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Q&A with Kerry Shawcross and Miles Luna

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First of all, please tell us your names, age and place of birth.
Kerry: My name is Kerry Shawcross. I am 25 and was born and raised in San Antonio, TX.
Miles: My name is Miles Luna. I’m 26, was born in Plano, TX and raised in San Antonio, TX.

In many interviews it is been said that Monty had the idea of RWBY some years before starting developing it. When did he contact you with the idea? How was that very first conversation about RWBY?
Kerry: Monty came into work one day and told me he had had a dream. There were 4 girls, one red, one white, one black, and one yellow. Then he walked away. The next day, he came up to me and asked “Do you want to make an anime?”. My answer was, of course, absolutely.
Miles: Both Monty and Kerry approached me after they had spent some time discussing the idea of creating a Rooster Teeth anime. It was very obvious that they were excited by the idea of the project, and that excitement was contagious. We sat around a table at dinner and I just listened to them talk about their ideas for hours. It was great.

Why did you accept to be part of the project?
Kerry: I’ve always been a fan of animation in general and specifically Japanese animation for some time. I also enjoyed working with Monty a lot. It seemed like a no brainer.
Miles: I’m always excited by the idea of working on new projects, and at the time the only other project I was working on was Red vs. Blue. Getting to work on something new with people I loved sounded like a wonderful time.

How was decided the color-coding for the characters? Why did you decide to use that approach?
Kerry: We felt that having a consistent color rule would help not only make the characters more iconic, but help us create visually interesting designs.

Did you expect all the success that the series has had?
Kerry: Not in the slightest. We all knew that we liked the property, but we had no idea so many people would gravitate toward it so quickly. It was pretty incredible.
Miles: I was blown away by the immediate popularity of RWBY. It seemed to spread like wildfire across the web. Everyone everywhere was suddenly talking about this little show of ours, and it was honestly really scary! With all eyes on us, the pressure felt insurmountable.

In the afterbuzz show of volume 3’s finale you said that RWBY’s story was just getting started; and, at RTX 2016 RWBY’s Panel, you said that you have defined the main points of the story. Have you estimated how many volumes will RWBY have?
Kerry: We try not to get too specific, since stories evolve as you write them. Let’s just say that there will be plenty of RWBY for years to come!

You have stated that although you have sketched the main story of the series, you are flexible in order to allow it to be changed. How flexible you are? In RTX 2016 RWBY’s Panel you spoke about Neo’s first appearance, can you tell us that anecdote?
Kerry: The Neo story was an example of how things can change between Volumes or sometimes during production. From the beginning we outlined big events that we knew we wanted to strive for, but we were all very clear that we didn’t want to be confined to that either. In the Neo example, we had a potential voice over candidate, so we thought we would create a character that could fit that role. That didn’t really pan out, but we ended up with a character that both we and the fans love!

Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have a schedule for writing or you just write as soon as the inspiration comes?
Kerry: It can vary. We are often writing at the same time that we are directing or overseeing other projects, so I tend to just write whenever I can. Lots of nights and weekends. As for inspiration, it can strike at any time. I was recently watching a movie in a theater and had an idea for a character moment. I wrote it on a napkin and stuck it in my pocket.
Miles: I’m constantly inspired by shows, books, and even incidents in everyday life. However, I think music affects my writing the most. If I’m having difficulty writing a scene, sometimes I just need to search online until I find a song that feels right for the tone I’m trying to convey. Once I find that song, the dialogue feels like it comes much easier. As for when we’re able to write, it seems like it’s whenever we find a spare moment! Our schedules are pretty chaotic!

Besides being the writers of RWBY, you are also voice actors in the series. Miles as Jaune and Kerry as Neptune. And Kerry also directed volume 3. Giving the success of the series, it is clear that you have been able to combine those roles flawlessly. Has it been easy? How have you done that so far?
Kerry: Writing and directing at the same time is very challenging. But it also has its perks. I’m able to see the first few episodes come together as we are writing the last ones. That can help influence the scripts in a way that writing them before we start cannot. It does mean many long hours however. When you love what you do though, that’s not a problem.
Miles: Writing and acting in the show has been a ton of fun. I never felt like getting into character for Jaune was very difficult, because I feel as though I relate to him pretty strongly. He’s just a dork trying to do the best he can; he’s certainly not perfect, but he’s got heart.

