[EXCLUSIVE] Getting jiggy with Jipseekid, aka. Joel Bennett (Part one.)

He’s the man with an infectious laugh and a penchant for beatboxing. We caught up with frequent Korean Englishman guest star, British filmmaker Joel Bennett aka. jipseekid while he was in K.L before the Influence Asia 2017 awards to talk about YouTube, Korea, meeting Yoo Jae Suk, break-dancing, and the other side of Joel.  

How did you feel when you found out you won the “Top YouTube personality for Korea” award?

When I was first nominated I was like “What the hell is a Youtube personality?” and they told me it was because I’d featured in other people’s videos and I’m quite prolific. I was really confused; didn’t understand why I’d been chosen. When I won, it was really cool – it’s been a great experience to be in Malaysia and I didn’t even realise Malaysians knew who I was!

Joel collecting his award for “Best YouTube Personality – Korea” at the Influence Asia Awards 2017.

When you first went to Korea, was it a big culture shock?

It’s funny, everywhere I go I get reverse culture shock. I think it’s because when I go somewhere, there’s this expectation for it to be different so you embrace it. The first time I went to Korea I was there for six weeks – it was the first country I’ve ever been to.

I came back to London and I couldn’t see it the same way, there were so many differences.

On my first trip I taught English for four weeks at a winter camp and I will say the way Koreans work was a massive culture shock… It’s intense. It was an amazing journey for me, but it definitely pushed my emotions to the limit.

I had two classes – the first class had a higher English proficiency and were around 10 years old. The second class was older, with a lower proficiency and they were more mischievous. For them, the class was more about learning English through the arts, so they had a career theme and mine was broadcasting since I’m a filmmaker. At the end of it we were supposed to do a presentation, so my class pretended to be news anchors and reporters and ended up winning!

That sense of pride – it was something I’ve never felt – I felt like a dad! I was so proud of them since these kids didn’t even want to be there. They were the type of kids who didn’t see the point of learning English – it was taking up their holidays, maybe their parents had put them there because they didn’t want them around – and to have the worst English and win the presentation was a great feeling for everyone. I don’t think I’d go back to teach again but I would if I wanted to live in Korea and earn money. Filmmaking is my passion and that’s what I do.

Joel during a recent trip to China. He says he’s blessed enough that his work as a freelance filmmaker takes him all around the world.

When did you decide to be a YouTuber?

Honestly, I don’t identify as one. I started putting up videos when I was 16, which were mainly videos of me doing stunts on my bicycle with questionable haircuts – but I’ve put a lot of those on private since they were really bad. As soon as Korean Englishman (run by his friends, Josh Carrott and Ollie Kendal) took off I didn’t want anyone to see them, although it does have one of my favourite videos – 15 seconds of me opening a beer bottle with a Redbull can *laughs*. I think I may or may not have drunk too much that night. I was sitting in my room editing and I was like “I’ll make a video and show the world how to open a beer bottle with a can.” So I did.

I started my current channel (jipseekid) two years ago and for me it’s more about my travels. I’m jipseekid – spelt very badly – because I’m dyslexic. Not sure why I spelt it like that, it’s pretty stupid *laughs*.

I think I want to make films about culture and since the majority of my audience is Korean, it has gone in a more Korean direction (Joel’s videos have Korean subtitles). I’m still exploring my options but YouTube has definitely become a massive part of my life.

I do realise I’m a little pretentious. I went to London College of Communication (LCC, part of University of the Arts London) art school and it’s funny, I was the working class guy, self made in some ways and I didn’t realise how pretentious I was like “these rich people are so pretentious talking about avant-garde and French new wave while I’m into really gritty drama.” *laughs* I realised I was pretentious and that I looked down on people in certain ways.

Coming from that mindset I look at YouTube people who identify YouTubers as lacking depth – like the selfie – “everyone look how great my life is”, but what statement are you making in your videos? It may be topical or political, but it may also not be based on anything and you’re just talking to the camera. You may have a million subscribers but what are you saying bruv?

I’d rather make a film that changes people’s perceptions and gives a voice to someone who needs it.

YouTube is amazing in a lot of ways and I think I’m still coming to terms with it and (my being serious) is something I struggle with in my own life, as it’s the oxymoron of who people think I am. A serious Joel is an oxymoron – those two words just don’t go together *laughs*. I’m a character on-screen and even in life I think I come across as this happy-go-lucky guy who says stupid things. I play it so hard for the camera so I kind of feed into this culture, but the stuff I’m filmed with Josh and Ollie has taught me YouTube can be a positive medium to make content on.

