Monster Hunting with the League of S.T.E.A.M. Created by mgcolbaugh on 2/27/2012 11:07:14 PM
M. Gabriel Colbaugh sits with the cast & crew of the League of S.T.E.A.M. as they discuss the launch of Season 2 of their web series.
There are few groups as synonymous with Steampunk as the League of S.T.E.A.M. Donning their Ghostbuster-inspired backpacks and touring the country to give hands-on demonstrations of their latest inventions, many see them as embodying several of the greater ideas of Steampunk. Crafters, entertainers, teachers, and inspiration, the League has used their incredible, and working, props to inspire others to embrace DIY, to not be afraid of improving oneself and one’s costume, and to not take things too seriously. Through their first season of the award winning web series, we shared in the adventures of the League while also learning about the benefits of zombie domestication thanks to Zed.
The first season relied primarily on witty banter, slapstick comedy, some well designed props and costumes, as well as a few camera tricks to tell a story. Episodes were quick paced and largely were independent of one another as they told different misadventures of the League from Victorian lady ghosts to problems with vampires at movie premiers. The season ended on a cliffhanger, introducing a new face and leaving us wanting to see more. One Kickstarter campaign later, the industrious and entertaining group was able to begin work on more episodes designed to be bigger, better, and all around more fun.
Season 2 has launched with a bang as the League unveiled their latest episode to great anticipation. The first episode takes us to a lush forest setting where several Leaguers, along with a few enthusiastic Jr. League W.A.T.C.H. members, try to track down the legendary Giant Rat of Sumatra. Flexing the muscle of the Kickstarter money they’d raised, the crew has stepped up their game as far as props, production, and places goes. While the writing was always amusing before it’s evident the cast and crew wanted to add more depth to the characters and action on screen to go along with the slapstick style of comedy they’ve always exhibited in the past. Just beware Crackitus Potts baring a red vest.
The League was gracious enough to answer some questions about the upcoming season, as well as some thoughts on their growth as a performance troop and brand.
M. Gabriel Colbaugh - When you were sitting down to prepare for Season 2, what was the biggest theme that was brought up by everyone in the League?
Andrew Fogel (Baron): We really wanted to focus more on developing our characters and expanding the world of the League this season. We're hoping to expand upon our characters and their relationships, and whereas last season simply featured the League of S.T.E.A.M. and the monsters they encounter, this season, we'll have the opportunity to meet many of the other characters who reside in our world.
Russell Isler (Thaddeus/Zed, the Zombie Butler): Honestly it was to "up our game". To really create something we could be proud of having been a part of. Everything else - the story, the monsters - all of that was informed by the desire to "do better work."
MGC - Season 1 ended on a Cliffhanger and in the new Season we see that the villain who tried to end the League is still there. Will he be a constant shadow to the League each episode? Or will he come and go just as needed?
Fogel: Our mysterious bald villain won't appear in every single episode, but over the course of the season we'll continue to encounter him and the various traps he sets for the League. If our viewers pay close attention, they'll notice hints scattered throughout the episodes to show how his nefarious plan unfolds.
Isler: If I told you, you wouldn't need to watch the rest of the episodes now would you? ;)
MGC- You decided to go with Kickstarter in order to help expand and make the production bigger, as well as to get a burger on occasion. Were you surprised at the response you received and how much activity there was to help promote you? Even Grant Imahara got in on the action on twitter.
Isler: Oh absolutely. I think we all had nagging doubts that the turnout would be sufficient to allow us to meet our goal by the deadline. I'll admit to being a little surprised the day we passed that first $1000 mark. However it was the fact that so many people made contributions at the higher dollar levels that truly surprised me. It was truly an eye opener and reaffirmed that we were doing something that other people, total strangers, saw value in.
James Lavrakas (Jay Are): It was a big moment of truth to go out there on a limb and do the Kickstarter. We really had a lot of discussion of how big an amount we were going to ask for. Considering we had produced Season One out of our own pockets seeking an alternate revenue stream was a big decision. It finally came down to there was nothing really to loose but try, and we had settled on the $10,000 amount because it would allow us to feature all the new creatures, costumes and locations we we're talking about around the table at the bar. And it was amazing to see the response! We had a flood of people contribute at the beginning of the campaign and an overwhelming amount of donors push us well over the finish line. Seeing our Kickstarter campaign spread around the internet and people picking it up and sharing it was great to observe as well as you see it happen all the time with other popular projects, but never with your own. So it truly was great for all of us to be a part of it. But gushing aside, we set out to deliver a great web series to our donors and fans and worked hard to engage them throughout the process. We provided over 40 updates about the project and are going to continue all the way through the editing process.
MGC- Nick Baumann really seemed to have a chance to show off some of his monster creation skills for Season 2. Has he been the primary crafter for the new creatures? Are there any other members of the League having a chance to really bust loose since there’s money for production?
Nick Baumann (Crackitus Potts): One of the nice things we like to do in the League is utilize peoples skills and strengths. However, we also have the opportunity sometimes for folks to try their hand at other interests they might not be able to do otherwise. Nick has been the team leader for our Creature FX team but is not alone. Aubriana Zurilgen has been a huge help on the team with her artistic and creature making skills as well as Duane Matthews, Robin Blackburn, Kate Walsh and even some friends form outside the League lending a hand...or tail. Most everyone in the League are artists in some form or another so we are always able to help each other out. Creating monsters from scratch is a time consuming process, there are a lot of steps involved. The wonderful thing about our Kickstarter support is we have had the financial ability to purchase materials to make some of the more dramatic specimens you will see. One of the other important things we are trying to achieve is the ability to utilize these creatures for live shows and appearances, so care is taken in the design and fabrication process to achieve this goal so you will be able to meet and see these creatures live! We are excited and relieved to be able to have the backing so we can bring our audience even more exciting and dynamic aspects of our world to life!
