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Next-Gen Storyteller: Felicia Day

February 12th, 2010 . by Peggy

If you haven’t heard of @FeliciaDay, you’re missing out on the next Carol Burnett. She’s what I call a next-generation storyteller – and here’s why.

Of course she’s beautiful, hysterically funny, and wickedly clever, but more importantly: she understands what technology will do for her. It’s not what you’ve got, but how you use it.

Day’s Wikipedia entry reads like someone much older than her youthful 30 years. (Like, turned down acceptance to Julliard? Whoa.) A master of a number of art forms, she is an accomplished violinist, opera singer, dancer, screenwriter, actor and scholar. Her real new media fame came in 2007 when she embraced web video for her project “The Guild”, which is a web comedy available for viewing and download on a variety of web video sites, including iTunes.

But, what makes her a “next-gen storyteller”?

Two things: extension and technology. It’s not just that she has a trendy web show based on computer gaming – it’s waaaaay beyond that.

Day makes high quality and often personal connections with her audience, both real and virtual. She regularly mingles with fans at various conferences (such as ComicCon in San Deigo each year) and many live screenings and non-profit events. She understands that the story extends off the screen, however small it may be. Then, she uses all technology mediums available to her to extend this story, including a wide variety of social media outlets, and even a music video (“Do You Wanna Date My Avatar”) in which she sings and dances to a song of her own composition. (To-die-for-funny: $1.99 on iTunes.)

Check out this timeline:
- 2007: releases first season of “The Guild” loosely based on her own experiences as an avid player of online games. The primary outlet is YouTube, and it’s free. Halfway through this year, she grabs a Twitter ID and starts posting.

- 2008: At least partly thanks to exposure from The Guild, Day is cast in a variety of other parts, including the genre-defining “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (another web comedy).* She even has a guest spot on the TV series House. She also releases Season II of The Guild, and works on another web project with her Guild co-star Sandeep Parikh, Legend of Neil. MSN makes a deal with The Guild to expand releases to XBox Live, MSN video, and Zune, and suddenly, Day is earning money from this venture.

- 2009: The third season of The Guild is released to its’ now rabid fans, and Day herself achieves one of the most coveted social media trophies: the #3 most-followed person on Twitter. (As of now, she’s somewhere around #50.) She also continues to guest star on a variety of mainstream TV shows like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

Just three crappy years, and it appears that she’s so busy doing web video that she no longer has time to pursue work in film, which is much more risky and far less fun.

Day uses all that the web has to offer: iTunes is just the tip of the iceberg, even though for most this would be considered killer bread-and-butter distribution. The deal with MSN is freakin’ brilliant, allowing her to penetrate even deeper into the community that has supported her from the beginning: online gaming. She’s every Gamer’s dream girl.

Like Madeline Kahn and Mae West before her, she plays down her obvious beauty, and writes, directs, acts, and allows her comedic nature to help her story. She is one of those multi-talented women that has been allowed to explore her creativity – and we love her for it. She is still warmly received by her community, and often pokes fun at the roles she’s played, and any possible criticisms of ‘selling out’ (Parikh: “Where’d you get all this money? We make a web series..??!!??”) by making even more content with that community.

I have to admit, my favourite part of this story is the music video. Again, quality rules: the crossover only works because it’s actually a good song. It offers the other cast Members a chance to really strut their stuff along with Day. (Wow – check out Parikh’s backflip, and it turns out Okuda is a fantastic dancer.) Her people love her, and she loves them right back.

Can anyone replicate this recipe? Of course. If you can’t cook, ally yourself with people who can: Felicia allies herself with technology experts (even though, importantly, she has a strong grasp of the technology herself) and with other actors and creatives.

The NG Storyteller never goes it alone, but they boldly blaze the trail for those that support them.

*DHSAB is a creation of the brilliant Joss Whedon, inventor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (where she has previously guest-starred), Firefly, and a string of other mainstream and web hits.

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