Dan Khoo is a prominent Youtuber from Malaysia, he is the founder of DanKhoo Productions, a renowned Youtube channel where he publishes his work. Originally an Economics degree graduate from the London School of Economics, Dan’s life took an unexpected turn when he decided to embrace and share his passion for making films. Via Youtube, Dan’s incredible talents for acting, producing and directing films were discovered by the nation. Along with other Youtubers, he spearheaded the “Youtube Boom” of Malaysia, a period which marked the emergence and rise of locally produced Youtube entertainment within the country.
Having been on such an extraordinary journey, Dan Khoo is here to tell us his story from when he first picked up his camera and the insights he developed since.
Dan, when did you decide to shoot films?
It’s actually more like an unintentional thing. Although, this is what I do now, I didn’t set out to make shooting films my career. I think in around 2011, I just decided to buy a camera and started to shoot some videos. At the very beginning, I sort of had in mind what I wanted to shoot so I got a camera to shoot it but even then I didn’t picture myself doing it full time. I thought I would just do all of this for fun.
At which point did you decide to take it up onto Youtube?
There wasn’t anywhere else to put it on, that I knew of. Youtube was free anyway so I just decided to try to put some of my earlier works there. Of course, it didn’t become a hit straight away, it just eventually more and more people started to recognize it.
When did you realize the videos have become hits?
I guess it was sometime in the start of 2012, I met with other Youtubers in Malaysia. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, like Jinnyboy. We consider that the first boom. We got together and started appearing in each other’s videos and then we started appearing on newspapers and stuff. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, people actually recognize this.’
Did you expect the results at all in the beginning?
When I started, to reach 100 subscribers was like: ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be nice?’ Then after I reached it, I was thinking to myself: ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to reach 1,000?’ I thought ‘Surely, impossible.’ Then I reached it eventually. Then, ‘How about 10,000?’ I thought: ‘Okay, it’s going to take a few years to reach 10,000’ but I reached it anyway.
Did you face any major challenges trying to break into the Youtube scene?
Right now because people see us as the standard, so they are trying to break into the market. When I started there was no market. So there was nothing to break into. So we became the market. I didn’t want to break into anything, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. So I just went in for fun.
What can you tell us about the Malaysian youtube scene?
We are quite close because we do the same thing so its pretty fun to work with each other and sometimes, we just throw ideas. Its a really fun community if you don’t try to take things too seriously.
What do you think are the major differences between the Malaysian Youtube scene and the American Youtube scene?
I think the U.S. is definitely a bigger market. In Malaysia, the boom just happened recently. There are more people getting introduced to this industry. Even, for example, clients; Not everyone knows that it is a very good platform to get your brand out. If you are talking about Youtubers in Malaysia and the U.S., I think there is still quite a distance because all the big things happen in Hollywood they say. So you can make it there, you can make it everywhere.
Would you say there is a secret to making a good Youtube film in Malaysia?
I think you have to understand what people would like to watch. Sometimes things that may be funny to you, you have to take a step back and view it from a third person’s point of view to see if it is funny. I just upload videos and notice the views. If there are more views, it means people tend to like it more. Before, I was doing a lot of love stories, there views were okay, they were high digits. Then I just tried out humor and the views went up to 6 digits, so I realized that people like that.
What are some lessons do learn from being a Youtuber?
Because there are many types of Youtubers, I can only share based on what I am. So, for someone like me, which is almost like a one-man-show, given I write the script, I settle the actors; it really builds you as a person on a wholesome basis. You learn everything. You learn from the scratch to this and that, to clients. So, it’s a very hands-on job and its a humbling experience because you get to meet all kinds of people and do all sorts of great things.
How is a typical week like for you?
I normally sleep late and wake up late. Sometimes, I miss breakfast or lunch. I often meet clients, if not, I am usually at home writing scripts or editing videos. Usually at night, depending on what events, I just hangout with my friends.
Does the release of the ‘Magical Blackout’ video mark the beginning of more videos that satirize Malaysian politics?
Not really. I rather not go towards the political if I can. Unless, if I really can’t resist it, like the blackout. I couldn’t resist it. I just had to take a jab at them because when I heard there was a blackout again, I was like: “Oh man! Not again!” I had to say something. I just did it on the spot and they called me a cyber-trooper and they called me a lot of things. People couldn’t believe I released it so fast.
What are some personal principles that you hold dear?
Sincerity. I try to be a good person, I try not to make enemies. A friend is always better than an enemy. It has obviously affected my career as a Malaysian Youtuber as well.
So what are your future plans?
Build the brand and make more videos. Expand my network and hopefully fly over to the U.S. to shoot one day, collaborate with the Youtubers there. I have some contacts arleady. So when I am more established with abit more free time, I will probably head towards there, L.A.
In your opinion, what is the key to success for a person building a career or establishing a venture?
For me, I would just say: “If you want to do it, just do it.” Stop thinking about what it is, stopping you or what can’t you do. That is because, for me, I just went out and did it.
Any parting words of wisdom for our readers?
Just pursue your dreams and don’t let anything stop you.
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