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03 April 2011

The Rise of the Web Series

Looking at Felicia Day, you’d never guess that this petite redhead from Huntsville, Alabama, represents the single biggest threat to the global television industry.

At just 29, this actress turned screenwriter and producer has created a web series that has been watched more than a ­quarter of a billion times.

Her series, called The Guild, was made on the most shoestring of budgets. Speaking at the South by South West Interactive festival last month, Day chuckled as she recalled pilfering food from another set on which she was working at the time. Shot in her house, using borrowed equipment and her friends as cast members, the show epitomises the DIY spirit of a new generation of independent producers.

In 2007 Day was already a successful actress, with parts in shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and House, when she decided to use the spare time between acting gigs to write and produce her own series. Working from the age-old premise of “write what you know”, Day decided to create a series about online gamers.

“I’ve been an online gamer my whole life and I’ve been on the net since the beginning. I had a Prodigy account,” says Day. The choice was fortuitous for a number of reasons. First, she had a built-in audience of extremely connected and net-savvy viewers -- online gamers. Second, because of her strong, organic connections to social media channels such as forums and Twitter she had an instant marketing strategy.

The most extraordinary thing about the first season of The Guild was that it was entirely financed by donations from viewers. Day was surprised by the response: “Someone said ‘Ask for donations’ and I thought no one does that.”

Read the full article here.

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