ZAM Interviews Felicia Day at BlizzCon

The lovely Felicia Day took some time out of her busy BlizzCon schedule to meet with us to talk about The Guild - Season III and even her initial thoughts about World of Warcraft - Cataclysm.

The cast of "The Guild" Web series was at BlizzCon to talk with fans, host a Q&A panel and premiere the first episode of season three, all while showing off the popular "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" music video. We got the chance to speak with Felicia Day, the show's creator and writer who plays Codex, at the packed Guild booth on the BlizzCon floor. We discussed her thoughts on the Cataclysm expansion and the amount of work that goes into creating the hit low-budget show. She even gave us some details on the Guild comic she's writing for Dark Horse, which will feature the cast both in-game and in the real world.

Keep reading after the jump for our full interview. Be warned that it contains a major spoiler from the first episode of season three, so you may want to watch it first if you want the ending to be a surprise.

ZAM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I'm a big fan of "The Guild" and "Dr. Horrible." I thought I'd start off first with a World of Warcraft question since we're at BlizzCon. How do you feel about the whole Cataclysm announcement?

Felicia Day: I was disappointed that somebody leaked all this stuff. I know how it feels to put a lot of work into something - and it's every day of your life - and then somebody just being either vindictive or not thoughtful leaks everything you've been working for. It's pretty lame. You should think about other people before doing stuff like that.

Otherwise I was really, hugely excited about it to be honest with you. I think it's the best thing to do to integrate all the layers upon layers they've been building on and just kind of reintegrate the world. I think breaking everything that's been established is going to be fun for new players to enter. It's going to be on a more even universal ground. And then for players like me who've been around for a really long time to see places where I started off. I mean Gnomeregan, that's going to be amazing!

ZAM: Do you plan to go back and revisit old zones?

Day: Oh yeah, absolutely. I actually want to level a mage.

ZAM: How about a Night Elf mage?

Day: A Night Elf mage would be interesting. I've actually leveled a Draeni mage to 25, so I've done almost all the starting areas. I also had a druid that I got to like 20. I've never actually leveled a Horde character.

ZAM: You can start a Goblin now!

Day: Exactly! Although female goblins are a little funny looking. At least the NPCs are.

ZAM: Would you lean more toward Goblin or Worgen right now?

Day: I played the Worgen and it was really fun. Darkshire has always been one of my favorite areas. Darkhaven is very evocative of that. It's kind of steampunky almost. I always play a female character, so I just have to see the art for a female Worgen.

ZAM: This is your second BlizzCon, right? Compared to last year, how's this one been to you?

Day: It's like 10 times as big, it's crazy. I mean Blizzard is awesome and they gave us a booth last year, but everything is more spaced out this year, so it's a lot easier to get around and build a line. The music video just came out a couple days ago so it's really fresh on everybody's mind and we have a huge banner of us in our avatar costumes. There are so many amazing costumes here, so I feel like it was perfect timing and I didn't even deliberately do it.

ZAM: That leads into my next question. As you said, "Do You Want to Date My Avatar" exploded a few days ago.

Day: Yeah, I uploaded it on Monday. I literally got up at 8 and was like, "OK, let's see how many people will enjoy this video." It's been an insane ride all week.

ZAM: Yeah, you couldn't be on Twitter and not see it.

Day: People are awesome. I try to be considerate about people on Twitter. Twitter's a balance between promoting things and personality, and I really know that people's time is valuable. But I really wanted to rally the community because we're doing this completely on our own. Everything that happened with this video was me sitting in front of a computer for 12 hours. I'm not exaggerating. I mean, it's a lot of fan support that's built up over two years as well.

ZAM: Can you lead me through the creative process from the idea to getting everybody together and making the video?

Day: It's crazy! It's funny, I still can't grasp the fact that sometimes I can come up with an idea and I get 50 to 60 people to help me make something and it happens. With film-making, it's surprising anything ever gets made. Xbox ordered 12 episodes and then an extra video and I thought, "Hey, people are always asking me to sing since 'Dr. Horrible.' "So I thought that would be fun. I've been listening to a lot of dance music, like '90s dance music, while I was writing season three. I love tongue-in-cheek (music) and I like dancing as well, like club dancing. So I said, "Hey, this would be a cool idea!" And I've always wanted to be a superhero.