It is clear that RWBY has a strong anime influence. Are you anime fans? Which anime tv series / movies / manga / light novels do you like?
Kerry: I’m a huge anime fan! Some of my favorites are Fullmetal Alchemist and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. I have seen and like many others, but those are the two that probably had the largest influence on me.
Miles: I didn’t really start watching anime until I was in college, and my first real experience with it was Cowboy Bebop. So far, nothing has topped my love for Bebop. The style, story, characters, and music all blend together so flawlessly. Other shows I’ve enjoyed are FLCL, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, and Kill la Kill!

When you started creating RWBY, did you imagine that it would be so successful outside USA?
Kerry: Not in the slightest. It is still crazy to us every day that people go out of their way to subtitle and dub episodes in other languages!
Miles: No way! With such high quality content coming out of Japan, I assumed most Japanese viewers would find our show crude or childish. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The love and support we’ve received from all over the world is overwhelming and we’re incredibly honored.

Speaking of RWBY’s international success, what did you think when WB Japan contacted you to distribute RWBY? Were you aware at that moment of the success of the series in Japan? Volume 2 is being released this month and Volume 3 will be release in December. Have you been in Japan to promote the show? If you have, how was the experience? And if you haven’t, are you planning to go?
Kerry: Hearing that RWBY was going to be officially dubbed in Japanese was one of the highlights of my life. To have a show that I work on be one of the few pieces that is imported instead of exported from Japan is very humbling. I have not made it over there yet, but I hope to one day!
Miles: It was unbelieveable. It all still feels like a dream. I’ve yet to visit Japan, but I REALLY hope I’ll be able to make the journey eventually!

The success of RWBY in Latin America and Spain is growing fast; in fact, there is a Spanish fandub of the series as well as a Spanish fansub. Do you have plans for releasing an official Spanish dub for RWBY? Are you aware of the hispanic community’s growing interest in RWBY?
Kerry: That’s amazing to hear! We are so appreciative of our fans all over the world. We don’t currently have plans for other countries, but we’re always happy to investigate!
Miles: I had no idea, but I’m so incredibly happy to hear that!

You started developing the Show on Poser; however, currently you are using Maya. Why did you change? Are you still using Poser in some extent?
Kerry: Maya is allowing us to grow our skills in new and different ways. We hope to use it to enhance the visual look of the show. The way that the show is animated is really not that different.

RWBY is not the only project in which you currently are involved. How do you manage your time?
Kerry: Coffee helps.
Miles: Lots of lists. As hectic as managing multiple projects can be, creatively I find it helps me sometimes. I have a habit of growing bored if I’m stuck on the same project for too long. By constantly having to switch between stories, characters, and art styles, it helps keep things fresh and interesting in my mind!

RWBY’s volume 3 was much more darker than the previous two. Was that planned from the beginning? The series’ tone will continue being this dark in the future?
Kerry: The events of Volume 3 were planned from the very beginning, yes. The season was darker than the previous ones, but that doesn’t mean the series will always be like that. If everything was always dark, then it would have less meaning.
Miles: In order for RWBY’s darkest moments to be impactful, they need to be contrasted with happiness and comedy, and the opposite is equally true. I think by introducing such emotional extremes, we’ll be able to keep the audience on their toes and wondering “What on earth is going to happen next?”

Speaking of the trailer, there are some rumors regarding you using the same approach of volume 1. In other words, it has been said that you will release 4 new trailers for Volume 4. Is that true? If not, can you tell us about the approach you will use?
Kerry: We will only be releasing this one character short. We would love to do one for each character, but we would much rather put that time and energy into making the show itself that much better.

There are a lot of theories regarding RWBY’s volume 4… and I mean A LOT. Are you aware of that? Have you checked them?
Kerry: I tend to check in on them occasionally, yes. Also interesting to see how close or how ridiculously far off people can get.
Miles: I typically try to avoid fan theories and stories. I support them wholeheartedly and I think it’s great that we have such an active and vocal community, but I don’t ever want to subconsciously be influenced by something I’ve read or accused of plagiarism.

In RTX 2016 you showed the new clothing designs for the main characters. Why did you decide to change their clothes?
Kerry: It seemed like an appropriate time to do it. Fashion is obviously a big part of the show (we changed their outfits some in Volume 2 as well). It felt like a good time to update their outfits to help display their current place in life.

