Interview with Felicia Day

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Interviews and People, Multimedia

Felicia Day in iProng MagazineFelicia Day was on the road to stardom shortly after she moved to Los Angeles. She landed roles in TV series like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “House,” and “Dollhouse.” She also starred in web series like “The Legend of Neil” and the Emmy-winning “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” But one of her greatest achievements was when she went from actress to script writer and producer, creating what millions of fans know today as “The Guild.

The Guild is a comedy web series about the online and offline lives of a group of gamers. It’s a must-see, as you will find yourself laughing at all the characters and the storyline. The characters are like exaggerated versions of your friends or better yet, you!

As The Guild enters its third season, many extra surprises were revealed to the fans at the last Comic-Con. The first of the surprises was the addition of a “Guild” comic book written by Day and published by Dark Horse Comics. The second was the exquisitely funny bonus music video called “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar.” The song topped the charts in a matter of hours on Amazon and iTunes, surpassing mainstream music! And lastly, the addition of Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) to the cast!

With the recent release of a new DVD package containing the two seasons of The Guild, I got to speak to Felicia Day about her show, new comic project, and more.

How did it all start? What inspired you to create the Guild?
We started over 2 years ago. I’m an actress in Hollywood who has been acting for 5 years. But I got bored with the opportunities I was being offered because I’m not really a standard Hollywood girl — I don’t look like everybody else, I’m not perfect, and I’m definitely a little awkward sometimes. I worked consistently, but I wasn’t working all the time, so I had a lot of free time on my hands. I ended up getting a bad addiction to online gaming. In the downtown of acting, I filled it with a lot of gaming. It was not the most productive use of my time. And at one point, my friends and people close to me intervened and said you should probably fill time up with something else.

So I sat down to write something and that was The Guild. Because they always say, write what you know, especially on your first project. I wrote the Guild as a half-hour pilot. It wasn’t practically something that would get traction in Hollywood because it’s a very specific audience. And Hollywood content tries to reach everyone at once. So when my co-producer, Kim Evey, came on board, she suggested that we should do this as a web series. It wasn’t particularly popular at the time, but I thought hey, this sounds like fun. So we just shot it in our houses, and that’s how the show started.

What is your process when writing an episode of The Guild?
Web video doesn’t really have a template, like a half-hour comedy does, or a page count. We don’t have to conform to standards of broadcast because there are no standards of broadcast on the internet. Dr. Horrible episodes were 15 minutes each. In the beginning, the Guild had shorter episodes because we didn’t have enough money to shoot more. But now, they’re a little bit longer, and episodes are up to 5-8 minutes. At any rate, it’s very short pieces of content, and no one has really defined what a 5-minute episode of a web series is. It varies which I think is great, it’s a creative ground for people to invent things.

For all 3 seasons, I always sat down and wrote them as a whole season. The first season was a half hour pilot that I rewrote to make it longer to fulfill the 5 minute episodes and get 10 episodes. For seasons 2 and 3, they were essentially feature-length scripts. I write them like a feature, but the format of a feature length script is different from what a movie would be.

What was the craziest place you had to film the show?
When we started doing the show, we established a lot of our sets in rooms in our own houses. Four of the characters, Clara, Bladez, Vork, Tink, were based only in my house. Ironically, my character (Codex) was the only one we didn’t shoot in my house. One of the reasons why Codex moved at a certain point in the show was because we lost our location.

One of the craziest places we shot was in my shed. For one, it’s really hot and uncomfortable. And then for Season 3, we couldn’t afford permits, so sometimes we just had to go out in an alley and be paranoid someone was going to see us shooting. Even now, we still have to steal shots and things like that.

What challenges do you face when writing the comic? How is it different from writing a video series?
The comic is very challenging and I’m in the middle of developing that right now. It’s a much more truncated sort of story-telling. I’m very verbose when I write and my shows have been dialog-heavy. So I have to reconfigure that for the comic, and there’s not a lot of space for dialog. Additionally, I don’t think particularly visually when I’m writing. I’m very much into the characters and how they’re communicating with each other and I leave it to the director and DP to define the look. In comic-writing, the writer has to be a DP, director, and a writer all at once. So you have to be able to tell the story in a much more visual way — which is a great exercise for me but it’s much different. The cool thing about this comic is that I can go outside of people’s houses more because we don’t have budgetary restraints. I’m particularly excited about them having a whole life in game, and following their adventures in game because we don’t define the game they play in the show because of copyright purposes, and I basically want to concentrate on the characters. But here, I can invent a whole world and see why they have so much fun together in the game.

What inspired you to do a Guild Music Video?
It was a combination of things. We have a fan who’s a professional artist, Jeff Carlisle, and he had done some fan art for us to sell at conventions. And it had our faces on our avatar bodies and the fans loved it. It was our best selling item. So, I always thought, “Hey wouldn’t it be cool for us to be in our avatar outfits?” But you know, it’s very expensive to get things made like that.

But while writing Season 3, we usually have an additional video that we turn into Xbox for our order — we do 12 episodes a season, and we have a bonus video. And I knew I needed to come up with an idea for that, and I’ve been listening to a lot of 90′s dance music while writing. So I crowdsourced a playlist on Twitter. And since Dr. Horrible, everyone has been asking me to sing, but it’s hard to figure out venues for that.

So those three things combined led to the idea of the title “Do You Want to Date My Avatar.” And I emailed Jed Whedon, who’s the director and co-writer of the song, and I said, “Hey, I have this idea for a bad 90′s dance music video and song where we sing in our avatar costumes, and here’s the title..” and he said, “I’m on board!” So I sent him lyrics, and within hours he sent me something back. The song went back and forth, until we finally came up with the track. I wanted him to direct, because I just had this feeling that he would be fantastic at it, even though he’s not necessary a director. But now he is because he did such a fantastic job with the video.

How did you ask Wil Wheaton to be in the Guild and how did he react?
The Guild DVDWil has known my co-producer, Kim Evey, for years. They did comedy together in ACME, a comedy theatre in LA. I would always see him at social functions and I knew him from online. I always knew I wanted to use Wil at some capacity because it’s just so much fun to be around him. I felt that he would really fit in the show very well. But I didn’t just want to put him in just because of who he is and his experience. I wanted to find a great character for him.

I was at a convention and one of the guys who was helping us at the booth was wearing a kilt. So I was obsessed with making a character who wore a kilt. When I came up with the idea of a rival guild, I was like, “Oh, Wil can play the rival guild leader and he’ll wear a kilt! Now let’s just find a character for him and ask him to be in it.” So I came up with the idea of the character that I thought he would be fantastic playing, and I took him out for coffee, and the minute it came out of my mouth, he was like, “yes, yes, and yes.” So he was very excited to be involved. And we’re really lucky to have him because he’s such a good actor and having so much experience working, he just centered the whole new guild in a way we would not have had with anybody else. He’s just really funny and subtle and he really just fills the character out. I’m excited for people to see what else he does in this season.

The Guild seasons 1 and 2 have just been released on DVD. Learn more about The Guild at WatchTheGuild.com. Learn more about Felicia Day at FeliciaDay.com

This article was originally published on iProng Magazine, 50th Issue!

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