Until recently, there were only a few ways to “make it” in the entertainment industry. You’d move to LA or New York, try to get a spot writing for a late show or a sitcom, and slowly move your way up a rigid, hierarchical ladder, until you were finally creating your own content. But thanks to the Internet, that’s changing. New writers are discovered writing fanfiction. Youtube bloggers are publishing their own books. And people producing their own content online are able to reach millions of people and build their own brand. TV executives seem to be realizing this, and cultivate new talent from the internet. Less than a year ago, the creator of one of my favorite new comedies was releasing her own music videos. Today, she’s a Golden Globe winner whose show is a critical darling.
Felicia Day is one of the first actors/creators who managed to make a name for herself based on her online content. Her memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) details how being a weird kid with a weird upbringing led her to a highly successful career.
Day was homeschooled until she went to college at age 16. After graduating with a 4.0 with a double major in music (she was a violin prodigy) and math, she moved to LA to start acting. On the way, she checked off some of the important steps of being a nerd: Difficulty socializing with peers? Check. Finding comradery with the fellow weirdos online? Check. Becoming maybe slightly too obsessed with online gaming? Cheeeeeeeeck (as an aside, that’s the entire reason I’ve stayed away from World of Warcraft. I know what will happen if I get sucked in). As an actress, Day was getting bored with the cute-secretary-with-one-line parts she was getting hired for. And so, after lots of trepidation and excuses, Day finally sat down and wrote a script for The Guild, about a group of gamers.
No producers wanted it on television. They thought it was a niche hobby, and anyway there’s no such thing as a female gamer. So Felicia and her friends did it themselves, relying on the support of their fans and a healthy supply of duct tape. They managed to make the show they wanted, and their viewers responded.
Felicia’s memoir isn’t really about how she overcame the Hollywood machine to create her own niche. It’s not about how she became a geek darling who worked with Joss Whedon and sold out Comic Con panels. That’s incidental. Instead it’s about how she overcame her insecurities, production difficulties, and her anxiety and depression. It’s about the work that went into the shiny finished product we got to enjoy. It’s a weirdly inspiring reminder that the most important step is Doing. The. Work. That’s the main thing I took away from this book. It’s so easy to not do things, to not try to create. And maybe what you make will work, and maybe it won’t. But there was a seat for Felicia at that table. And there’s one for you too.