An award-winning actress and an expert on new media, Stephanie Thorpe has been featured at numerous conventions around the country including Comic-Con, Digital Hollywood, AFI, Screen Actors Guild, SAG Conservatory, WonderCon, VidCon, Comikaze, GeekGirlCon, The HollyShorts Film Fest, and DotCon: The Convention at Your Desk. Thorpe has been nominated twice to the Board of Directors for the International Academy of Web Television Awards, she has hosted four events for the non-profit organization Celebrate the Web and is a founding member of The League of Extraordinary Ladies, a group of more than 600 members focused on fostering connections in the geek community. I recently had a chance to sit down with Stephanie to discuss Twitter, “Lord of The Rings,” and the Most Dangerous Woman on the Internet.
You are one of the “Most Dangerous Women on the Internet,” why is that and how does it feel?
Stephanie Thorpe: This year I had the privilege of being on a panel called “The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con” along with a handful of women who are breaking down barriers in geek culture and content creation. I was extremely honored, and it made me feel pretty kick-ass. I’m someone who’s never been called dangerous before in her life, exactly the opposite in fact: I grew up being a geek. Growing up, being a geek wasn’t something that was mainstream, it wasn’t something that was celebrated and I really was so proud to be part of that panel. I see girls growing up today who don’t have to hide what they love. I’m an actress, a new media content creator, a writer, a producer and I love that the stories I’m contributing to the culture are contributing to the flourishing of all things geek.
Geek culture is being celebrated now, and increasingly for women, does this encourage girls to pursue careers in science, math, technology—things that have been traditionally male-dominated?
ST: I think it encourages young women to go into fields that were traditionally seen as male-only, I think it’s absolutely empowering, absolutely inspiring, I was inspired by all of the women on the panel with me and by all of the faces I saw in the room. When I look back at my childhood compared to now and how things have evolved and grown and changed, I just look forward to the future as we continue the transition where women have a stronger voice in all areas, from tech to science to creative, I think we’re really coming into our own and I think it’s great.
What are some of the key factors in this large change in attitudes?
ST: I think that the change comes from the evolution of where we’re going as human beings. On a specific level, as the X generation and the Y generation get older, what we were bullied for as kids we are making sure that our younger friends and our children aren’t attacked for those same values. I think also advertisers realizing that geek culture is an area that they can make buckets of money on, pulled things into the mainstream. Specifically, I think that the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy really changed the way that people look at fantasy, for example.
On the craft side, how has technology made what you do possible?
ST: I initially started in this field as an actress, I started on the stage doing a lot of Shakespeare and that’s what I have my Master’s degree in. I was working on stage, in film, TV, and commercials but I got really tired of waiting for the phone to ring. And I wasn’t seeing the female characters I dreamt of portraying. I thought “you know what? I can do some of this stuff myself” and so several years ago I did that. I produced several short films and a couple of feature films and took them around the film festival circuit. That was great at first but it was expensive and it got really frustrating—you really had to be there in person. My producing partners and I had another project called “After Judgment,” an apocalyptic sci-fi show. We decided to cut it down into small pieces because the web-series phenomenon was starting and people were putting stuff online. It was well received: we got a bunch of critical acclaim, were nominated for a bunch of awards with the Streamys, and got an article in the New York Times. That was my entrance into the web-series world and it made a lot more sense to connect with people virtually and get these stories out there.
I wanted to play these strong female characters that I grew up reading, I wanted to see them portrayed and specifically wanted to see more science fiction so that’s what I’ve been mainly producing for the web. My most recent project, “Elfquest,” actually took a 35-year-old graphic novel that I was a fan of as a little girl and put a live-action version online. That wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago: I posted my favorite panel on Twitter and found my producer, Paula Rhodes, who was also a huge ElfQuest fan. Paula and I went online and raised money from fans, crowdsourcing on a site called IndieGogo.com and we got donations from all over the world (http://www.elfquestfantrailer.com). I’m now working on a series called “Shelf Life,” about four action-figures on their shelf. It’s live-action comedy, kind of like a raunchy “Toy Story.” I’m having a lot of fun with that and the two talented producer/actors – Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. I also have a couple of things coming up, such as “Weird Girls,” which is about a group of middle school girls who have to deal with growing up and trusting each other while fighting demons at the same time. It’s very “Goonies” meets “Buffy,” which are shows that inspired me and I’d like to make something inspirational for a new generation. I’ve also been cast in the new series “Legendary,” and am excited to play an Elven High Priestess in the fall after I speak at Geek Girl Con. Um, I’m pretty busy!