Somewhere between Game of Thrones and Girls (or Looking) comes Beanduck Production’s new web series LARPs. The series focuses on the relationships and personal development of five friends who LARP together. For those unfamiliar, LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. Essentially, people develop characters and act out their character’s actions in real life, a grown-up form of what kids would call “playing make believe.” Events such as civil war battle re-enactments, the SCA (society for creative anachronism), murder mystery nights, and even those guys on the mountain who beat each other up at the Tams are all Larping. Worlds can be real or imagined, set in the past present or future, and most (if not all) LARPs have rules of gameplay and one or more individuals who oversee the game (a GM or game master).
Julian Stamboulieh, director of the series and co-founder of Beanduck, explains LARPing a bit more. “People enjoy doing it so much because it is so immersive. It’s a way of storytelling where players have a way of directing story as well,” he says. “Unlike a teleivision show or movie, it’s not linear. Instead there is a referee who sets rules and guides the story. And everyone helps the story progress.”
Stamboulieh recognized that a series about LARPers would allow for some creative approaches to characters. “Every actor plays two people – a real person and a game character,” Stamboulieh says. “It provides the opportunity to explore why people would want to go to another world. There are reasons why people would want to play a game like this, including having fun, and that’s all explored in the series.”
The LARPers in the series play a game that is fantasy based. “We have elves,” Stamboulieh says. However, the series is focused on the real lives of the LARPers more so than their creative characters. “The five main characters range in personality and reasons why they play. There are two brothers, a brother and a sister, and a fifth person who joins in. The humour of the show comes from where conflict arises in keeping the two worlds separate.”
Character development seems to be an important focus of the series. “One character’s personality changes when she comes in and out of character. She’s a withdrawn person, but in character, she explores a confident and dominant side. Another is the same both in and out of his character,” Stamboulieh says. “Someone asked me is this series about LARPers or about real people who LARP. It’s more about the real lives of people who LARP. We have scenes with them role playing, but it mostly feeds into the idea to show them as people exploring parts of themselves.”
The idea for the series began seven years ago. “My mom calls it procrastinating,” Stamboulieh says. “I call it brewing.” He started a production company partially with the intent of making a web series. “I started the company with Ben Warner, who is producer.” Meeting series writer John Verrall, a LARPer, led Stamboulieh to create the characters based on himself and his brothers.
Stamboulieh never LARPed before meeting Verrall. “I’ve always been a gamer,” Stamboulieh says, “But I became interested in the concept of LARPing because I was in a relationship seven years ago and there were two sides – public and private. They were completely disjointed. That was when I heard about LARPing.” Verrall had the cast and crew all try out a LARP so they would better understand the concept. “It reminded me of theatre, exploring a character,” says Stamboulieh.
Stamboulieh knows that LARPing isn’t familiar to everyone, so he made sure that the show itself would have a large appeal in its humour. “I made it clear to everyone that the topic is already exclusive. People will be worried about what they get in a show like this,” he says. “We have to make sure the humour is inclusive and everyone can enjoy it.”
The final product consists of 10 episodes, each about 5 to 7 minutes long. The series will be launched over a three week period on youtube: CLICK HERE. Down the road, Stamboulieh hoeps to have a second season and extend the episodes to 30 minutes in length. For now, Stamboulieh is thrilled with the series. “The miracle is getting the product we got on the budget we got,” he says, noting that the series was financed by Beanduck and by “call[ing] in a lot of favours.”
“What once seemed like a pipe dream is no longer a pipe dream,” he says.
LARP the Series has its launch party at the Crowley Arts Centre on March 9th. The party runs from 7-11 p.m.