If you’re not familiar with The League of S.T.E.A.M., you’re in for a treat. With a flair for fun, The League of S.T.E.A.M. is a web series about steampunk ghost-busters and monster-hunters on crazy adventures to either eliminate monster threats or investigate supernatural phenomenon. Think Jules Verne meets Wild Wild West meets Scooby-Doo.
It’s a comedy adventure filled with colorful characters, fantastical functional steampunk gadgets, impressive costuming and lots of practical monster effects.
The League of S.T.E.A.M. was on hand at last summers The Geekie Awards and was nominated for Best Web Series. With it’s third season on the horizon, we had a chance to chat with some of it’s creators, Trip Hope and Duane Matthews, to talk about the creativity behind making an online series, props, monsters and costumes. (Oh My!).
Trip Hope plays Albert Able, Esq. – archivist of supernatural relics and a spectral specialist. He’s the executive producer of the series and is on The League management team. When not making the world safe from ghosts and ghouls, he’s also an established actor and independent film producer.
Duane Matthews plays Jasper Mooney – expert tracker, sharp shooter and werewolf hunter. When not organizing his collection of silver bullets, he works as a college art professor and does pirate re-enactments on tall mast ships.
Seriously, these guys are that cool.
SeagateCreative: Tell us a bit about the history behind The League of S.T.E.A.M. and what was the brought you all together.
Duane: The League started forming up right around 2008. Nick Baumann, Robin Blackburn, James Lavrakas and friends, cooked up an idea for Victorian ghost busters. The women made fantastic glowing ghost costumes and the men designed and built the equipment to locate and eradicate said spooks. This was taking place at an event called the Labyrinth of Jareth costume ball in Hollywood. They were a great success and the idea came about to add other “creature hunters” to the group. In very short order, an intrepid group of monsters hunters had been formed, to be known as, The League of S.T.E.A.M. The group had a lot of things in common: they were creative, enamored with costuming and liked to drink rum.
Trip: We were a huge hit at the party and both a web series and live show organically grew out of requests to see more.
SeagateCreative: What has the creative collaboration experience been like for the group?
Trip: All the members of The League are the creators and production team behind the show. We pitch and write scripts. We have a team that does the production design. We have a team that does the props and costume builds. We decide who will be directing each episode and who will be spearheading each task. Each member of The League has specialty skills, but we’re all open to working on any task.
Duane: The process so far has been much like any would experience with a family (we like to consider ourselves as such). There have been many growing pains, but we are learning that there must be give and take within in the group. We have designated leadership elements within the group while maintaining a voice for all. I feel The League has become democratic in our decision making process. We are getting better at sharing the workload as well. Our collaboration experience will always be a work in progress.
Trip: Members of The League do it all. We pitch show ideas, write scripts and do all the production and post production within our group. However, on a few select scripts we do reach out to writers we know and trust. Sometimes we do ask our fans for input on what topic they’d most like to see in our series. When we’re in full production mode, we are building, fabricating costumes and props, and rehearsing all at the same time. We try to film every other weekend and finish postproduction within two weeks so we can release new episodes every other week. It’s a monumental task that takes every bit of our time outside our day jobs.
Duane: Truth be told, there is a lot of work even before we have script in hand. Once we have the script we start with the pre-production work, find a location or build one if needed. We work on any needed props and costumes, and of course there are the logistics of insurance, food services and all the important production elements. We have rehearsals all during this time up until the scenes are shot. Once the filming is done it’s followed up with any special effects that might be needed and the big job of editing image and sound. Other visuals elements are added at this time. We post the completed work to the public and want them to love it.
SeagateCreative: How has the project evolved from your first season to the current one?
Trip: The first season was mostly improvised out of an idea for an episode. There were still prop and costume builds, but most of it was ‘fly by the seat of your pants’. In the second season we were much more structured, with written scripts, a scheduled costume and prop build, a shooting schedule, shot lists and new camera equipment. Since fans funded the second season, we needed to deliver the highest level of production quality possible. Our third season will be similar to our second, but we have many more resources this time around.
