March 30, 2012 10:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Felicia Day Shifts to Producing Role with New YouTube Channel
Felicia Day is no stranger to do-it-yourself business plans, having created hit web series The Guild from her kitchen. Now, the DIY queen is shifting her focus to more of a producing role with a new YouTube channel, dubbed Geek & Sundry, set to launch April 2 with six new original series.
In addition to handpicking and executive producing all six series, Day also will host The Flog, a whimsical weekly series exploring her latest hobbies. With each entry, Day hopes to capitalize on the engaged fan community she has established with The Guild -- which after five seasons has topped more than 150 million views.
"I didn't want to make mini-TV; I wanted to make web video that really is a vehicle for community building and for people taking something out of each of the shows and incorporating in their own life," Day tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Every single show has that in mind: that you don't just passively consume it. You are participating around the video with the community and in your own life."
THR caught up with Day to discuss the Geek & Sundry channel -- which will feature replays of The Guild as well as series from Dark Horse Motion Comics, a gaming show from The Big Bang Theory's Wil Wheaton, a video take on popular sci-fi podcast Sword & Laser, the whimsical Written by a Kid as well as an offbeat musical series Learning Town -- and how she feels serving as a pseudo network chief.
The Hollywood Reporter: What prompted you to create the YouTube channel and pact with Geek & Sundry?
Felicia Day: It's always been a dream of mine to be able to do more web series than I had been doing in the past. The Guild has been awesome for the past four or five years of my life, and I was able to do Dragon Age: Redemption, but it really required an investment in a way to be able to start a company that could do more than one or two series at once. The opportunity YouTube offered -- where you could go in and pitch a slate of series -- made me start thinking about what I'm doing in a much different way. It opened up the idea that I could start a network from scratch in a sense and be able to really expand; it became absolutely my 100 percent focus. I like to think of it like a start-up company, but web video is our product.
How much more original content are you looking to add as the channel grows its audience?
I'd love to add series as we go along, but my immediate goal is to find a fan base and motivate people to create a community around what I'm doing now. I'm super-excited for Monday, when we can actually release shows and show people what we've been working on.
What were you looking for in selecting the six series that you're launching with? What's the common thread?
Community. The thing that keeps me in web video and prevents me from jumping into TV development is the fact that my fans are one click away from me. That's much more important than trying to go on some huge mass scale. When I sit down to list the things that I think would create a community feel to it, every single show has our audience in mind. I didn't want make mini-TV; I wanted to make web video that really is a vehicle for community building and for people taking something out of each of the shows and incorporating in their own life. Every single show has that in mind: that you don't just passively consume it. You are participating around the video with the community and in your own life.
With TableTop, we want to make the best 30-minute gaming show we can on the web. [Host/co-creator] Wil Wheaton and I want to introduce people to board games they've never heard of and incorporate tabletop gaming into their own lives, whether it's with their family or within our community. The same with Sword & Laser: It's a book club that we're trying to aggregate around a web video. You're not meant to just passively watch this video but watch it, read the book and participate in the discussion in many different ways, whether on the forums or in the YouTube comments or taken into the show itself. The community around the show is supposed to enrich you as well.
What are the advantages of releasing The Guild this way? What happens to your partnership with Microsoft?
In this deal, we are able to own our content. All these shows are still owned by my company, which is kind of not the traditional means of releasing content. Being able to re-release The Guild on the platform as movies is something I think is going to introduce us to new audiences. The secret to the web is not that if it's on Internet, everybody sees it; it's you have to go to where your audience is. With YouTube, new people are going to discover The Guild because we're going to be featured in different ways. New audiences will be able to watch as movies and share it. So it's really interesting. As far as The Guild Season 6, that's something that I just had to table a bit because there's the three of us running this whole company overseeing everything. Right after launch, that's going to be my goal, and I'm sure we'll be announcing something pretty soon afterward about the future of The Guild. I still own the show, and I intend to do more.
Is that the big announcement you've been tweeting about that's coming Monday?
No, but we will have a huge surprise bonus that has not been announced on the channel on Monday.
How have you been juggling all the duties that come with launching a channel with such a small team?
It's definitely proven to be much more time-consuming and detail-oriented than I thought. I've definitely had to learn more skills, but I took mini-steps, having done Dragon Age and The Guild at the same time. We're keeping small so we know we can do everything the best we can on the budget that we have. That's my mantra. The personal show I'm doing, The Flog -- everybody has to sit in the same car to be able to go film something or we don't do it. There's a sense of spontaneity to it that is very real, and people can sense that on the Internet. If you grow too big, you can't be spontaneous and be able to move quickly the way that the Internet moves.
How much do you feel like a network boss at this point, considering your heavy involvement in creating, marketing and producing the YouTube channel?
I'm definitely stepping back into the producer role; it's something I really enjoy. In my small experience, bringing out the best in people is the best you can do as a producer. It's not my job to impose my vision; it's my job to put the right people together. With Sword & Laser, for example, I went to them to turn audio podcast into video. I just want to remain faithful to the original content of the audio podcast and just bring in whatever advantages that people have. It's the same with Dark Horse: They know how to make motion comics, they know how to make comics. I'm just giving them an opportunity and a platform to release comics and find the best audience possible.
What advantages are there to launching a channel like this versus partnering with bigger companies?
Partnering with somebody is something that I'm not opposed to; it would have to be the right person. I had some interest early on, but it's important to create what you're going to create. I wanted to make sure that I was creating this network and it was fulfilling my vision of what the network would be and who our audience is and how it looks, even down to our theme song that I picked out. If down the line someone wants to partner with me and be able to help us expand, we can do it. But getting that sort of partnership too early could lead us astray in creating the vision for the overall channel. But it's important for me to just have the footprint of the company be really clear to start.
For more on Geek & Sundry, head over to its YouTube channel, and check out the video below previewing its original series.