Screenwriter Gary Whitta (who was also a former game developer) has a unique origin story when it comes to how he built his community on the popular live-streaming app Twitch.
Whitta began working in Hollywood as a filmmaker and screenwriter working on films such as the book of eli, After Earthand Star Wars: Rogue One. And while these are incredibly impressive projects that we all know and love, sometimes the finished product isn’t quite what the screenwriter originally intended. There are also times in Hollywood where projects are picked up but also abandoned or stalled. Whitta chose to own his projects from start to finish without the status quo of Hollywood gatekeepers to compromise his artistic vision. He turned to Twitch, the popular live gaming platform, to fuel his artistic vision in multiple ways.
BGN sat down to chat with Gary Whitta at TwitchCon, inside the San Diego Convention Center, to discuss his career on the platform and his talk show talking about animals – a virtual talk show with a format similar to that of a late night show, with guests and performances. He’s had a ton of guests, ranging from Selena Gomez to Brie Larson to Sting.
For Whitta, bringing Hollywood into the game was a good opportunity for him. He says, “I was blessed to have these two back-to-back careers where I basically got to do the two hobbies that I had growing up.” Able to do these hobbies professionally, he describes himself as a video game and film enthusiast. These two industries were part of its DNA.
Whitta also describes both gambling and aspects of Hollywood as being a Venn diagram of nerd culture.
” If you like star wars and Marvel, you probably also like Minecraft and Fortnite and all of those things crumble into one,” says Whitta. When Twitch came along, he thought it was a good opportunity to try to combine those two interests. Like most people did on Twitch back then, he started out playing games on the live-streaming platform. When it arrived, Twitch wasn’t what it is today and didn’t grow to incorporate music and other types of content creation. It was still primarily known as a place where people played video games.
A light bulb moment occurred for Whitta when a film he worked on, the book of eli, debuted on another giant streaming platform – Netflix. There were all these special features for the movie, but the studio never released an audio commentary for the movie. Whitta decided to provide commentary because he had knowledge about it (he worked on the film after all). He says, “I had this idea of trying to use Twitch in a slightly different way, which was kind of like doing a live watch.” While live-tweeting isn’t a new phenomenon, doing live monitoring via Twitch was certainly for Whitta and her community of followers. It was also uncharted territory for him as a screenwriter on Twitch talking about movies and doing Q&As. Fans could learn the basics of screenwriting in real time while watching a movie on Netflix.
The self-confessed streamer admits that he is very active on Twitter and social networks. “I’m quite a homebody and I don’t go out much,” he says. “Twitch is a way to connect with people.” His virtual talk show talking about animals exploded during the pandemic, at a time when many people were growing their platforms as online creators.
Twitch is a place that offers many options for content creators, such as categories like chat, cooking, or comedy. Whitta thinks the game will remain the cornerstone of the platform; however, he believes the platform is branching out in other ways.
In addition to his work as a writer, streamer, and former game developer, Whitta has also created an audiobook podcast called Hunting dog: a sci-fi apocalyptic alien invasion thriller starring Shannon Woodward (Westworld, The Last of Us Part II) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us Part II), with music by composer Austin Wintory (Journey). The story is full of giant robots and alien invasions, so Whitta is sticking to her sci-fi roots with this project.
If there’s one thing to take away from Whitta’s story, it’s that he used what he knew to build a community on Twitch and was genuine in his approach. He took something as simple as watching live a movie he worked on and answered questions from his community about that movie to keep them engaged and build an audience. While his path started with gaming, it eventually led him to other areas.
You can follow Gary Whitta on Twitch on his GaryWhitta channel.