Q&A – Vol. 21: Dead Meat

by Starsky

YouTube: Dead Meat
Twitter: @deadmeatjames
Podcast: Dead Meat Podcast


Who are you today?
Today, I’m James A. Janisse. Hopefully, I’ll still be James A. Janisse tomorrow.

Tell me a little about your background
I grew up in Michigan and went to the University of Michigan to study film. After graduating, I came out to Los Angeles to work in the industry, and immediately set out creating my own projects on YouTube. A few years later, I started a new YouTube channel, Dead Meat, that quickly became successful enough to fully support me financially.

Explain what DM is and when it was established
Dead Meat is a YouTube channel that covers horror movies. Its main series is the Kill Count, which goes over horror movies wholesale – they act as comedic commentary, plot summary and analysis, and behind-the-scenes production info, all while counting the kills racked up during the runtime. I released my first video on the channel in April of 2017. By November of that year, I was able to leave my full-time job as a video editor for Fox and do Dead Meat full time.

Is DM a solo or team venture?
Dead Meat is now a small company consisting of myself and my fiancée Chelsea Rebecca (@carebecc). I run the YouTube side of things while she is in charge of the Dead Meat Podcast, a separate but related platform in which we discuss horror media, as well as merchandise and the new (for us) field of live shows. I contract editing work out to two (sometimes three) video editors. I have a team of channel moderators who help me quality check my uploads and keep the comment section clean. I have a YouTube network, Made In, who acts as my managers for the channel, securing sponsorships and helping me with copyright claims. And Chelsea and I have a personal assistant who helps with our everyday lives as well as some Dead Meat things.

Do you remember when you discovered your passion for the horror genre?
I’ve been a fan of the genre for as long as I can remember. I know at one point they scared me, because I remember crying when the young couple gets blown up in their truck in Night of the Living Dead and running from the living room in terror during the opening scene of Scream, but by the time I was 9 years old I was already hosting “horror movie parties” with my friends and learning HTML to make a website about horror movies – including, quite presciently, body counts.

What are your current go-to sources for content inspiration?
At this point, Dead Meat is sort of a self-sustaining thing, but I count many other media personalities among my inspirations for how I make Kill Counts. Mystery Science Theater 3000 taught me how to riff on movies in fun and creative ways; they were a HUGE inspiration for my previous (pre-Dead Meat) webseries, Drunk Disney, which itself was a big influence for how I made jokes during Kill Counts. The podcast We Hate Movies was another inspiration for how I write my scripts – both in the way they make jokes, especially when it comes to running jokes, and the way they’re able to connect cast and crew to other things the viewer/listener may be familiar with to help provide context. Finally, even though I didn’t start watching him until after I launched Dead Meat, Joe Bob Briggs is a huge aspiration as someone who is able to share his horror movie knowledge in an entertaining way while showing off his love for the genre.

What’s one of your biggest roadblocks for creating content and how do you solve this?
The biggest roadblock is simply time. It takes a LOT of time to make a Kill Count, let alone to develop and create other series, and it’s the main bottleneck when it comes to producing more of them. Thankfully, having two editors who really understand my style has saved me a TON of time. Before I had them, I was unable to do anything socially and I didn’t have any time to exercise or sleep. Since getting them, I’ve been able to find a much better balance of life and work.

Is DM your main business? If so, was there a particular event in time that you recognized DM as not just a hobby, but also a full-time role?
Yes, Dead Meat is my main business. I will always remember the day when it first blew up, since it was the first time I realized it could actually be my main source of income. It was the release of the Jason X Kill Count, the tenth Kill Count video, in June of 2017. The number of views that kept increasing throughout the day was unlike anything I had ever seen before. On that day I decided to do everything I could to make the channel a success and turn it into a real job. And it worked.

What is a day in the life like of you running DM?
It’s a charmed day, I’ll tell you. Days can be spent either writing scripts about horror movies, watching horror movies as research/prep, editing my videos (even with my editors, I still do about 6 hours of editing work on each Kill Count, just to make sure every episode is exactly the way I want it to be), and, when coronavirus isn’t shutting down the country, going to conventions and events to meet people and make videos.

Is it easy to identify what your audience wants? How does their feedback influence your content?
After 3 years of doing this, I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing what my audience wants. They tend to come out in big numbers for newer movies (anything within the past 5 years but ESPECIALLY anything that’s come out in the past year); and they like well-known horror movies but not necessarily the countless sequels – though they weirdly tend to like remakes and reboots (probably because they’re newer – see the previous point). Because of those trends, I make sure to do big and popular movies, but I don’t want to ever ignore the weird cult movies that I have a much more fun time covering – things like the Slumber Party Massacre series (which got the worst number of views my channel had seen in years). It’s important to me to not ONLY do the big and popular stuff. I still have to make videos for myself.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
That’s a tough one! Being the focus of a special edition of the 80s horror documentary In Search of Darkness was pretty cool. Getting a short series on CryptTV where I got to interview Eli Roth, Tony Todd, Joe Dante, and Mick Garris was definitely awesome. Hitting that 1,000,000 subscriber count and receiving the giant gold YouTube plaque because of it was great. But, of course, the REAL biggest achievement of my life has been starting and maintaining a relationship with the funniest and most wonderful woman I’ve ever met, who I’ll soon get to call my wife. Also our cat. Lucy’s freakin great.

Do you have any involvement in other media & entertainment endeavors?
Not a lot just yet. I’ve acted in one of CryptTV’s shorts, the Look-See Season 2, and I hope to do more onscreen acting work in the immediate future. I’m also interested in developing/producing films – writing screenplays and directing features is a LOT of time and energy that I don’t necessarily have the bandwidth for right now, but I’d love to help get movies made by providing my genre expertise and making connections between people who are able to do all the various jobs that go into filmmaking.

Name three films that you can’t live without
The Royal Tenenbaums, Empire Strikes Back, and my favorite horror film, John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Name three of your favourite directors
Wes Anderson, Mike Flanagan, and Rian Johnson.

After horror, what is your second favourite genre and why?
Probably comedy, because I think of myself first and foremost as a comedian, at least in the strictest sense of the word – my primary goal in most of the things I create is to make you laugh.

If you could cast anyone in a horror film, whom would you select? (from past or present)
David Bowie. I know he was in The Hunger, but I’d love to put him in all sorts of crazy stuff.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to create his or her own YouTube channel?
Do not expect it to suddenly take off. I know Dead Meat was successful right off the bat, but I credit that to the fact that I had been doing YouTube on my other channel, Practical Folks, for over 4 years before I launched it. Secondly, consistency is key. Take the time to set yourself up for weekly releases before you put out any video. I started working on Dead Meat in November 2016 and released my first video 6 months later. That time was spent getting everything in order and banking some videos so I could release consistently without fail. Finally, make sure you’re doing something you LOVE, because if it’s going to succeed, it’s going to take a lot of work. The first 6 months of Dead Meat involved me working on it full time while also working at my real full-time job. That meant nonstop exhaustion thanks to only 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night. It wasn’t healthy, but I did it anyway, because I absolutely LOVED what I was doing. It has to be worth that kind of sacrifice if you really want it to succeed.