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BlizzCon 2009: interviews Felicia Day

Mike Schramm

At this point, Felicia Day probably doesn't even need an introduction -- she's likely the biggest celebrity to come out of the WoW community since Leroy Jenkins. Her webseries The Guild, about a group of MMO gamers very similar to the ones we play with every day, has been seen and loved all over the world, and Felicia herself is spotted all over television lately (yes, tipsters to this site, that is her in the Sears commercial, and we also heard during The Guild panel at BlizzCon last weekend that she'll be back on Dollhouse again soon).

We've followed her and her show since almost day one -- back before she was demoing Twitter on Xbox at E3 and winning Streamy awards, we've talked with her about what it's like to be a gamer and make a TV show that people said you couldn't make. She was kind enough to sit down with us at BlizzCon 2009 and chat with us again: you can read the exclusive interview after the break.

The Guild's third season actually starts tomorrow, on MSN and Xbox Live. There's a trailer due out on MSN today -- as soon as it releases, we'll embed it into this post. Thanks once again to Felicia for chatting with us, and we can't wait to see what's next.

<a href="" target="_new" title="Season 3 - Trailer">Video: Season 3 - Trailer</a>

So tell us something about season 3 that we don't yet know.

There's going to be a lot of funny moments.

Oh really? No I knew that.

[Laughs] We're going to see Vork in a car.

In the van?

In the van. In the Vorkmobile, as we refer to it. The Vorkmobile, it's one of the creepiest cars I've ever seen. And inside, there's a couch, so, it's weird.

I heard you just talking about it on DirecTV. Well we know Wil Wheaton is in it obviously. He plays a rival guild leader. We heard you talking at the panel yesterday about how that came about and came together. But does Wil play? Does he know what a rival guild leader is?

No, he doesn't play. He's a good actor. So he knows how to do that -- he knows geek culture like nobody's business. He knows people, so he was able to bring a character to the table that I thought was hilarious.

It's funny -- it seems like that character should have existed on your show. Every guild has another guild that's almost in the same place, that might be on the same server, that's got a guy in charge of it that might be a little too competitive. I haven't seen him for long on the show, but I just have that image of what a rival guildleader is. Do you have to play to do that, or where did he get the concept from.

I thought it was funny showing the idea that we have some kind of other players, and obviously another guild. They have kind of a sinister edge to them as you can see from the trailer. It's good, we can have conversation, and mix things up with sort of opposing forces.

I guess his geekiness lends to that as well. Anyone who reads Penny Arcade will know that there's somebody out there like that.

He plays D&D, he's been to conventions all his life basically, he knows characters.

More of a gamer thing than a World of Warcraft guildleader, a guy who's a little too competitive for his own good.

Yeah, maybe that's him. But you don't know -- I didn't want to go right down the line. I think people have a perception of what the storylines might be, and I think they might be different from what people percieve. Which is not necessarily bad, because I like to surprise people.

Good, can't wait to see it. 12 episodes per season, and it's still in the same format -- how has the length changed since you guys started?

Season one was 47 minutes, that was when we were doing it on Paypal donations. 3-6 [per episode], I think six was the longest. And then for season two we definitely increased that, I think there's an eight minute episode, and we had 12 episodes, so that ends up being 77 minutes. It's a lot more content than we were making, we were able to have a budget, so at least a lot more content. And then this season I know is going to be probably feature-length. I would say at least eighty-something minutes.

I would think that would be a temptation -- the more you shoot it, the more you know how to shoot, the more stuff that you get and then you get to be like we can't not put that in.

Yeah, and at the same time, I write everything in advance, and it turns out to be feature-length, it's like 105 pages. I think web video edits a lot faster than regular, so even if it's a 9 page episode, it might end up being seven-and-a-half minutes, which is not normal, it's usually a page a minute in a TV show or a movie.

A lot of people talked even the other day about going to a full TV show. Do you think you have stayed with the form because that's what works, or does the form work well? When you start out a web series, you do it because that's what you can do. But then when it kind of opens up, you have the opportunity to do longer stuff.

You don't really have the opportunity.


Nobody's approached me about doing a TV show.

Would you do more if you could, then? It seems like the form kind of fits the material.

I love the format, I love being able to interact with fans, I personally do everything on the show, and I'm kind of at the point where I can't do more myself. So I don't know about season 4 -- maybe I'll have other people help me write it, you know I produce, I star in it, I do all the Internet fan interaction. If you get an email from The Guild, it's an email from Felicia Day. Every single thing I do, and I'm doing a comic, so I've done everything I could with the show. And if we do another season like this, it's just fine. But in order to provide more content, which people are always asking for longer episodes, season 3 really stretches the limits to our capacity as far as like how much content and how much production value we can do on a web video budget. So either scale back or stay at this level, which is fine, because I'm happy with the stories we're telling.

That's the question, I guess -- is there a reason to stay at this level? It seems like you have more resources all the time, but if it started on the web would you keep it on the web or would you go beyond that?