So far the show has been set in Vale, but at the end of Volume 3 it appears that finally we are going to see the other kingdoms. Will the series show the four kingdoms and the four academies in the future?
Kerry: You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Miles: We’ve dreamt up a large world… it’d be disappointing if we never had the chance to show it off!

In RTX 2016 you said that there is a 6 to 8 months time skip between volumes 3 and 4. So, all the characters have had time to process what happened, which means that they are not going to be the same. Has been easy to handle that change in their personalities? Have you changed something in your approach to write about them?
Kerry: Without getting into spoilers, the main thing we’ve needed to think about is just exactly what we want to show on screen. We have the ability to start the character’s stories exactly where we want them. It gives us a lot of freedom, but we also need to make sure it’s believable.
Miles: There will definitely be differences in the behavior of certain characters. We want these kids to grow as their journey progresses and we want them to face the consequences of their actions and the actions of others.

One of the main key points in RWBY is the size of its cast. Why did you decide to create a cast that big? How are you able to handle all those characters? How do you manage to keep every one of them distinguible from the others?
Kerry: We like characters! Designing characters and coming up with backstories is very fun for me. We want the world to feel big and one way to do that is to fill it with many characters that people like. Also seeing people cosplay all those different characters is incredible.
Miles: Coming up with characters is one of my favorite parts of storytelling. As for why we made so many, we just wanted the world to feel big and populated. Not every character we create will have equal importance, but we still try to put a lot of thought into who they are nonetheless.

This question is attached to the previous one. A lot of characters in a show like RWBY means a lot of weapons. How did you manage to design a unique weapon for every one of them?
Kerry: It often just happens naturally while designing the characters outfit and personality. The weapons tend to personify who those characters really are.

Let’s talk about RWBY chibi. Who had the idea? Why did you decide to create a show like that?
Kerry: I think a lot of us had tossed around ideas that were similar. We have always had these little jokes that either didn’t fit into the show proper or would mess up the cannon of the show. We wanted a way to get those to the fans.
Miles: It just felt like a great opportunity to have some fun with the characters we’d all grown to love!

It is the same thing to work on RWBY chibi than to work on RWBY? If not, what are the differences?
Kerry: It is very, very different. It is all hand-keyed (no mocap) and has a looser structure.

Are we going to have more volumes of RWBY chibi or this was a one-time thing?
Kerry: We hope to have some announcements about that soon!

In the afterbuzz show of volume 3 finale Miles said that whether a character is dead or alive, a petition won’t change that. Personally I very much agree with you; however, nowadays it is common to see other shows leaving part of the decision making to the fans. In fact, sometimes the fans have a huge impact in the decision making. We know you held a fan art contest for Velvet’s character design and you even picked the voice actress for her among the community. So, you cannot be accused of not listening the fandom. All that being said, this questions is for you as writers: How far, in your opinion, the fans should be allowed to participate in the decision making of a show?
Kerry: It’s great that people have opinions and are emotionally affected by our shows. That’s one of the reasons I like to tell stories, I want to have an impact on people’s lives. I also feel strongly about sticking with our decisions. There are thousands of ways to tell the same story, but this is the way we choose to tell it. That being said, we hope to have more fan interaction (in the form of Character contests, etc) in the future!
Miles: I think coming up with names, designs, and weapons are all really great ways for fans to pitch their ideas, but when it comes to major plot points and characters, those are the things I like working on with Kerry.

Now, let’s talk about Rooster Teeth. Besides being part of the cast and staff of RWBY, you are also members of Rooster Teeth’s staff. While watching the panels and podcast of the company it seems that you are like a big family. Is that true?
Kerry: It’s very true. No matter how large we get, it’s still very clear that everyone in the company believes in it and what it stands for. We’re all here to make the best content we can.
Miles: We’re one, big, happy family. The thing I love most about Rooster Teeth is that I get to come to work every day and make cool things with my friends.