We had an artist draw a print of us in our avatar costumes, so all of those ideas came together in this song called "Do You Want to Date My Avatar." I wrote out a bunch of lyric ideas and I knew I needed to get a musician on board. Jed Whedon, who I worked with on "Dr. Horrible" and is one of the coolest guys I know, had a band and it was just awesome. On a whim I e-mailed him and was like, "Do you want to do this with me?" I sent him some lyrics and six hours later he had the chorus and the music down.

After that it was just a lot of hard work. Xbox gave us extra budget; we did it outside our normal order because they really believed in it. They didn't even see anything, they just said it was a good idea. They're really creatively open to whatever it is we want to do and that's why I love them as a partner. They basically just allowed us to do whatever we wanted. We still didn't have a huge budget, so we had to find a costumer to make them on the budget we had. A lot of people put in so much time and effort for much below what they normally would make. This video would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if we were normal, but a lot of people love this show and love what we're doing. They share in making stuff outside the system. Every step of the way it's just people bucking the system, which I really like.

ZAM: So it's a real community effort.

Day: It is. It always is with this show and that's why I like doing it the way I do it. I might not make a lot of money on the show, but I like the way we do it. I feel like it's a good faith way to do things.

ZAM: Now let's move on to season three. The first episode was awesome.

Day: Thank you! Were you at the panel?

ZAM: Yes!

Day: Was it a surprise? Did you know Wil Wheaton was in it?

ZAM: I actually didn't. I don't know how I missed that, but I'm glad I did because I'm a Wil Wheaton fan and it was a nice surprise.

Day: I wanted to get him in the show not just because I wanted to stunt cast, but I feel he's a great actor with a great look who could play an awesome character. So when I finally came up with one that I really wanted him to play, a leader in a kilt, I was like, "Oh, Wil can do that." And he does look good in a kilt!

ZAM: We haven't seen much of the Axis of Anarchy yet.

Day: You'll see a lot more of them in episode two. The show is always about the main cast, but it's nice to have a little bit of outside antagonists happening. They'll appear throughout the season, so it should be fun. There's a lot to deal with in the guild as well, as you see. A lot of storyline gets set up in the first three episodes.

ZAM: You mentioned at the panel you try to have arcing storylines for all the characters. Have they been getting more complicated as you put them on paper?

Day: In the beginning I just have to plan out 12 episodes in advance. So it's literally writing a movie. The script is movie length. It got more complicated because we added so many new cast members this season. It's a little more than we can manage. We were able to pull it off because of the professionalism and the expertise of our people donating time. I think it's going to be great. It's hard because when you're low budget you want to be ambitious and "wow" people, but at the same time you have to deal with what you have. So I think we really maxed it out in season three and I hope everybody enjoys it.

ZAM: I found it kind of funny that in the first episode of season three, which premiered at BlizzCon after the Cataclysm announcement, the guild members are waiting in line for the new expansion of their game. Did you...

Day: I had no idea! It was an idea I came up with a long time ago. Ya know, the first two seasons we opened up behind our monitors and I felt like a lot of new people aren't necessarily gamers who watch the show, and I thought by opening it up in a venue that may not be as inside, it could be open. All those people who are wives and girlfriends and husbands of gamers will be even more drawn in to the opening of the season. It was very challenging. I didn't really think about it, but finding a location to shoot -- a game store -- is very difficult and it's very expensive because in L.A. you've got to get so many permits and there's so much equipment and parking. You wouldn't imagine the list of things you have to deal with in order to shoot outside. I'll be contemplating that very carefully next season.

ZAM: You mentioned expenses tied to shooting at the game store. Were there any other challenges that stuck out to you while filming that you didn't expect to happen?

Day: Shooting a scene with two guilds facing off, that's like 12 people in a scene. Just having that many actors on time constraints; we only had two days to shoot 25 pages in front of the game store. It's always rushing and stressing about the light going down. We were living all the challenges of independent movie making.

ZAM: As you said, you write all the episodes at once like a movie script. When you're looking back at seasons, do you ever wish you could have had more freedom to not film it all at once?

Day: For this season we block shot it. We shot everything at once in like a three-week period. It's funny because as a Web series we're only four to nine minutes per episode, but we're doing installments. It is more comfortable for me as a writer to have at least a week in-between shooting episodes, but we just can't do it economically. You want to shoot all of Tink's stuff in one day and all of Clara's stuff in that location because it's expensive to move around. The thing about a TV show is they do 60-page scripts every week, but at the same time they have a writing staff of anywhere from seven to 14 people. It's just me and it does get very stressful during production because I'm producing, as well as writing everything, as well as memorizing.

