Web series are taking over the internet right now and they come in all shapes and sizes from zombie series to vampire shows to hybrids of all of the above.
However one series that has stood up well is ‘The Standard Action,’ which is currently in its second series and on the cusp of shooting a third series.
The Standard Action is a bit of an unusual series in that it plays around with many of the scenarios that you’d find in table top games, but also has a bit of the flavor that fans enjoyed from the Hercules and Xena shows of the 1990s.
I recently caught up with series creator Joanna Gaskell who told me a little about the origins of the series and what we can expect to see happen in future shows.
SciFiPulse: For those not in the know. What can you tell us about ‘The Standard Action’ and what was the inspiration behind it?
Joanna Gaskell: Standard Action is the fantasy-comedy webseries for geeks of all kinds! It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings, if the fellowship was comprised entirely of Pippins, with the tongue-in-cheek humour of the old Hercules: Legendary Journeys TV show. We draw our inspiration from all aspects of nerd culture – everything from D&D to Firefly, to MMOs, to Star Wars, to the Princess Bride and Douglas Adams.
The inspiration behind the characters came from the launch of Dungeons & Dragons 4e, actually. I was always a big D&D 3.5 player, and when 4e launched, I was disappointed by the fact that they left out four of my favourite classes – the bard, the barbarian, the druid and the sorcerer. I used that disappointment as inspiration to write about four characters that were kind of ineffectual as adventurers, and therefore left out of the party. That’s how Fernando, Edda, Martin and Wendy were born! The inspiration from the show, and the humour in it, was most definitely born from my experiences playing D&D. So much laughter comes out of gaming, and its the kind of funny that I think applies to anyone with an intelligent sense of humour, not just gamers.
SFP: For what little have seen of the first season via your site there’s a lot of comedy in the series and probably potential for the musical episode. Have you given any thought to doing the buffy style musical episode?
Joanna Gaskell: Oh yes. Actually, one of the stretch goals in our Season 3 Kickstarter – the stretch goal for Episode 6 – is a musical episode. I hope we make it there! I would love to see Fernando truly strut his stuff, Bard-style. The actor who plays Cedric the Wizard (Nick Palidwor) is a musical theatre dude, and his partner is a composer – they’re already writing the episode in hopes we find the funds.
SFP: Given the strong D&D theme throughout the series. Is it fair to day that you are all avid table top gamers, and while on the subject. Has any thought ever been given to maybe creating a ‘Standard Action’ table top game of some sort?
Joanna Gaskell: We have a few avid tabletop gamers in the group – Rob (the director), Edwin (Fernando the Bard), Carla (Art Director and Camerawoman), Jennifer (Camerawoman), Ishnu (Sound and Lighting) and I, and we’ve gotten Ashley (our Key Makeup and Prosthetics Artist) hooked on Pathfinder as well.
We have two Standard Action Pathfinder modules in the works, both being written by Kevin Mickelson, the author of the Mask of Death module that was written for the movie Gamers: Dorkness Rising – he’s a great writer, and puts a lot of comedy in his games. We’re very excited about how that will turn out. Also, we have Standard Action: the Card Game, which is already made, and currently in testing! You build a party and take them out on adventures, collect treasure, and screw over other parties in the area. And it’s chock-full of items, encounters, and characters from the show..
SFP: It seems that the show has grown fairly quickly and gained a pretty strong following. How do you account for that. In that what do you think the appeal is to your viewers and how much of a challenge is it for you to keep things interesting for both yourself and the audience?
Joanna Gaskell: We’re very impressed and honoured by the following we’ve gained over the past couple of years! I think our major appeal is our characters. They’re wacky and funny, and call upon conventions that a lot of gamers recognize, but they’re more than just stereotypes – they’re very relatable. A think a lot of nerds see themselves in the struggle these characters have to overcome their weaknesses and find a place where they belong. It’s also a classic case of the underdog party, and everyone loves an underdog, especially people who have been teased about what they love for their whole lives.
We’ve also gotten quite a strong positive response from women gamers and geeks, who appreciate the fact that our female characters are real, not overly sexualized, and talk to each other about topics other than men.
It’s not a challenge to find great stuff to write about – these characters almost write themselves at this point, and I’m fascinated by where they go, and how the actors interpret them. It’s more been a challenge to tell the story we want to tell given our budgetary restrictions – I’d love to have a TV-length full season, of 22-minute-long episodes. Then maybe – maybe – I’d start running out of stories to tell.
SFP: At the moment your trying to get crowd funding for the third season. What sort of perks are you guys offering for peoples donations and also are their any plans for the third season that you could maybe tease us with?
Joanna Gaskell: We have DVDs for all three seasons, limited edition signed and numbered copies of our upcoming Standard Action webcomic, copies of our card game, as well as fun extras like music from the show and character sheets. If you help us out a little more, you can have one of our characters record a voicemail message for you, or a video birthday greeting for your best friend, or you can even come out and have a Standard Action Random Encounter (short film) built entirely around you!
Plans for third season… well, more puppets, for sure. You’ll certainly see a return of Ikosa, and maybe even Cedric the Wizard. The length and breadth of the season is going to depend on how many stretch goals we hit in the Kickstarter, but we’re hoping to take the party to some brand new vistas and exciting locations. The season will also be influenced by the Choose Your Champion contest, which is a contest we have running alongside our Kickstarter. For every $10 you contribute to the season, you will be able to place one vote for your favourite lead character. I will change the writing of the season based on which lead gets the most votes – that character will have some very interesting things happen to them, I can promise you that.
SFP: There are quite a few web series in development, which have actors connected with popular television series signed up for a guest slot. If you had the budget for it and of course could get them. Is there any particular star from the world of television or film that you’d love to play a role in your series, and if so what sort of role would you have them play?
Joanna Gaskell: Vin Diesel. He plays D&D, did you know that? That would be amazing. He could be a badass warlord… or I could cast him as something entirely outside his normal range, like a sorcerer. Yeah. Huge, ripped sorcerer. So amazing.
SFP: Finally where can people find your series and where should people go to donate to the series?
Joanna Gaskell: You can find Standard Action Seasons 1 and 2 at standardaction.com, and you can donate to the series right here on Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamerati/standard-action-season-3. You can also find us on Facebook, and on Twitter at @stndrdaction.
SFP: Thanks for your time and best of look in getting the funds needed to carry on with the series.
Joanna Gaskell: No problem – I love talking about the show. And thank you very much!