Washington Post’s TikTok Guy Wrote A Book About Making TikToks
Dave Jorgenson made affably surreal TikToks for the Washington Post since May 2019, and its production has only increased since the publication told its employees to work from home last March. Now he often makes at least two of the short videos a day – he produced a lot more on some days – mostly in his apartment and often featuring (thanks to the magic of digital technology) several Dave Jorgensons and ( thanks to the magic of things he had in his house characters like his houseplant and Sam, a spam box.
Now he’s written a book on creating TikToks that’s less of a guide for people mystified by the app and more of a series of creative prompts for people who already know what a “Point” is. Do a TikTok every day includes 365 prompts for creators as well as interviews with TikTokers like Melissa Ong (@chunkysdead), the McFarlands (@ the.mcfarlands) and Cory Bradford (@thisiscory). We told him about how it happened.
Washingtonian: Wait a second. Wait, wait, wait, wait a second. You have made several videos per day in the past 15 months. And did you write a book?
Dave jorgenson: Yes. I’m assuming March 11 was the first day of TikTok quarantine. I wrote it mostly at night until September and October. So it was a lot of night work.
How was your life during this time?
I got married in December 2019. We did the courthouse thing and then we were going to get married in Colombia, and that just couldn’t happen. But that’s all to say that for our first year as honeymooners, my wife and I were mostly at home. We bought a car to remedy this so a lot of campsites and places to drive. Every once in a while, if you see a three day gap, that’s when I took a vacation to just drive somewhere. And not being in the apartment forever, doing TikToks and being 20 people at a time.
How many TikToks have you created since you started working from home?
I have this Twitter thread, and I think right now it says 614.
Oh, that’s it.
Is not it?
How far in advance do you plan these things?
It’s really on a case-by-case basis. Because if it’s breaking news, it’s actually the advantage of having two a day – usually at least one of them is in the news that day. For example, today there was Jeff Bezos going to space so there was a TikTok on this. But if not, it’s a combination of ideas that I maybe wrote down and sort of combined them with a current event or just some kind of fun idea I had to do in my apartment.
You’ve also been successful in securing some of your long-standing accessories, like the insect costume. Do you own this now?
Well the To post owns it, so to speak. But you know, at one point I took a little field trip, Impossible mission-style, with permission, to pick up a lot of my costumes that were at work. There is a closet that would normally be for – don’t know if it was raining or if you just had an extra blazer and maybe for on-air appearances – they have one on our floor in the newsroom and half at that point was filled with costumes that I had left there. So I went and got those. There was an elf costume on the shelf that I used a few times and just a bunch of props that were collecting dust. I said, you know, it’s time to get them back into the TikTok universe.
As the soils warm, billions of cicadas will emerge across the DC region for the first time in 17 years. #BroodX
When will you get to the point where you’ve created more TikToks in Quarantine than before?
Good question. In fact, officially now there are a lot more pandemic TikToks.
Okay, so what’s your advice for people who want to learn how to do a TikTok every day?
You know when they said Hey, do you want to write a book? I was like, it would be really hard to explain all the mechanics of the book. Especially the audience we’re trying to reach, I’d be bored trying to read this. So my, my thought process was over, I’m going to give ideas, and of course, explain things as much as I can, but really talk about the process itself. And I used to have all those writing incentive books, in college, and in writing workshop classes. That is why in the book they are described as 365 prompts for TikToks. And the majority of which are not TikToks that I created. Most of them are just brand new ideas that I had. And then some of them are hybrids of TikToks that I’ve seen, and they basically go from sentence to page explaining an idea for a TikTok and being very open-minded. And then there are a dozen interviews with designers. I was very, as much as possible, very specific in attracting people from all kinds of genres to TikTok, if that makes sense – there’s the TikTok story and you know, just the TikTok standard dance and lip syncing. TikTok, and healthy TikToks, as I call them, which are basically people doing TikToks with their parents.
Rather, I can give you the phone. And I can tell you step A, but you kind of have to get to step Z on your own. But I really enjoyed the idea of having a lot of creativity and realizing that whatever you do, like I do every day, you can always start over the next day.
I met Gene today. #RemoteWorkAnniversary
When do you plan to close your quarantine TiTok feed?
From the start I always thought, you know, when we would go back to work, and I still hold on to that. So officially to me it seems like, and this time I believe it, I believe I am going back the week of September 13th. And so I would finish it on Friday in advance.
Now that you have your home and office to do TikToks, which environment do you prefer?
It’s difficult because being in the newsroom I have access to all these different people. So in terms of the variety of things I’m excited to return to the newsroom. I will always include other colleagues at home, but it’s so difficult because it takes hours just to get pictures of them, which is nobody’s fault. So happy to come back, where I can just show up at someone’s office and be like, Do this for five minutes. Honestly, this situation is always so funny to me. Like, not even explain to them why they’re doing it. So I’m looking forward to it. In terms of the creative process, I really enjoyed being at home. It was almost better for me some days as I was limited to the apartment because it forced me to think about how I could do something different.
Know your audience. #Spam
Now listen, this is important. We no longer have the Newseum. What are you going to do to preserve the TikTok relics from quarantine? Your sofa. Sat.
Every once in a while someone tags the Smithsonian, and I just hope they go, they gonna go, okay. Other than that, I don’t know. You hit right there with Sam. Sam’s the only thing I know she’ll survive this for, and I’ll find a way to make sure I follow him or someone protects him. Everything else is up for grabs. You know there is a plant that I called Planty and lately Planty doesn’t look so good. So I don’t know if Planty will make it to the Smithsonian.
To be fair, Sam was going to outlive us no matter what, right?
It still hasn’t been opened if you are wondering!