Now in their early 30s, Mr and Mrs Wheatley have been together since they were teenagers. But they aren't married. They are Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump, and the stuff they make for the web goes here:
They also have a sweetly toddling little boy, who was with Ben when we met him in Brighton recently, and whose hood made for a perfect receptacle for our Dictaphone as we sat outside some coffee chain in near the Pavilion pretending it wasn't cold and chatting about things.
Ben was born in London. When the time came to study, he went to Brighton and studied Fine Art Sculpture. After which he and Amy returned to London and dossed about for a bit, wondering what to do. Then Ben found a good job. Then he lost it. 'I was working as a creative director for a marketing communications company, which went into the ground at about a thousand miles and hour after dotcom. And I found myself completely unemployable, which was quite startling, you know, after thinking I was hot shit.'
This was followed by 'a year just pissing about' and working on a lot of animations and films which would later appear on the site. Generally speaking, Ben concentrates on the animation and graphic design, whereas Amy is more concerned with the writing and editing. They have been very busy over the last couple of years, and you would probably be surprised at how many of the viral animations that have turned up in your inbox have something to do with them.
One of our favourite Wheatley creations is Karl Parsons. Karl lives in Worthing 2, is pals with Jeremy Clarkson and buys his weed from Jeremy Irons. Karl also shares a passing acquaintance with Jude Law, who in one strip uses the threat of Ray Winstone to claim Nicole Kidman back from God (cancer). If it all sounds rather infantile, that's because it is. It's brilliantly infantile and it cheers us up no end when we're feeling blue.
The mention of Jude Law causes Ben to become rather agitated the state of the planet. 'What kind of a world are we in where Jude Law is a film star, you know? It's just fucked. I don't know if it's just getting older, but the culture seems to have taken a real nose-dive.' But then Jude Law will do that to you, if you let your guard down. Which is not to say that Mr Wheatley isn't right. Law is indeed symptomatic of a more widespread cultural malaise. Thank God then, for the internet.
Ben and Amy had always made funny stuff for people to see, but the problem had always been finding a means of distribution. Then, about two years ago, they launched their site. 'I didn't understand the web before,' says Ben, 'even though I'd been working in it for years. But then as I sat there and saw the traffic going backwards and forwards and saw what was popular and what wasn't, I started to have a bit more awareness of the - without sounding wanky, you know, the global audience that is out there.'
One of the most popular features on mrandmrswheatley, which has so far had going on two million views, is a very short film of the Wheatleys' mate Rob jumping over one car, then being horribly squished by another.
'Not surprising,' says Ben, 'that slapstick without any dialogue is going to travel further than silly, complicated animation with loads of English humour in it.' They also received a lot of emails asking to know how they'd done it, citing hi-tech
applications and the latest computer wizardry. Turns out it was just a stool and a swipe. You can see the shadow of the stool if you look closely.
Just the other day, Ben bumped into a friend of his who used to run an annual film festival in London. This was an Exploding Cinema type of thing, which would allow young film-makers the opportunity to show their work to a real audience. Apparently, his friend had worked it out: 'The equivalent of the amount of people we get through our site in a day would take him 120 years of shows.' Which is about as clear-cut an illustration of how 'the amazing interweb has democratised comedy and art' as you're ever likely to find.
Global audiences are all very well of course, but if they don't convert into good, hard income, then fuck 'em. Thankfully, the Wheatleys seem to be doing OK. The success of their site has led to work on all manner of ads, extreme sports channel idents and viral marketing campaigns. Plus, as well as farming out their
skills as storyboarders and editors, there is also much talk
these days of pitches and pilots for a number of TV projects, some of which can not be mentioned - not because they're particularly hush-hush, but because if they don't come off, Ben is worried he will end up looking like a cunt. Whether they come off or not, the future looks busy, and, as the following words testify, incredibly rosy:
'Really, all that happens as far as I can see in the commercial world is that you fight your way back to being able to do what you were doing for nothing. It's like being on the dole - it's brilliant; then you get a job and you're fighting your way back to the lifestyle you had when you were on the dole, which seems crazy. I think I probably have the most creative freedom I think I'll ever have at the moment.'