RTX Sydney 2017 – Interview: Barbara Dunkelman
More than just a voice actor, Barbara is also the Director of Social and Community Marketing at Rooster Teeth who also has a deep love and respect for the community in which she was a part of before she ever stepped foot in the Rooster Teeth office. We sat down with the awesome Barbara Dunkelman for a rare insight into life and who she would like to punch in the face!
Adam: A lot of people know you as the voice of X-RAY and Yang, but they don’t know that you have a degree in marketing and that your main job is Director of Social and Community Marketing, tell us about that role.
Barbara: I came to Rooster Teeth at the end of 2011 as the role of Community Manager. It was kind of undefined because the role was a brand new position and a lot of companies didn’t have that yet. Rooster Teeth invented the role for me, they wanted me down somehow. It’s definitely evolved over the years with a focus on social media and that kind of interaction because that has grown so much in the last five years with Facebook, Snapchat and everything. But I still feel that I’m that middle man between the community and the company. So I read a lot for my job, I read comments, emails, questions, things of YT videos, what people are saying. I try to respond as much as possible but its more about gathering feedback.
A: I suppose you’re somewhat of a pioneer to that role then?
B: Yeah it’s been a real cool thing to see that part of the industry grow over the last couple of years and really become important for every company.
A: Similar to IT, one month could be a lifetime in regards to things changing, are you finding the same thing in your role?
B: Oh absolutely! For instance we’re here in Australia for a few days then a few of us go to New Zealand for a week! I’m already nervous about being off the grid for a week cos so much can change. A new social media app could come out, or something could happen in the news that needs to be updated. It’s very fast.
A: Now you were a Rooster Teeth fan before you started working for them, so how did that all happen?
B: I became a fan back in 2004, right after the second season of RvB (Red versus Blue) came out and I just feel in love with Rooster Teeth and the community, especially the community. I made lifelong friends that I still talk with to this day. I was a Bridesmaid to someone’s wedding, they have a kid together and all this stuff. So it’s a very personal connection and growing up and being involved in the community. So when I graduated, Burnie approached me and said ‘we really like you’ and we should try and find a way to get you down here, and that was mind blowing to me! Because I never thought in a million years that I would be working with Rooster Teeth.
A: Do Rooster Teeth often do that where you find people in the community and say ‘you should totally work for us!’?
B: Yeah, there’s actually a bunch of people who work for Rooster Teeth who are from the community. Gavin is another prominent member who was a community member, Michael was a fan for a long time, but it’s good to utilise fans because they know the company and the audience so well, that they could fit right in.
A: So how did you fall into voice acting then?
B: The voice acting thing kind of fell into my lap. The creator of RWBY, he and I were good friends. He approached me one day, years before RWBY was a thing, and said ‘how do you feel about playing a character based on goldilocks, like a badass goldilocks?’ and I went ‘that sounds really cool, absolutely!’ and fast forward to when RWBY started being developed he showed me this character called YANG and said I would like you to voice this character. And I was honoured that he would want me to voice a character in the first place, and it took me a while to get into it but more and more I started doing other voices in Red versus Blue and now I’m doing something for fairy-tale and it’s kind of grown that way.
A: Now you actually have a really funny sense of humour, is that a natural thing or are you surprised that people find you funny?
B: I am very happy people find me funny, because there are times where I’m convinced I’m not very funny at all! Especially being surrounded by people who are so funny. Everyone at Rooster Teeth, Funhaus, Achievement Hunter, they’re all hilarious and I’m just trying to keep up with them. But I grew up with brothers and brothers friends who are always making jokes … I feel like I grew up in a very humorous household, my parents are funny, my brothers are funny and it kind of just went from there.
A: Are you surprised at the popularity of RWBY?
B: The popularity of RWBY … I still can’t grasp it. I think when I saw the Red trailer a couple of years ago, I looked at it and went ‘this show’s going to be big, it’s going to be popular’. But I had no idea how massively popular and how much people would love it and how much international recognition it would get. I think it’s a mixture from the great writing and the style of animation and just the way they’ve crafted this whole universe, it’s so beautiful and intriguing.
A: Anything in 2017 that you have planned that you’re allowed to talk about?
B: More of the same on what I’m doing now, I would love to do something with live action this year. Whether it’s writing a short or directing something, just because I’m slowly starting to spread my wings on the production side of things.
A: Now let’s test that sense of humour, if you could punch anyone in the face and get away with it, who would it be?
B: … Donald Trump *laughs* which I’m sure every single one of us would say the same thing! The great thing about Rooster Teeth is that we’re all open minded and creative, we all think differently and we’re all so accepting of different people and things like love and Religion and to have someone in that kind of position is very different to how we feel.
A: Do you have a message for fans of your community?
B: We are where we are because of our community and if nobody was watching our content and no one was supporting us like buying merchandise and coming to events or being first members, we couldn’t make what we make, just thank you to everyone who’s a fan of ours. We truly love our community, we value them more than anything else.