Webseries Spotlight on The League of S.T.E.A.M.
With the plethora of web series out there right now, it’s difficult to find one that really captures your imagination. I, like so many others, watched a hilarious silent video for a group called the League of S.T.E.A.M. that reproduced the Ghostbusters, “we’re ready to believe you” commercial. Done in the classic 20’s black and white style, this commercial was gorgeously shot, fascinating to watch and made me laugh out loud. I soon discovered that the League had an entire webseries available and the commercial was simply a teaser for what was to come. As it turns out, I was late to the party. When I started becoming active in the Steampunk community in Los Angeles, I would hear mention of the “League” more often than not and when I hosted my first Steampunk happy hour, most of the League happily showed up for the party. While I was introduced to the lively bunch online, their story goes much further back and is grounded in live-performances. I was lucky enough to speak with a few members of the League recently and found out about their origins, how they journeyed to the web and about their plans for Season 2.
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Baron Andrew Von Fogel shared the charming story of how the League first came to be a little over 3 years ago. The Labyrinth of Jareth is a masquerade ball (that just celebrated its 11th year) and is a beacon to those in the Los Angeles area looking to make a splash with their one-of-a-kind costumes and mechanical inventions. It was there that Von Fogel first met Nick Baumann, his lovely wife Robin Blackburn and several of their friends. Apparently Blackburn herself was the catalyst for the formation of the League with her choice of costume for the evening.
Obsessed with Marie Antoinette and 18th century clothing, Blackburn wanted to add something special to her Labyrinth costume that year and she thought back to the ghosts in the Harry Potter films. “I loved the ghostly texture of their garments, and how that texture was applied to the different time periods of each ghost character. I was hooked and truly inspired by the detail of the 18th century and the use of texture to create an ethereal look.” Baumann quickly caught onto her idea and decided to join her as a ghost hunter and got a small group of friends together to create a group costume. They were the hit of the ball that year and attracted a lot of attention, including from Von Fogel. The newly-formed group quickly bonded over a love of Steampunk costumes and inventions and they found themselves making a regular appearance at the Labyrinth where they are still a highlight of the festivities every year. This year, two members of the League even got engaged on stage. So sweet!
The League started making public appearances all over Southern California and eventually, the whole country. Their live act became so popular that they decided to find a way to move beyond their geographical limitations. Von Fogel had just gotten out of art school and had the necessary equipment and desire to try making a webseries. They started small, filming “Monkey Business” in Griffith Park in five hours and editing the entire thing themselves. They put it up online and the response was overwhelmingly positive and thus the series was born. As a way to get new viewers hooked, the infamous Ghostbusters homage commercial was filmed and placed online. Von Fogel knew that using “pop-culture shorthand” was a great way to get the attention of anyone who had seen the 80s hit and it was a quick and easy entry to the series.
Post-production on the series is performed by League members and comrades which is impressive to say the least considering the incredibly high production value on the series, including some pretty impressive special effects. Von Fogel does the “color grading on all of our episodes, as well as a lot of the visual effects and compositing. A lot of these skills are self-taught, and others I learned while studying filmmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design. We’re also so thankful to have Russ Isler in our group – he’s a very talented visual effects animator, and his help has been invaluable for some of the more difficult effects shots!”
Season One of the League of S.T.E.A.M. contained seven hilarious episodes and even resulted in a spotlight appearance in a Panic at the Disco music video. When asked why she thought the League has become so popular, Blackburn, who plays Lady Potts in the series mused, “maybe it has to do with the “every-person” aspect of what we do. The characters are the common person with dreams and goals to make things better in their lives. And though they are constantly met with opposition, many times by their own doing, they get back on their feet and keep going. Or maybe the fans simply love all the cool props and costumes. Or maybe the fans can sense the League is a group of friends with a wild creative streak and an affinity for laughter, that we like to explore and share. We love what we do, so maybe that’s it.” As a fan of the League myself, I would have to agree with her on all of those points. The series and the group itself are wickedly funny, insanely creative and incredibly grateful for their success.
They have great plans for Season Two of their webseries and of special interest to our readers, Von Fogel announces that “in addition to some more detailed roles for Lady Potts, we’re happy to be adding some great new female characters to our cast, including Ellie Copperbottom – Co-founder of the Jr. League W.A.T.C.H; Katherine Blackmoore – zombie head-basher extraordinaire; and The Russian – cryptozoological researcher! One of the great things about all of the female characters in the League is that they’re generally smarter and more competent than the men are!”
Just this past weekend, the League reached their funding goal of $10,000 on Kickstarter with the help of their many fans. There’s still a bit more time left on the campaign though, so if you’d still like to donate, they are offering some fantastic incentive packages for donors until August 27th. Additional monies will help them add more locations, monsters and gadgets. I know I’ll be awaiting Season 2 with bated breath and I hope you’ll give these crazy kids a chance if you haven’t already.
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You can catch up on Season 1, find out live appearances & find out more about the League at: http://leagueofsteam.com/
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