Duane: I have to marvel at Season One sometimes. It was done on a shoestring budget, with little pre-planning for the most part. We had lots of help from friends and figured it out as we went along. We had a lot of gumption and hard work and it worked out well.
Season Two was much more organized and we had some funding. We utilized some good film making decisions, like pre-production, scripts in hand and some new and better equipment. We are also lucky enough to have some very talented friends that would help us for very low wages (free).
Season Three is very organized. We stressed ourselves with Season Two and we have noted all those reasons why and found ways to avoid them. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a ton of work to get this season done but we have learned ways on how to reduce some of the stress. We’re shooting for a big Season Three and we’re certain we can pull it off.
Trip: The steampunk and maker community inspires me. I’m inspired by movies such as Ghostbusters, Sherlock Holmes, Wild Wild West (the TV show). I also love the whimsical and slapstick nature of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and funny monster movies like Young Frankenstein. Some TV shows that influence what I’m doing with The League include The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Firefly, Gravity Falls, Scooby-Doo, and The Muppets.
Duane: From my personal point of view (I know this will sound cheesy), all most all of my inspiration comes from other members of the group. I can think of some early television that has given me some Steampunk ideas or a sense of what was done a while ago and would still stand as viable, but that is a small influence.
SeagateCreative: Tell us a bit about the costumes and props – who makes them and how are they made? Do these pieces drive the show or does the show drive the creation of new “tools?”
Trip: The costumes and props are what set us apart from most web series. Our team includes talented costumers, fabricators and artists. Nick Baumann, who plays Crackitus Potts, designs and fabricates many of our most impressive props, such as our net gun, plunger gun, ghost pack, kraken tentacle, dino foot, etc. Nick has an amazing background in foam fabrication and has worked in Jim Henson’s Workshop and on major movies.
Andrew Fogel has a strong background in prop fabrication as alumni of Rhode Island School of Design, and he’s created many signature pieces, like the jump pack and hand-cranked chainsaw.
Conrad Wright Jr. is an expert leatherworker and Duane Matthews is a talented sculptor. Glenn Freund is a great builder and Robin Blackburn is a talented costume designer. Kate Walsh is a great production designer, and we all contribute our own costuming skills. We create all our props and costumes ourselves in our own private home-based workshops. Depending on the episode, sometimes the props inspire a story and other times we create props and costumes to make a new monster hunting adventure more exciting.
Duane: Like Trip said, the group is comprised of many talented people, and we make all of our own props and costumes. As we progress with our live shows and web series the needs of the shows determine what is built for the most part. The show is in the drivers seat.
SeagateCreative: What is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring creator who is looking to develop a new web series?
Trip: Passion – The League of S.T.E.A.M. is the most passionate group of costumers and builders I’ve ever met. Many of us have day jobs and this performance group and web series takes up the majority of our lives. We do it because we love it. Find a project that inspires you!
Duane: Stay after it!!! The process can be daunting, but if you have the desire, you’ll make it happen. It also doesn’t hurt to have talented friends; they support you in so many ways.
SeagateCreative: What’s next for the League of S.T.E.A.M.? What can we expect for season three?
Trip: We ultimately want to inspire and entertain. We hope our crazy inventions and delving into a science fiction world where you can encounter any kind of monster or supernatural creature will excite your imagination. We hope to spread the awesomeness of steampunk and encourage others to explore the community and other steampunk artists out there.
Artistically we want to be the most amazing steampunk show you’ve ever seen. We want to bring family entertainment that will WOW audiences that love adventure, comedy and monsters…and that will bring them into a fun new world.
Financially our web series is a passion project. However, we would love some day to become an awesome TV show, an animated series, a graphic novel or even a fun board game!
Our season three will have more fantastical steampunk monster hunting gadgets, bigger monsters, new guest stars, more appearances by friends, fans, and notables within the steampunk community, cool new locations and higher production quality.
Duane: It is a big undertaking and will need all of our attention and energies. We think (of course) that Season Three will be bigger and better. There will be new creatures and locations; we have some new equipment to make the series look and sound better. Season Three will have some surprises that I can’t divulge at this time, but it is something we’ve never done before, stand-by!!!