How is a normal day working at Rooster Teeth?
Kerry: I don’t know that there is really a “normal” day at Rooster Teeth. My normal responsibilities (while directing) are to review and guide people throughout the day. Around that I also write. Then on top of that, I’m asked to participate in Live Action shoots, podcasts, Let’s Plays, and more. It’s very hard to predict what tomorrow will look like.
Miles: Completely unpredictable. There are some days where I may be in a meeting or two, then have the rest of the day to write… but those days are few and far between. On any given day, I may be recording dialogue for one of four different shows, directing recording sessions, acting in a live action production, starring in a broadcast production, reviewing episodes, working with musicians, acting or directing mocap, really the list goes on and on. I love the variety of work my job provides.

Where do you see yourselves and Rooster Teeth in 5 years?
Kerry: Hopefully doing more of the same!
Miles: Ideally, I want to continue to make cartoons and hopefully get better and better over time. There’s always room to improve!

Almost all the members of Rooster Teeth have multiple responsibilities either within the company or inside the shows. Again, giving the results, it is clear that the formula works pretty well. What is the secret?
Kerry: I think being genuine is the most important thing. It’s not difficult to get in front of the camera, even after a long day, because I’m just being myself. I would say that is probably true for most people at the company.
Miles: Always make the kind of shows you want to watch, and do it with passion. I think our love for what we do is what leads to our success, and I hope that never changes.

Finally, let’s talk a little bit about yourselves. Aside working at of Rooster Teeth and being RWBY’s writers, you also have a personal life; so, how do you keep balance between both worlds?
Kerry: What is a personal life? Just kidding 😛 I have a very understanding and supportive family and girlfriend that know my job requires a lot of hours. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would be able to do this.
Miles: Balancing work and social lives can be very difficult. During production, most of my close friends understand that they may not see me for months at a time. Overall, I try to go out with friends whenever I can, knowing that I may not have many opportunities to see them, and the same goes for visiting family. Fortunately, most people closest to me understand my crazy work schedule and are still willing to put up with me (despite giving me a hard time for it)!

Do you have hobbies not related to your line of work? Tell us about them.
Kerry: I like to play video games (currently a lot of Overwatch). Napping is also a great hobby.
Miles: I LOVE video games. The psychology of game design is something I find fascinating, and I think we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of storytelling potential in games. I’ll also admit… sometimes it just feels good to turn off your brain and play some Mario.

How do you feel about being recognized by the fans at the events or in the street?
Kerry: It can be pretty surreal. I wouldn’t say I’m quite used to it. It is always nice to meet people who share similar interests though!
Miles: I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but it’s always a very pleasant and flattering experience.

It is clear that you are aware of the huge amount of RWBY’s fan arts and fanfictions, and I think it is great that you notice it. So, since both of you are writers I just have to ask: Have you ever written fan fiction? If you have, from which series?
Kerry: I haven’t yet, actually. Recently, while playing through the HD remake of Odin Sphere, I thought about it heavily. I ended up just putting that effort into RWBY scripts!
Miles: As a fan that became a writer on Red vs. Blue I sometimes feel like I now just write fanfiction professionally, haha. Aside from that, though, I’ve never personally written fanfiction.

For all those people who want to start a project in the animation field, what advice would you give to them? Giving your successful experience, what tips can you share with them?
Kerry: The advice many of us like to give is to just get started. If you want to write, write. If you want to draw, draw. You need to complete pieces so that you can see your mistakes and learn from them. Show them to your friends and ask them for feedback.
Miles: You just need to start somewhere. Start making whatever it is you’re interested in and put it out there, not so much to be discovered, but to be criticized. The internet can be brutally honest, but that kind of honesty is helpful. Learn what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and then take that information to better yourself.

Many people in our community are very happy because we are making this interview. In fact, they asked us to pass you a message: “Congratulations for a great job. You are setting an example to all of us. Your success has inspired us to pursue our dreams not only in the animation field, but in the business field. Everytime we want to abandon our goals we remember what you have accomplished, and that serves as the fuel and motivation to stand up and keep fighting. Please do not change”. If you want to send a reply, please feel free to do it.
Kerry: Thank you all so much! I often have days where I get overwhelmed by stress and knowing that there are people out there that love what we do keeps me going.
Miles: We can’t thank you all enough. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We’re humbled by your thanks and if I could, I’d give each and every one of you an enormous hug. Keep working hard and never give up!

By Shougo Amakusa (@shougoamakusa)
Main Picture: Rooster Teeth.

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