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YouTuber David Dobrik Is Going to Hate the New SXSW Documentary About Him

YouTuber David Dobrik Is Going to Hate the New SXSW Documentary About Him

It’s a tricky thing when a filmmaker sets out to make a documentary about a friend, having the potential to easily sour a relationship if the subject isn’t portrayed in a way they might have expected.

But that’s the situation that YouTuber Casey Neistat might have found himself in in the aftermath of making Under the Influence, a documentary about one of the platform’s most successful creators, David Dobrik, as the two’s friendship seems to be in tatters.

Neistat admitted as much at the film’s premiere at Austin’s SXSW on Saturday night, explaining that while Dobrik had seen the film, they hadn’t spoken since their last interview and he didn’t feel comfortable divulging Dobrik’s exact feelings on the project. “People are fucking complicated,” he offered.

Neistat began working on the project in 2019, entering the chaotic, larger-than-life, click-driven world of then 23-year-old Dobrik. He was interested in charting the ever-increasing success of the vlogger, who boasts 18 million subscribers and is inching toward seven billion views across his hundreds of videos. Born in Slovakia and raised in Illinois, Dobrik created a cult-like fanbase who would turn out in droves just to get a glimpse of the Prince of YouTube.

Central to Dobrik’s success is his Vlog Squad, personal friends and other creators who Dobrik constantly films and relies on to carry out his ridiculous stunt-filled videos. The group operates almost like a comedy sketch show, with Dobrik serving as the director, throwing out ideas as his friends comply with his every suggestion.

As a result, they loyally launch motorcycles over shallow pools, allow themselves to be duct-taped to walls, and shake their breasts for the camera (despite their initial protests). They’ll do just about anything that Dobrik thinks will bring in views because their reward is not only internet fame, but a cut of the millions that Dobrik rakes in.

While Neistat says he was always interested in exploring the complex dynamic of the reckless situations that Dobrik’s entourage seems to willingly put themselves in for the sake of his videos, the trajectory of the film changed entirely last March when journalist Kat Tenbarge published a report for Business Insider where a 20-year-old woman accused a member of Dobrik’s Vlog Squad, Dominykas “Durte Dom” Zeglaitis, of rape.

The woman alleged that a group of her friends were invited over to Dobrik’s rented apartment in 2018 to film a video. While hanging out, someone in Dobrik’s group allegedly supplied the young woman with copious amounts of booze, and at one point while heavily intoxicated, she claimed that Zeglaitis brought her and one of her friends into a dark room.

According to text messages obtained by Business Insider, the young woman’s friend claimed that although she was beginning to lose consciousness, Zeglaitis allegedly continued to have sex with her—leading the friend to “take over” to divert his attention away from her.

“I remember you were starting to close your eyes and just were obviously drunk, so I finished him off just to get him away from you,” the friend allegedly texted the young woman, who later briefly passed out on the bathroom floor. The next morning, she didn’t recall her encounter with Zeglaitis.

The events of that night were ultimately filmed and posted on Dobrik’s YouTube channel titled, “SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED WITH FIRE!!” (The video, which featured a storyline about a threesome, was later deleted at the young woman’s request.)

Neistat used the since-deleted video in the film, blurring all the women’s faces. It shows Dobrik and other members of the Vlog Squad making crude jokes and laughing as they try to enter the bedroom to get a glimpse of “the head count.” Toward the end of the video, Dobrik laughs and tells the camera, “Dom just had a threesome and I think we’re all… I think we’re all going to jail.”

After the article came out, Dobrik tried to do damage control with a “let’s talk” video posted on his least-followed YouTube channel and skirted around the story. When he began to lose sponsorship deals left and right, he made a second video, wherein he stated his belief in the young woman’s story and apologized for not addressing the serious matter sooner.

Dobrik has built his image on being the perpetually-happy, goofy guy behind the madness. While his friends make fools of themselves for his benefit on camera, Dobrik laughs and eats it all up. At one point, he reasons that while he doesn’t actively encourage his Vlog Squad to do something inherently dangerous, he will never turn down an idea. “I am always down for more exciting, if someone brings up an idea of doing something cooler, I’m always down for that,” Dobrik says.

It would be something he would come to regret in the summer of 2020, when Dobrik plotted to make his return to YouTube after taking a hiatus during the onset of the pandemic. The crew road-tripped to Utah, where Dobrik decided to have his friends perform their craziest stunts yet.

I am always down for more exciting, if someone brings up an idea of doing something cooler, I’m always down for that…

Behind the controls of an excavator, Dobrik didn’t say a word as Jeff Wittek jumped onto a rope hanging from the crane to be spun around in the air. Already, another member had been slipping from the rope and called it quits, but Wittek thought that Dobrik needed the shot for the comeback video.

As he’s being whipped around in the air, the crane suddenly stops. Wittek slams into the side of the machinery and falls into the water, his leg caught in the rope and his head submerged beneath the water. Wittek barely survived, still suffering from brain damage and obstructed eye vision from the near-fatal accident.

Dobrik seemed rattled by the accident, but ultimately placed the blame on Wittek for attempting the stunt in the first place. It’s in that same vein that Dobrik can’t seem to grasp why he was under fire and facing backlash for the Business Insider article.

The alleged assault comes up in the last interview Neistat has with Dobrik, and the tone is noticeably different. Dobrik seems guarded, if not slightly pissed off that he’s having to talk about this in the first place. He tells Neistat that he felt the article was unfair to him and only written because “this place wanted clicks.”

“I don’t want to respond to it because I don’t want to feed the fire of just gossip and hate and drama,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a person that when you see me, you’re just like, laughing or smiling or you’re pumped to have me around… now I’m stained forever with something that I don’t necessarily think I should be stained with.”

Dobrik refuses to concede that his mega-influence might create an environment where people feel pressured to put themselves in risky situations because of the inherent power dynamic at play. He single-handedly has the ability to make the members millionaires, and despite the borderline exploitative nature of having his Vlog Squad pals perform insane tasks while he laughs behind a camera, Dobrik fails to see how any of that poses a problem.

At the close of the film, Neistat said the documentary was not about “cancel culture,” but rather accountability. For the young woman who chose to share her story, accountability for her was Dobrik simply knowing that he “did something wrong.”

But it’s hard to tell if Dobrik believes that he’s at fault in any way, for anything. After a fallout with Wittek, the two seem to have made up, with Dobrik posting a video of the two sparring. After losing a round, Dobrik quips to the camera that he’s much more dangerous with a crane—because as long as the camera is rolling, Dobrik is only interested in the lulz.

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