Most people today experienced a terrible 2021, but maybe no just one experienced a even worse 12 months than David Dobrik. At the commencing of previous year, the YouTube feeling and head of the crew regarded as the Vlog Squad was on best of the environment and poised to cross around into the mainstream, getting lined up innumerable blue-chip brand name promotions and even an eponymous pizza franchise termed Doughbrick’s.
In March 2021, nonetheless, Insider published a bombshell short article accusing him of possessing facilitated and profited off of the sexual assault of an anonymous female by his then-pal and collaborator “Durte” Dom Zeglaitis. The article alleged that the woman, who was 20 at the time, was plied with alcohol by Vlog Squad users, rendering her not able to consent to intercourse with Zeglaitis and that he assaulted her when Dobrik and other Vlog Squad associates listened outdoors the door, with Dobrik later on uploading the footage on to YouTube. (Zeglaitis has denied the allegations, stating he thought it was consensual Dobrik denied any knowledge of it remaining sexual assault, and the online video, titled “She Must Not Have Performed With Fireplace!!,” was later taken off at the woman’s ask for, while not prior to it obtained tens of millions of sights.) Several of Dobrik’s sponsors backed out of their bargains with him, prompting him to release a extensively criticized apology video on his secondary YouTube channel. (He later on posted a more in-depth next apology online video.)
To make matters even worse, in April 2021, footage of Vlog Squad member Jeff Wittek having seriously injured in a stunt involving an excavator leaked on the web, with Dobrik fielding allegations of fostering a dangerous operate natural environment following it was revealed that he was driving the building machines. While Wittek in the beginning reported he did not blame Dobrik for the incident, their relationship has because soured, with Wittek revealing on his podcast this March that their friendship was in excess of and hinted that he planned to sue Dobrik. “Let’s just let the courts choose and you’ll have to signal a paper that says, ‘Yeah, this was a lie, and I’m responsible of this and that,’ and we can go that route about it,” Wittek claimed on his podcast.
When YouTuber and director Casey Neistat begun documenting Dobrik’s day-to-day daily life 3 yrs back, capturing the footage that would come to be his new documentary Below the Impact, he had no plan that any of this would unfold. Somewhat, Neistat tells Rolling Stone, he was interested in how Dobrik represented a new wave of YouTube stardom, and the implications of what staying a YouTuber really intended. At the time, Dobrik was publishing slice-of-life films showcasing his Vlog Squad, before long pivoting to lavish giveaways and significantly severe stunts. “There was a little something fully distinctive about the video clips he was creating,” states Neistat. “They weren’t expressions of creativity. They weren’t about filmmaking. They weren’t about items I comprehended to be what would make a good YouTube video clip. They were being portraits, tiny home windows of daily life in early adulthood with no restrict to methods and no obligation.”
Underneath the Impact, which premieres at SXSW on March 12, is a gradual-burn off portrait of a toxic electricity dynamic that binds a team of very youthful, wildly thriving individuals alongside one another, and the lengths they’re eager to go to to obtain astronomical stages of fame — as effectively as the ringmaster at the heart of the circus, directing their each individual transfer. (Entire disclosure: Rolling Stone‘s guardian enterprise, Penske Corp., owns a considerable stake in SXSW.)
Like numerous of Dobrik’s subscribers, Neistat was originally entranced by Dobrik’s enthusiastic, puppyish demeanor and the uncomplicated rapport he experienced with the other users of the Vlog Squad. “It’s understandable to view his video clips and not problem the friendships you are seeing,” he states. “It was only carefully scratching the surface that I started out to know what was going on.”
From the incredibly beginning, Neistat states, it was apparent that boundaries have been becoming crossed inside of the globe that Dobrik experienced constructed, resulting in progressively harmful stunts remaining executed for the camera. “It’s only funny until eventually anyone receives hurt,” a grinning Dobrik suggests on digital camera throughout a stunt involving a Vlog Squad member. Neistat says he started off questioning the ability dynamics central to the team when he requested Dobrik all through their very first sitdown interview no matter whether he and the Vlog Squad had been close friends or coworkers. “I anticipated him to be offended by the query,” he states. “But he paused and said, ‘When the digital camera will come on they know what they’re intended to do.’”
In 1 notably stomach-turning scene that will take put on a private jet, Dobrik directs members of the Vlog Squad to engage in progressively wild still mostly innocuous actions — pictures of vodka remaining drizzled into their mouths, etcetera. — until eventually he instructions one Vlog Squad member, Corinna Kopf, to take off her shirt and fake to clearly show her breasts to the many others while they applaud. Kopf complies, however the degree to which Dobrik directs the motion — and the diploma to which every person unfailingly follows his direct — is truly unpleasant, to say the the very least.
When the Insider story came out, carefully adopted by the particulars of Wittek’s incident rising, Neistat suggests Dobrik was hesitant to show up on-camera once again for the documentary they did one particular remaining, tense interview, in which Dobrik mostly takes an unrepentant stance, declaring to have experienced no notion what happened concerning Zeglaitis and his alleged sufferer and that he did not check out the allegations towards Zeglaitis as being a reflection on him. (Dobrik largely assumed this stance in his own interview with Rolling Stone previous June, declaring he “couldn’t see how [the allegations] had been related to me” and saying he was “not aware of what was heading on.” He also claimed to have minimize off call with Zeglaitis after the female arrived forward, however public social media posts suggest or else.)
Neistat has not spoken to Dobrik since that last job interview. “A whole lot has transpired in that time. I really don’t know how I would characterize my partnership with him now,” Neistat suggests. “[I] believe he changed more than the system of my reporting, my documenting of his vocation. I think you can see that in the absence of seriousness in his tone wherever he’s sort of actively playing a little bit of a character and the lovable, goofy David. He usually takes a significantly more significant tone and owns who he is in that closing interview.”
Some on social media who have not noticed Neistat’s film have classified it as a “redemption documentary” for Dobrik, which it is not: it is unsparing in its criticisms of influencer lifestyle and the problems it can wreak on others’ life, and how Dobrik specifically abdicated his massive obligation as a creator and harm a lot of in the method. The movie ends on a dejected notice, monitoring how Dobrik has mainly rebounded from the controversies and dodged accountability: he has continued posting vlogs and podcast episodes, even hosting his extremely very own Discovery + collection, which premiered previous fall.
But Neistat stresses that the film is considerably less about Dobrik especially, and how he should most effective be held accountable, and far more about the risks of the YouTube ecosystem in standard, in which sensationalism and clickbait are rewarded and there are handful of infrastructural things in place to make sure others’ security.
“David is kind of part of a sample. The quickest route to having eyeballs is with sensational information, complete halt. If it is sensational it will garner a lot more views. That pursuit of sensationalism unchecked invariably finishes in catastrophe. We’ve viewed that time and time once again,” he says. “[I] don’t know what the remedy is for it, or if it even exists. But I think it speaks to 1) the risks of new media, and 2) human character. There is an audience for this. And the more substantial the audience, the a lot more benefits an individual gets. Without having absolving David of his wrongdoing or apologizing him, I do feel there’s a better dilemma of culpability when it arrives to 20 million clicking subscribers, and numerous blue chip companies creating him big checks. What culpability do the viewers have? And I really do not know if there is an response to that problem.”