ZAM: With all the stuff you're doing with "The Guild," how do you find time to do things like "Dollhouse" episodes?

Day: I have to! That's what pays my bills. I juggle a lot. I'm kind of stretched thin when we're in production, but I have a lot of great people to help me. It's just a question of prioritizing. I don't have a lot of free time, but I'm working on that. I'm trying to cut that and trying to get people to delegate. I'm going to be writing the comic book for Dark Horse for "The Guild" and that's going to be the next couple months. I'm just taking a hiatus from everything.

ZAM: You actually just went right into my next question. Can you tell me a little more about the comic?

Day: I don't really have a lot of details I can release. I'm doing it with Dark Horse and it's not going to be on the same timeline as the Web series. I wanted to be able to do some of the stories that we're not able to do in the regular series, especially in the game since we don't name a game for copyright reasons, and also because I want to focus on the characters.

ZAM: Will the comic focus more on the avatars?

Day: We'll be doing both. I want to bounce in and out of the game and real life. So it'll be two universes we're working in.

ZAM: Will you be creating your own dream MMO for the comic?

Day: It's always about the characters. It's whatever I think is funny at the time. It's cool because I love fantasy art and we'll be dealing with two different artistic styles: the indie style from out of the game and the game style. It'll be fun to work with an artist or artists.

ZAM: And you're writing the whole comic yourself?

Day: Definitely. I'm not sure how many issues. A lot of it is up in the air.

ZAM: Do you think it'll be a miniseries or ongoing?

Day: I don't know as of yet. I guess we're dipping the toe in the water so to speak.

ZAM: Compared to a huge gaming convention like BlizzCon, what are the more comic-oriented conventions like for you?

Day: It depends. It's all very concentrated. I'm not recognizable in everyday life. Nobody really cares who I am in Hollywood or on the street. So coming to conventions is like the most concentrated "celebrity" I get. It actually makes me feel sorry for real celebrities because it's great to interact with fans, but there are so many people I'd like to meet and spend more time with that I feel like I can't spend time with people. I'm 12 hours a day behind the computer doing this show, so meeting people in person who actually enjoy what we do gets us through the year.

ZAM: What was it like switching from being completely independent to getting picked up by Xbox?

Day: It wasn't much different except now we have people to help us on distribution and fund us so we can pay people up front and have better cameras and stuff. Xbox has been a huge step for us. Before I was working with them, I didn't use my Xbox as much and just seeing you can download our show like a TV show is awesome. I really enjoy it. They're really good partners. They don't interfere creatively, they're very supportive of any crazy idea I have and I retain the rights to my show. So we are an independent show. It's cool. We're the only ones doing this and the fact that the fans are helping us work completely outside the regular acceptable things, I love it. It's showing people they don't have to do the regular way of things and they can still be successful and have people support their work.

ZAM: Looking ahead, when do think work on season four will start?

Day: I don't know. We don't really have a commitment. We haven't been picked up or anything. It will be awhile, thank goodness. I need a breather. We'll see. I have stories to tell.

ZAM: Will season four still be on Xbox?

Day: Nothing's definite yet, but I love working with them. If they decide to pick us up again, that would be awesome. If not, I still have stories to tell for the characters, so we'll see what happens.

ZAM: During your break, do you plan on playing some World of Warcraft?

Day: I just leveled my priest nine levels last week because Vork's supposed to get married. I'd like to get all my characters to 80, but I don't know when the expansion's coming out. It's going to be awhile. But I would like to do that.

ZAM: Great! Well thanks for talking with me.

Darryl "Togikagi" Gangloff
News Reporter
ZAM.com

Comments

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Nice Interview.
# Sep 04 2009 at 1:15 PM Rating: Decent
12 posts
Nice Interview, but who is the person on the right of the picture? I mean the female hunter?
____________________________
Kagomè - Human - Mage
or
Kagomé - Human - Warlock
depends on upload ^^
Nice Interview.
# Sep 05 2009 at 6:24 PM Rating: Excellent
Former ZAM Editor-in-Chief
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295 posts
Felicia Day is standing in front of a poster featuring the other cast members of "The Guild." The character to the far right is Tinkerballa, the group's ranger. She's played by Amy Okuda.

Just to clear things up, the actors, from left, are Jeff "Vork" Lewis, Sandeep "Zaboo" Parikh, Felicia "Codex" Day, Robin "Clara" Thorsen and Amy "Tinkerballa" Okuda. Not pictured is Vincent "Bladezz" Caso.
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