen to the band they never thought they would catch in concert or read the last book from a series they loved since childhood: the emotion of seeing the first frame, hearing the first note and reading the first sentence is almost cathartic. I guess that’s how the Dom’s fans feel when, after a week of waiting, they hear “Hello, beautiful watchers”.
The video starts with a study: who read the book? And who saw the movie?, which gives a general view on the popularity of each.
“First, I read the book. Then I watch the movie, obviously. I take notes on my notepad while I’m watching the film, then I turn the notes into the script. Each note has a +, – or LO (left out): accurate, inaccurate and left out. I note my thoughts on both of them, then I write the script, then the audio for when I’m not on camera. The last thing I do is film the ‘in front of the camera’ stuff. I do that in my living room, in a very, very unprofessional setup, because the Green Screen is pegged up unto a bathroom shower curtain pole, and suspended on top of two doors. I’ve been upgrading my equipment as Patreon has been getting bigger: I’ve got the microphone, the camera, the lights, pretty cool stuff. And the last thing is editing, and depending how rushed I am, that takes three or four days.”
Patreon is a new tool for those who wish to record videos and not be the stereotypical starving artist: in short, everyone who wishes to get involved and help so these videos can keep on getting made can contribute with a certain amount. Patreon grew after the abuses Youtube made, which made all it could so the money coming from ads wouldn’t reach the creator, but the corporation itself.
Why won’t they leave the platform, then?
“We won’t find anywhere the quality of Youtube. The videos on Vimeo take a lot to buffer and on other sites, if you pause it, they start from the beginning after.”
Details nobody thought about, but, yet, youtubers noticed. Speaking of youtubers, The Dom is the first who admits he isn’t the only one who compares books and movies, but he has an optimistic way of looking at things: “When I started, people were sending me links to other youtubers who did these types of videos and I only said «OK, then I’ll do it better»”.
And here is the difference: with a motto he repeats each episode (“Tell your own story!”), he analyses movies and books into the white cloth (Romanian <3; it means “very thoroughly”), interpreting each modification and each addition and trying to find the reason behind.
“Tell your own story” is a quote often used in the episode with Percy Jackson. The director and writer made changes that seemed fueled by arrogance, not by the desire to tell the authors’ story. “If you want to tell a story, tell your own story. If you want to make an adaptation, tell the authors’ story. Don’t use the authors’ story to tell your own story.”
Words to live by: be loyal to yourself, fore and foremost. Tell your own story, live your life and don’t give up. “My favorite character from Harry Potter is Lupin for this reason: get on with your shit; you can be tired or sad, but don’t expect anybody to pity you. Move on.”
This desire to be devoted to your own person is the starting point of the Dom. The majority of those who make Youtube videos create different personas for themselves, exaggerating certain traits, everything to be funnier to the subscribers, but not here. “That was plan A, but The Dom became more and more like me, until we were indistinguishable. I was planning to make him this big, flamboyant, kinda idiot, flirty, perverted guy, but the jokes on that just weren’t as funny, so I decided to stick to whatever level of weirdness I already am on. When I finally gave up and made The Dom like myself, writing the script became a lot easier.”
This is The Dom: someone who learned to love literature from his father, who used to read science fiction books to him and his older sister, someone who would read anything written by Terry Pratchett and makes bad decisions just to impress beautiful women: “The biggest mistakes in my life I’ve made because beautiful women wanted something from me: I went to Twilight, I got a tattoo and a bunch of career choices.”
Makes you wonder if this is why he’s so open to suggestions from the fans.
“I told myself that before I get bitter and tired of requests, I will always look into every request. If there’s something that’s been turned into a film, eventually I will consider it and if there’s not a really good reason not to, I will probably do it.”
And, yet, there are a few rules: a movie turned into a book will not be covered, because it is a glorified version of the script, without bringing something new to the story. And then there’s Lord of the Rings…
“I’m saving that. The books are in my top five list of books and the films are in my top five list of films. I’ll never do an episode I’m more invested in. If I ever do Lord of the Rings, that will be the last episode I’ll ever do, so I’m saving it to be my magnum opus.”
Excuse me, but that crack you heard in the background is my heart breaking.
I can only encourage you to watch his videos, so you can understand why the worst Englishman leaves such a strong impact, so you can understand how you can be on the path to obsession and yell in the middle of the night when you see he uploaded another video (Daniel, sorry again I woke you up like that).
A man like all of us, but with a clearer idea about who he is and what he wants to communicate to those around him, Dominic Smith is the one who chased his dream and the dream waited for him to catch it. I applaud him for his bravery and for what he achieved and I salute his friend, Emil, who created a stellar image of us Romanians (“One of my father’s best friends is Romanian and I swear he is the maddest man I have ever met in my life. He’s… if your entire country is like Emil, then…”)
I laugh at the notion of a hyper Romanian being around the calm Dom, shaking my head at the contradictory image, when I hear the last words of the interview.
“Wanna see the scar?”