Jeff Hull is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of ComiConverse. He can usually be found behind a computer or the rugby field. He is also the world's biggest Darkwing Duck fan!
Preston Jacobs, for those of you not familiar, is one of the top YouTube content producers in the Game of Thrones niche. His specialty is mind-bending analysis of both the HBO show Game of Thrones and the written works of George R R Martin; including his famous A Song of Ice and Fire series. Preston's unique blend of humour, high production values and razor sharp analysis have won him an audience numbering well over 100,000 subscribers. Here, ComiConverse talks to Preston Jacobs about his channel, his craft and all things Game of Thrones.
How Preston Jacobs Won YouTube's Game of Thrones
Q: So, looking back, how did you become exposed to George R. R. Martin's work in the first place? Your knowledge of his writing is so deep and intuitive, was it something you took to right away?
A: My introduction was pretty standard. A friend gave me A Game of Thrones and the television series was premiering around the same time. But, I didn't really become an enthusiast until I finished A Dance with Dragons. I had this gut feeling that the Pink Letter was a fake, so I went to the internet to see if others agreed with me. And there I found a blog by a man named Bran Vras, which focused on the Theon chapters with incredible detail. It inspired me to do the same with the rest of the text. And from there, the addiction grew.
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Q: Ok... So you're officially a George R R Martin fan. Were you surprised how much you took to his writing overall? I would think most people's knowledge of his writing begins and ends with A Song of Ice and Fire.
A: I’m an obsessive guy, so it’s not unusual that I took to something avidly. What surprised me is that something so mainstream and popular was actually so complicated with very poignant criticisms of politics and society. George’s other writing has its appeal as well in that it can be brutally honest and self-depreciating. Courageously so, really. I love both A Song of Ice and Fire and his other works, but for very different reasons.
Q: How did you decide to make the leap from fan to YouTube creator and expert analyst? Did you have any experience with YouTube prior to launching this channel?
A: When I first started theorizing about Ice and Fire, the forums had many other like-minded analytical souls, but, at the time, most of the discussion focused on Jon, Jon and more Jon. Things have changed a bit in the forums since then for the better, but I was actually having a real tough time finding people to discuss other topics in depth, namely Dorne. I was spending a bit of time posting theories, but after a day, the topic would be lost in the mix with only a few dozen people reading it. Then one day, I stumbled across a YouTube video on Ice and Fire by ComicBookGirl19 and figured I would give YouTube a try.
Q: When did you get the idea that your videos might find a large audience? So much of the content on YouTube is average at best. It must be hard to know sometimes whether or not your content is gaining traction.
A: My switch to YouTube was originally only to try to get just a few hundred people to hear a theory. Then, things blew up largely by accident and it was a hundred thousand tuning in. I actually try not to think about what gets clicks, though that can be difficult. I honestly want to put out want I personally think is interesting or entertaining. I know that is not the best strategy for growing an audience, but I certainly don’t want to be making click-bait.
Q: Your videos have such a huge range of fun qualities. The production levels are high, the voiceovers are well done, the scripts are intriguing and the actual analysis makes people think. How much effort goes into each one?
A: Oh, quite a bit, actually. It’s a fairly time consuming hobby. I reread or listen to the books on the way to and from work and often at lunch, on the toilet or exercising. I formulate things in my head, then write a script, then find and edit art, then record and re-record. Citation, of all things, can be killer. A video can take anywhere from 6 to 20 hours to produce depending on the content.
Q: What is it about George R R Martin's writing style that lends itself to analysis of this kind? He seems to plant mysteries inside other mysteries.
A: Ice and Fire is quite a bit of murder mystery novel, which is what I think brings in the theory fans. Yes, it literally contains murder mysteries (Bran’s dagger, Jon Arryn, the Pink Letter and Honeyed Locusts), but the rest of the story unfolds that way too, It’s an amazing thing that the writing changes and even gets better on the reread. I would guess that George must go back obsessively and rewrites quite a bit. It would explain why the books are taking so long.
Q: You actually got to meet George R. R. Martin not long ago. How did that go?
A: Okay, I guess, all things considered. Keep in mind, a fan talking to creator is an odd awkward dynamic to start with. And he’s an introverted guy who gets bombarded by fans constantly and needs to be tight-lipped about his creation. Meanwhile, I’m an extroverted guy who is trying to figure out those secrets. Plus, it was in a group setting and I didn’t want to bogart him. Anyway, I figured asking him about his older works would get him excited and cause him to open up a little, but he said he didn’t really remember his older works too well. I got a few good answers out of him, but nothing spectacular. In the end, I’m sure I came off as the weird guy who kept asking him about stuff from the 70’s. On a side note, that evening I jokingly told him that he should stop Ice and Fire and finish his aborted Thousand Worlds novel Avalon. Oddly enough, a few months ago he wrote on his blog that he has fans who want him to stop Ice and Fire and return to the Thousand Worlds. Perhaps my joke influenced that comment? Who knows?
Q: Given how much success you've had mining George R R Martin's existing works, how exciting were you to hear about HBO's new Game of Throne's spin-offs?
A: I always keep my expectations low on spin-offs and then I usually end up pleasantly surprised. I was a big Buffy fan and groaned when I heard about Angel and then Angel turned out to be one of my all-time favorite shows. We are in a weird age of entertainment where sequels and spin-offs can be better than the original. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.
Q: Can you describe the relationship you have with your channel? Not many people get rich off YouTube money. What is it that is driving you to create such great content for people to consume?
A: Right now, fan expectation is what drives me. I think about people waiting for videos and wondering when stuff will be released, which actually gives me some anxiety. Apparently, it’s a pretty common feeling among YouTube creators. I don’t think I’ll ever be doing YouTube full-time, but you never know. I’ve been dabbling in a book and eventually would like to use the channel to promote the story, whether written or in video form.
Q: If you were going to give some advice to fellow creators out there - people who look at what you've been able to accomplish and wanted to try something similar - what would it be?
A: The most important thing when it comes to any artistic creation is to have a unique signature. When you look at a Jackson Pollack, you know instantly it’s a Jackson Pollack. Yes, art influences art and there is a healthy bit of mimickery in everything, but in our entertainment-bombarded world, most of what is being produced seems the same. It’s mostly low-risk derivative schlock. If you do your own thing and find your signature, you will stick out and you will succeed.