I would be open to the idea of doing it as a TV show, only because we could do a lot more content, we could do it on a regular basis, and we'd be able to pay. I don't support myself on web video. There's a perception that I'm a rich and famous woman. Hollywood doesn't see what I'm doing as something that they're going to offer me a job on. I'm just like any other actress that's looking for a job in Hollywood. Which is strange to some people, but it's two different worlds. It has not crossed over. Even "Dr. Horrible" hasn't crossed me over into bigger and better acting jobs, so I support myself doing commercial work, really.

Well Microsoft -- did they pay you for E3?

Yeah, no, it's just a question of -- we do have budgets. There is a budget, but they don't pay for everything we do, it doesn't support me. And it's fine, it's just a growing thing. Nobody else is doing what we're doing out there.

Let me ask you this next question -- last time we talked about Microsoft and how that worked, and the sellout question and things like that. I think it's gone along really well, and the fact that the show is available for free on Xbox Live, that's kind of a sign that Microsoft is really committed to the show, instead of just putting money into it and exporting it out.

Yeah, there was a huge perception when we first signed with Microsoft, most fans were very supportive of us, but people had this perception of Microsoft being boogeymen, like controlling.

And it comes from having started on YouTube, and then all of a sudden you said, it's not on YouTube any more at all.

That was one of the requirements. That's the value, they're paying for the content. We are the first show, one of the only shows in the world to be released simultaneously internationally subtitled in eight langugages, and Microsoft streams it on the web for people who don't have an Xbox, and you can download it in the Marketplace. They're totally cool with that, they have a platform that brings millions of people to our show, and after that, we can sell the DVDs and be able to pay for our production expenses, and pay our actors, and everybody, a little bit more money.

Xbox is a draw, too -- I love watching it on my HDTV, I love the fact that I can sit down, load it up in HD, and from what we saw yesterday, season 3 looks even better than 2, it looks really great.

Yeah, we tried to make it bigger and better.

If Microsoft had bought the show out and it never changed, people would wonder where all the money went, but I think you can see on screen that here's a sponsorship, here's what's going on, so I think that's what kind of brought the perception back down, and said oh they're just trying to make a better show, they're not walking away with much money.

Oh yeah, believe me. And there's only so much explaining that I can do. Like I said, we had very low budget. The music video would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if I had paid people what they'd get paid during their normal rates. Everybody donates.

I have another question about that as well, but first, you've said that there are new sponsorships in this season, Gamestop plays a role in the first episode. How did those come about, because of Microsoft, or how did that come about?

With Microsoft, we are in a privileged position, where I still own the show, and they give us compete freedom to make the show. Any other studio, network, producer who got aboard, they would have influenced the direction of the show. And they would own the show, and we would not be able to do what we did with the music video and just release it. I feel like we're kind of in a dream situation, as far as like controlling the show.

But you've brought other sponsors into the show now.

Only for Gamestop -- Gamestop was kind of a special situation. I wrote this script, because I had the idea and I wanted it to open in front of a game store. But I didn't realize, as a producer I should have thought better when I was a writer, I totally didn't know that it was going to cost so much money to find a location to shoot outside for two days. You wouldn't imagine it would cost so much money, but the location fees, the parking, feeding people, the tents, it became a real production, and it was kind of at capacity, and we were like we have to find a store to help us out.

That's really interesting. I saw it yesterday and I was like oh, that's another product placement, but you really literally needed to be in front of a game store.

No, we literally needed that help. Or we could have not shot this feature, I swear we were going to shoot it behind someone's garage.

I only have one more question about money, and this is another thing I thought about. The music video is awesome, it's the number one video in iTunes, and it's a big deal. You're charging for it, right? That's gotta help? It's the number one music video in iTunes. Apple takes their cut, but there's got to be something there?

Hopefully. I don't know. I don't know about that. I would love to be able to pay my director on that because he worked for free, and the composer. It would be nice, yeah.

Oh really? Because everybody bought it when it came out.

Oh no, I know, it just came out, I don't know about all of the money situation. But hopefully yes, it would be nice to get some money off of that. I don't think I should apologize for that.

No, no, I'm not asking to apologize, but I was thinking, it's great that it's the number one video on iTunes, but a lot of people shelled out for that, and I was wondering. But you haven't even dived into the money situation on that yet.

We just released it on Monday, and I was in this booth literally putting together Ikea things. I don't know, I would assume I would hope to, because if someone else is like me and recording a song in their closet, and they can get a mandate to help them actually support themselves making their art, what's wrong with that?


Why should you have to go to a corporate label to make your art, and then they're taking a huge cut of it? I don't know. That's how we did our DVDs, too. We wouldn't have to give a huge chunk to a middle man. I think the Internet is like an independent person's dream, and that's what I continue to push forward.

Read on to part two of the interview, in which we chat about how the The Guild's actors have changed over time, and how Felicia is moving into her role as a role model.

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