Geek Icon, Actor and Entrepreneur Felicia Day on Why Enthusiasm Will Always Win the Day
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On screen, she’s come up against vampires, super villains, monsters and scientific phenomena gone awry. But for Felicia Day (Supernatural, Eureka, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), a writer, actor, producer and creator of the web series The Guild -- the biggest challenge and triumph of her career has been channeling her passions into a thriving company.
Four years ago, Day founded Geek and Sundry, an online hub dedicated to pop culture and embracing all manner of geeky pursuits. Aimed at inspiring people who “dare to love the unconventional,” the site is frequented by over 4 million fans across its social platforms, and the company’s YouTube channel has more than 1.3 million subscribers and over than 200 million views.
Day is no stranger to beloved cult properties, and one of her next projects will be the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, of which she is part of the cast and writing team.
We caught up with Day to talk about the importance of enthusiasm in the creative process, how to navigate merging your vision with the marketplace, how to bounce back from rejection, build a community that keeps coming back and why fandom is like family.
Q: When do you feel the most creative?
A: I feel the most creative when I’m working out of joy, and I feel supported, and with other people around me, who are creating as well. When I was first starting The Guild, I wasn’t used to writing, and I had this idea that everything needed to be perfect and beautiful the minute you thought of it or you’re a failure. But I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you just have to keep going and keep working and plowing through.
It feels like running through molasses sometimes, but it’s worth it to try so you have something to work with versus being stuck forever and never getting what you want to say out.
Q: How do you motivate yourself?
A: I definitely feel like you have to have the initial enthusiasm. You have to be very excited about it and it needs to be personal enough that you can get through all the hard stuff. It’s never going to be easy, and especially once you get halfway through, you’re going to want to abandon everything. That means you have to start in the most enthusiastic place.
Q: You have a lot of different projects going at one time. How do prioritize your time?
A: The last six months I’ve tried to reevaluate how I work. It’s a compromise between balancing more than one thing, but not compromising the overall satisfaction of your work. I like to have one thing I’m fully focusing on, that I have an end goal, and I’m going to make myself finish.
Then maybe I have a side project, that if when I get stuck a little bit, and I need to focus on something else, I have my next project there, and in a place where I can have fun. So when I really start that project, I created some things from freedom, not a deadline.
Q: Rejection is a big part of running a business and generally being in a creative field. Can you tell us about an incident when you needed to bounce back and what you did?
A: Last year, I pitched a TV show that was so close to my heart and I believed in so much, but it just didn’t end up selling for a variety of reasons. I took a couple of months to step back and realize that I shouldn’t lose faith in it, it just wasn’t the right venue or place to do that story. But it isn’t as if I shouldn’t have tried.
After I getting over it and focusing on new things, now I’m more educated as to what I want to do, versus basing my self-worth and my creativity on how other people judge it.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to turn his or her passion into a business?
A: I’ve turned all of my passions into a business and it’s served me well, but it’s also taken some of the passion out of it, because making a business out of something, you have to make it profitable, and you have to think about your passion in a different way. Sometimes it removes the excitement and the enthusiasm you had around those things.
Before you make a career out of something, yes, you need the passion for the end result of it, but you also need a passion for the grind of it. Then if you’re willing to put up with the grind to get to the passion, you know you’re on the right track.
Q: What are you glad you didn’t know before starting Geek and Sundry?
A: I knew nothing about business. I wish I had focused more on the business earlier on versus the content. I can’t really blame myself because I was coming from a creator point of view and I thought I was going to make shows, but really it needed to be a business and needed to be all about the bottom line.
I wish I had been brave enough to bring on more people earlier on to help out, because if you think you can take it on all yourself, you can for a small period of time, but six months, 12 months in, you’re going to burn out. And the one thing that will get you through is you not burning out. You’re the most valuable thing in your company -- don’t burn out by not delegating early enough.
Q: What is special to you about being a fan? What gets overlooked when people talk about fandom?
A: Fandom is not necessarily about the thing that you’re a fan of, but the connection you instantly create with another person. If I meet somebody at a party and they like Fallout, we’re going to instantly connect and have something to talk about. We’re not going to always talk about it, but that’s a way for us to know that we’ll probably get along. It’s a shorthand to friendship in a way, whether it’s online or offline.
It’s a wonderful thing. It allows people to be themselves. To me, fandom is family, and it’s grassroots and it’s making things outside the norm, and celebrating people that don’t necessarily like what is mainstream.That’s what my interpretation of it is. That’s why when we do our content, we’re not trying to please everybody.