On Monday, March 28th, just before their appearance at the Cobb Energy Center, I interviewed Roman Atwood, Vitaly Zdorovetskly and Dennis Roady about their film “Natural Born Pranksters.” The three YouTube stars have huge followings with Atwood at 8.5 million, Zdorovetskly at 8.9 million and Roady at 1.1 million. Known for staging outrageous stunts, they have put together the mother of all prank movies, “Natural Born Pranksters” just in time for April Fool’s Day. The film will be released Friday, April 1st by Lionsgate Home Entertainment across all platforms including exclusive digital HD and DVD packages. Go to www.naturalbornpranksters.com for more information.
Mike: So doing these pranks do you ever get hurt?
Roman Atwood: I’ve been sore for a couple of days.
Vitaly Vdorovetskly: More jail than getting hurt.
Roman: Mentally hurt, yeah.
Dennis Roady: I’ve gotten a busted nose over a busted prank before.
Roman: Yeah, you did get your nose cracked!
Dennis: I’d say that sometimes with a prank in the hood, we will go to areas that people will tell us is dangerous and we will go there. But ironically, in those places they have a better sense of humor about the prank. That’s why we tend to go back to those areas because the just work out better. But one time we were packing our equipment up at three in the morning, and they tried to jump us. We got a little hurt in that incident.
Were the cameras rolling then?
Dennis: No he wasn’t recording.
Roman: It happened fast.
Dennis: Literally thirty seconds of fighting and then cops on bicycles came up, and they took off.
Roman: They did get your cell phone, but, at least, it was before the nice iPhones came out.
Talking about locations, how do you decide where to shoot a prank? Do you scout locations ahead of time?
Roman: We started in Columbus, Ohio and Dennis really knew always where to go. He was the king of that. We would have this idea for a prank, and he would be like; “I know where we are going to do it!” We would just hop in his four-runner and take us there. We lived in that four-runner for a while. It was like the best, and he was always the navigator.
Dennis: Yeah, I used to mow lawns, pass out flyers, worked for UPS and I went to school, so I knew the whole town, always canvassing the area for a new place to shoot.
With the movie and having a bigger budget than you were used to, was it fun to shoot or was it more work? Did you do some pranks that you never had the budget for in the past?
Dennis: In the past when Roman and I had an idea, it was always, “sounds great, let’s do it!” We never had to think about the “what if’s,” the reasons why or why not, or even legal issues. We would just go, and that’s what made us so successful. But with a movie you have budgets, legal, insurance, releases, a production crew. There just so many elements involved getting to that “yes.”
Roman: We were excited to have a big budget until we realized that when you are making a movie, that money goes quickly. You can burn through your entire budget with just one prank. It was a very tedious project to make the film.
Were there things that didn’t make the movie because of legal or other reasons?
Vitaly: No, they shot things down pretty quickly.
Roman: We had a very serious legal team that by the time we went out to shoot; everything was already taken care of. Every hour of the day was planned out and was well executed. Sure, there are a few pranks that didn’t make the movie, but they didn’t make it because of legal reasons, they just didn’t fit the movie.
Dennis: All the pranks in the film aren’t safe for YouTube. They violate the terms of service of YouTube. We have great pranks, with big budgets, lots of stuff going on in the background to make that prank work. We used a lot of accomplices, and the film has great locations. We used lots of hidden cameras. We had guys dressed like homeless men, pushing carts with hidden cameras. Dad pushing strollers that are really hidden cameras they are pushing around. We had really cool setups. So the pranks that are in the film are the ‘next level, big dog” type of pranks. There were some pranks that we initially came up with that we didn’t shoot because we could not get the legal clearances. And sometimes the budget didn’t justify the gains.
Do you guys every worry about a prank getting out of hand?
Roman: We have had some pranks get out of hand, but that usually means the prank is going well. With the movie, we had such a huge crew.
Dennis: So with the film, we would have thirty people there in the background filming/producing/directing, so you sort of felt invincible. We also had a bunch of police officers on set or travel with us, so in the situation where someone does want to call the police, or they are upset, they are already on-site to instantly defuse the situation. That being said, our very first day of shooting, we were dressed as police officers and they let us loose on Los Angles. We were giving the green light to go and went hard because we were making a movie. That first day we almost got busted because Vitaly went hard, fully committing to the character.
Vitaly: Yeah, never fully act as a police officer; because I had this guy on the ground, acting like I was arresting him and it’s illegal to pretend to arrest someone. I was asking for his ID and everything.
Roman: It turns out the guy he was fake arresting was a freaking attorney!
Vitaly: I accused him of selling drugs.
Roman: Yeah, Vitaly went full police officer on him. The guy was very upset about the incident, and we got in trouble with the police and legal. Legal got real serious with us on day one!
Dennis: Yeah, we learned we were no longer on YouTube, but we were making a movie right then!
Roman: We learned very quickly that if you want to make a film, you have to follow the rules, listen to legal and watch the budget.
Dennis: We got yelled at a lot. It felt like we were in high school again.
Are you enjoying these events like you have at Cobb Energy Center, where you get to interact and meet with your fans?
Dennis: Yeah, it’s been awesome. When we are in the theaters watching the movie with the fans, it almost feels like we are dreaming. We can’t believe we have something that people are coming to watch and really enjoying. It’s been an honor.
Roman: It’s incredible, the best feeling in the world. All that hard work, sacrifice and two years of planning and then to finally seeing it done, with the reactions of the fans laughing and enjoying themselves have been great. It’s so much fun to see all the heads in the audience turn when we have a gross part happen. To hear the audiences clap is just amazing.
Dennis: We made a movie!
Vitaly: We did it!
Thanks, guys and much success with the film!
“Natural Born Pranksters” is being released just in time for April Fool’s Day. The film will be released Friday, April 1st by Lionsgate Home Entertainment across all platforms including exclusive digital HD and DVD packages
For more information about Natural Born Pranksters, go to www.naturalbornpranksters.com