MGC- There seems to be an attempt to reach out to fans and include them as much as possible in Season 2. When did that come about in the production schedule and how has that affected the shoots so far?
Fogel: We've been overwhelmed by the amazing amount of support we've gotten from our friends and fans on this project, and that's encouraged us to tell bigger stories that require the resources that our large network of fans have to offer! It's been really fun working with everyone and bringing them into our crazy world.
Isler: The decision to include the fan base in the production arrived rather early in the process. It became a requirement about the time we realized we need a crowd in a couple episodes!! The biggest result of this outside inclusion is that we've had to seriously improve our communications and scheduling. Which has had nothing but positive results in the footage we've shot.
MGC- Were there any characters you wanted to promote more this season? Thaddeus (Isler), in particular, seems to be making more appearances from early production shots. Was this at his request? Or a general consensus to get him out of the makeup some.
Fogel: Last season, my character Baron von Fogel only appeared in a few shots during "The Fright Before Christmas" because I was operating camera for all of the episodes, so this time around the team really encouraged me to step in front of the camera and take on some starring roles in a couple of episodes. It's been a very different experience for me, but I've really enjoyed getting some screen time!
Isler: Honestly it wasn't any nagging of mine that had Thaddeus become more prominent. The writers of the episodes he appears in just wrote him in! I had only created the character to give me an opportunity to attend live shows without hours of makeup and be able to interact with the public in a non-drooling fashion. As they do, the character began to take on a life of his own in the new scripts and everyone was very supportive of this process. As a result, I think we inadvertently might have ended up with less Zed than was originally planned!
MGC- As a sort of follow up, how much are Robin, Sheyne, Aubriana and Kate looking forward to showing the boys what they can do in the coming season?
Robin Blackburn (Lady): I personally am very excited about the storyline for the women in the League this season. Many of their character traits and relationships are being explored, and we hope everyone will enjoy the added dynamic they bring to the world. My character, Lady Ameliorette Potts, has been a lot of fun for me to develop. A couple traits you'll see of hers this season are that she typically has the answer and, when needed, she can kick butt. So... look out boys! This Lady is going to bring it on, and git 'er done!
Aubriana Zurligen (The Russian): I think we're looking forward to it so that we can show that there are strong female characters. We are definitely not the damsels in distress types like you see in a lot of other stories. I don't think it's necessarily to overshadow or show up the boys but to show that the girls have the stuff!
Kate Walsh (Katherine Blackmore): UUUrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh. I don't know. That we're cooler than them? :) We bring style and class to steampunk monster hunting.
Sheyne Fleischer (Ellie): I can't wait to see the new female (and male!) characters show off this season! The League is at its core a group of creative individuals who work together to try and create entertaining content. We have grown a lot since Season One was shot, and knowing that we're going to get and show strong female characters doing their thing this time around is very satisfying.
MGC- What’s next for the League outside of Season 2? I know more Podcasts are coming, but how is the Con Schedule looking? Any other surprises you can hint at?
Isler: A hint, hmm. Perhaps it would be wise to make sure one has a flotation device.
Trip Hope (Executive Producer/Albert Able, Esq.): We'll be at San Diego Comic Con July 11-15, 2012, Booth #607. Panelist at Wonder Con March 18, 2012. We'll also be headlining at a convention or two, which we'll announce once contracts are signed! We're already getting early requests from film festivals to screen Season Two episodes. And we also have a new live show in development.
MGC- What part of Season 2 is everyone most excited about?
Fogel: I can't reveal who yet, but I'm very excited about some of the wonderful guest stars we've had the pleasure of working with this season!
Hope: This season is all about bigger and better, while preserving the humor and charm of Season One! New characters (including strong female roles & diversity), exciting gadgets, amazing monsters, exotic locations, guest stars from TV & The Silver Screen, two episodes penned by an Emmy Award Winning writer....but mostly we hope we're doing something our audience, friends, family, and fans will enjoy. And we strive to represent the Steampunk community we love and admire so much in a fun, creative, and inspirational way.
Much thanks to Trip Hope for helping to make this interview happen and to all the League of S.T.E.A.M. for being gracious with their time to answer the questions. You can follow the League in a multitude of ways at each of the following places:
Official Web Site - http://leagueofsteam.com/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/LeagueofSTEAM
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/leagueofsteam
Podcast - http://feeds.feedburner.com/SteamGeeks
Official YouTube Channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/LeagueOfSTEAM
In an effort to increase the quality & availability of the web series, they've recently partnered with Blip.TV and all episodes can be viewed there.
The web series is also available for free on iTunes as a video podcast!
[UPDATE! We received the following dispatch to update this wonderful profile. Latest from the Editor's Desk:]
Grant Imahara from 'Mythbusters' is our special guest star!
He gives an excellent and humorous performance!
Another thrilling new episode of The Adventures of the League of S..T.E.A.M. is on its way this Thursday, March 1st! Featuring the screen debut of the alluring Ms. Katherine Blackmoore (Katherine Walsh) and the directorial debut of our own Russell Isler, this exciting adventure was written by Emmy Award-Winning screenwriter Rich Fogel (Justice League, Batman Beyond) and features special guest star Grant Imahara (Mythbusters)! Stay tuned, everyone!
New correspondent M. Gabriel Colbaugh spends most of his time serving as a technical writer for a waste-water treatment firm but otherwise spends time writing about steampunk and enjoying fine haberdashery. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two furry children, River and Isabela. He also serves as one of the brand managers for the Las Vegas Steampunk Tea Society.