Josh and Ollie identity as YouTubers 100%, but that’s their career and that’s where they get their income.

So how would you describe your occupation?

Full time staying out of trouble? I’m a freelance filmmaker and it’s enough to pay the bills at the moment. I’m blessed I get a lot of work, and that I get to travel for my work.

What are the differences between YouTube and film making?

I still identify as a filmmaker, but it’s a constant battle between making a video a week for YouTube (which is good practice) and making something I’m prepared to spend two years on, and that’s the difference for me – the time to process and produce content.

I’m content to spend a year or more making a film that may never get made, because if it’s going to come out it must be right. It’s something I struggle with and YouTube has taught me that a film or video doesn’t have to be perfect to make a statement – it can be lighthearted and fun and that’s OK.

I feel like I still don’t speak fluent YouTube *laughs*. I struggle to articulate myself through that medium, but it’s a journey and I’ve had some amazing comments. Some people call me a “happy virus”. One of the most memorable comments was from a girl whose message started off with the line “To be honest, I’m not really a fan of you.” I was like “OK, that’s a good way to start a message.” *laughs* She went on to say there was something about my outlook on life that brought her out of a dark place and that she felt happy after watching. It helped me see that I could just be me, enjoying life, and people can still be affected in a positive way without me needing to change the world.

Ideally, what types of films would you make on YouTube?

YouTube has it’s own language, and I’m getting to the stage where I’m content with what I’m making but I know I still have to understand and communicate with the viewers better. People have expectations, so if I write something weirdly they won’t receive it as well, so I’m learning how to be more articulate. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the place for deep and meaningful videos. I’m not a massive fan of Vimeo (I find it pretentious and laggy) but I have been thinking of starting a new YouTube channel telling people different stories. Since I travel a lot to different countries, I love meeting people and asking to be their friend for a while.

I was in the Ivory Coast once and I rented a driver for the day (it’s really cheap, less than 20 quid – approximately RM110). This 40-year-old man took me around and I had the best day of my life even though he spoke no English and my French is terrible. 

I think that kind of defines me – meeting people and finding out what their story is since everyone’s is different. It’s complex and beautiful in it’s own way.

I’m still thinking about it – it excites me – but it comes down to my dualistic personality. There’s something within me that loves to be on camera… It’s not that I’m not funny, but when I’m with Josh and Ollie I surprise myself with some of the things I come up with. When the camera goes on I’m like “backflip, boom, done.” You don’t want to know where my mind goes half the time *laughs*. I love the Kingsman video – I remember thinking it wasn’t going to turn out well but that’s the beauty of editing. Ollie is amazing at it.  

Joel (left) in the Kingsman video by Korean Englishman.
Joel (left) in the Kingsman video by Korean Englishman.

I think they said something like “Taron Egerton could be your brother” and I said “But I heard we have 93% of the same DNA as a fish so it proves nothing.” No idea what I was saying or where I heard it from – maybe National Geographic? It’s my little treat since it’s so expensive – I love reading Nat Geo on the plane; I go into my own little world and take a break from life where I can absorb some information.

A little off topic – I do enjoy Planet Earth but I find the latest season a little frustrating in the way they over humanise the animals. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, but not every animal is a person. The way they tell the story is like “Look at this sloth coming home for dinner to his wife,” and you’re like “The animal doesn’t have a wife, it just bangs any fertile creature.” *laughs* I do get what they’re trying to do – penguins do have a strong bond that is humanistic – but sometimes I’m like “Come on Attenborough (Sir David Attenborough, presenter and narrator of the series), you’re better than this.”

On average, how long do you take to edit a YouTube video?

Depends. Before, a friend of mine (Youngchul) helped me with the subs, but now another friend (Sarang) helps. If it’s really basic I can do it, but recently I put out a post asking for help and this one guy has been helping me – he’s amazing. What would take me four days to translate takes him 10 mins and I’m like “Dude, I can’t even do the English subtitles properly.” *laughs* He’s got the best British accent (he’s based just outside London) and he’s really friendly and it’s been a massive blessing. It means I can create more content as well. Like, you get to this point where you hit a wall, and you’re like “I don’t know how to translate that to Korean,” and even Korean people struggle to translate certain things I say in English.

To all those hoping to pick up Korean: Joel says Talk To Me in Korean helped him learn Korean.

That’s all for Part One of our interview with Joel – in Part Two he talks about break-dancing, the b-boy culture in London and Korea, KPOP and on meeting Yoo Jae Suk.