Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.
This post is by current #citylis student Matt Hau.
Fandoms. They’re everywhere nowadays aren’t there? Whether it’s the Whovians or Cumberpeople (I think, I don’t know what the term is anymore), The Brotherhood without Banners or Directioners, seemingly everything has a legion of dedicated fans waiting on their idols’ every move. Invading Twitter after the latest shocking episode, flooding the subreddits with discussion of the latest rumours or giffing it up on Tumblr, social media has become a haven (or a minefield, depending on your opinion) for fans of elements of our culture to share their love of the latest and greatest in their lives.
Yet, for most fandoms, engagement back from the creators themselves is a pipedream. Many will contribute without much recognition at all, let alone the people who make the show/film/music.
Some, however, seem to take a much greater interest in their fandom’s work.
The show is a CGI Anime-style web series from Rooster Teeth Productionsand premiered in July 2013. It focuses its story on 4 young students at Beacon Academy for Hunters and Huntresses, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang (The eponymous Team RWBY). Whilst studying to defend the World of Remnant from the forces of the Grimm, they must also face more challenges from threats both outside and within the academy’s walls and learn to be a true team. One thing is for certain, these ladies are no damsels in distress.
Although there is of course time for goofing off (or filler episodes for viewers!)
But enough waxing lyrical about the show.
Like many fandoms, there are many ways that fans show their creative muscles. From fan art, cosplay, covers of songs featured in the show, books and other assorted pieces of fan made work as well as, yes, fanfiction. Plenty of it.
What makes RWBY different from many of the other fandoms is that the cast and crew seem to engage with this vast body of work on a much greater level than many shows or bands. Rooster Teeth themselves take pride in a great focus on their community, regularly highlighting prominent members on social media, and in some cases even hiring very active members themselves including their own community manager.
From the simple things such as retweeting fan creations that were either given to them at conventions or just appeared on Twitter from personal as well as company accounts, hosting fan Q&A’s on Facebook or Reddit, to much greater lengths cosplaying as their own characters for Rooster Teeth’s own RTX convention or being willing to read some of the fanfiction for charity which you can find here, Rooster Teeth take a much more active role in engaging with their fanbase than many production companies.
— Kara Eberle (@Kara4tx) July 4, 2014
It’s not just a one way interaction though. When the show was hit with a devastating gutpunch with the passing of creator Monty Oum earlier this year, fans came together to support the cast and crew with tributes and art of him alongside the world he had created. One such tribute created outside Rooster Teeth’s studios can be seen below.
Thank you to whoever did this in front of our offices overnight. <3 Monty. pic.twitter.com/4IfhmJJu6k
— Rooster Teeth (@RoosterTeeth) February 3, 2015
But the biggest way Rooster Teeth recognises the fandom is to put their work back into the show. Two major examples come to mind, the first being that 12 pieces of fanart were selected to serve as the backdrop for the credit sequences in Season 2, one of which is shown below.
The second was far bigger in scope. In 2014, fan Jordan Scott created a prototype for a hack n’ slash RWBY video game that gained significant attention from the community and many members of Rooster Teeth. Only days after Scott released a trailer for his creation, he had been hired by Rooster Teeth to turn his prototype into an official product for Steam calledRWBY: Grimm Eclipse.
I guess what can come out of this post is that perhaps fan engagement is an important part of attempting to make a hit show. By tearing down walls between the fans and the creators, Rooster Teeth has enabled the show’s fanbase to have a two way connection with the cast and crew in a way that not many shows can replicate, perhaps making up for the smaller scale of the show (many of the cast are internal Rooster Teeth employees) and certainly helping to expand their demographics beyond their traditional stronghold of the 20 something male. As more actors and musicians use extended social media such as Tumblr, Reddit or Snapchat as a way of communicating with their fans, it’s certainly something to consider.
Matt Hau is on Twitter @MK_Hau.
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This post originally appeared on DITA 2015, the #citylis Digital Information Technologies and Architectures Module 2015 Class Blog, on December 1st 2015. It is reposted here with permission.