September 9, 2007
An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (1 of 4)

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Dana Stodgel, representing an interesting group called "Fandom Rocks," which Stodgel described as "a fan-created initiative to support charities and raise interest in the CW show Supernatural." She thought that the work they were doing might be of interest to the type of issues we look into here at the Convergence Culture Consortium.

As I examined the work of Fandom Rocks further through their Web site, I thought that the best approach might just be to do a multi-part interview with the organizers of Fandom Rocks here on the C3 blog, to get a better idea of the work they do, what motivates them, and how the activities a group like Fandom Rocks participate in can be understood in relation to the show, the network, the fan community, and the charities they work with.

This interview is conducted with Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.

Sam: What are each of your backgrounds, both in relation to the fan community, the network, and the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks?

Dana: I am a fairly quiet member of the fan community, contributing mostly to discussions with fellow fans on LiveJournal and some graphics. I do not have any connection to the CW network. As for the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks, I have been involved in other fandom charity events and participated as a volunteer and fundraiser for organizations offline as well, so it was another opportunity to give back.

Brande: I've lurked or participated on a minor level in a number of fan communities, going back to the X-Files, Buffy, Firefly, Harry Potter and most recently, Supernatural. Mostly, I enjoy seeing the artistic aspects of the fandom and engaging in discussions of the show. It intrigues me to see how the different life experiences of people affect how they view, and relate to, the same scene or line.

I'm also not connected to the CW Network in any way, although I must admit I wouldn't turn down a job offer if it arose. (said jokingly) I work currently for a company involved in fundraising for youth education, so dealing with finances and raising funds is not new for me. I have given to other fandom fundraisers on a low level, but never been very active. This is really my first experience organizing something on this level within a fandom, but I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the process.

Rebecca: Like Dana, I'm pretty quiet in terms of the online fandom. I read blogs and boards and sometimes comment if a discussion is particularly interesting. No one of the three of us has any connection to the CW network; we just love the show. As to the pro-social aspect of FR, I've been greatly involved in volunteer work offline, and when this opportunity arose, how could I pass it up?

Sam: Tell me a little bit more about the various campaigns from Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Veronica Mars fandoms that were precursors to the work you all are doing through Supernatural.

Dana: Fans of Joss Whedon's work, predominantly Firefly/Serenity, but also Buffy and Angel, have raised money for a number of years for Equality Now, knowing that this particular organization was near and dear to him. Veronica Mars fans were very active at the end of seasons one and two to ensure the show's renewal. They created campaigns to show the network there was support, created online viral-marketing projects, and donated DVD sets to libraries across the country. Since 2003, Roswell fans have organized bowl-a-thon fundraisers, and actors/celebrities from multiple shows have participated.

Rebecca: What she said. :)

Brande: Exactly, and other fandoms have followed suit. I think certainly the Browncoats (Firefly/Serenity fans) are the most active that I know of as a particular fandom. There's also the multi-fandom Sweet Charity, which benefits RAINN. And of course, the recent actions of the Jericho fandom to save their show by shipping nuts to CBS.

Fans have begun to realize that, when they work collectively, they can influence culture. Perhaps they may not always "save" their show, but if they can use that collective influence for philanthropic and humanitarian purposes, then it serves multiple purposes: good PR for the show (or film, band, etc.), good PR for the fandom, and a charity receives some much-needed funds.

Sam: Explain the process of how Fandom Rocks came into being.

Dana: I saw Brande's post on Supernatural_TV, a LiveJournal community, about beginning a fan effort to give back to a charity in the name of Supernatural fans. The initial response was very strong, but also a fair bit divided on which charities to support. I didn't want to see that initial energy get lost, so I began discussing domain names in the threads, registered the most likely ones, and began to set up the Web site. When it looked like fans were still interested and agreeing on the charities, I contacted Brande to make sure she was involved if she was still interested. I set up a separate Livejournal community to give everyone a central place to discuss their ideas. Brande and I started spreading the word about Fandom Rocks around and looking for more fans to be a part of the "frontline." Fans were fairly quiet about taking a leadership role, but we were able to get Rebecca to join us. From there, we created groups at Facebook and MySpace and continued asking fans to spread the word to other community Web sites.

Brande: That's pretty much how it started. I was surfing around the Web and was presented with a link about a charity that provided food services for needy families. It sounded like a great cause, so I researched further and found a location in Lawrence. I presented it to the members of the Supernatural_TV board and, while I defnitely got a positive response about working FOR charity in the name of the show, there was a lot of conversation about what charity and how it should be chosen. I backed off, thinking that the idea would bust because a consensus would never be reached, and not wanting to invest my time and heart in an idea I would not get to see blossom.

Dana really stepped in and took up the mantle, getting things started just as I lost my incentive. When she contacted me, she was very concerned that I may feel like I'd been bowled over and my idea snagged. It was completely the opposite! When I saw how much she had gotten done, I was completely overwhelmed. It was far more than I'd have been able to accomplish on my own. I also agreed with her that we needed more than just the two of us to run the show, so to speak, so we looked for other fans to assist us, and that brought us Rebecca.

Rebecca: It was really exciting to be a part of this effort from the ground up. When I saw Dana's post on LJ, it sounded like a brilliant idea. Dana and Brande have really been a backbone for the project and we've all put effort into spreading the word. It's been inspiring to see how people from all walks and countries have come together to support charities and organizations that they may have no direct connection with.

Be sure to come to the blog later today for the second, third, and fourth parts of this interview.