In the realm of things I never thought I’d watch on web television but am glad I did, LARPs is top of the list. This fictional comedy follows six friends who live action role play (LARPing) complete with costumes, spells, and fantasy plot lines. However, the show isn’t just about their characters, but also their real lives, and how the two identities affect each other. For those who haven’t watched the first series (HERE), it’s a well-spent hour of web-tv that gets addictively more intricate with each episode. Director and Executive Producer Julian Stamboulieh is in the studio, editing episode three of LARPS, and takes some generous time to let me know how season two is faring.
I ask him to quickly recap the first season (again, I command thee to watch it! The episodes are short enough for a perfect break). Since the show is all about its characters, I ask him to explain each one. “We’ve got a range of gamers,” Stamboulieh says, “We’ve got Arthur who is an office drone a programmer. He games because he likes to escape into a world which is more fun and exciting than his own. His brother Will is a smart ass snarky guy who kind of is not really gaming when he’s gaming. He’s one of the most relatable characters. On the other side is Brittany who is shy and low-key, but she enjoys gaming because she can explore a part of herself that she can’t explore in real life. Her brother is Evan who is the game master, the leader of the group. He manages the story and takes the characters through the story. In the first season, we added a fifth who has no relation to anyone, Shane. She’s a writer and is exploring. In the second season, we introduce Kat, an engineer. She comes in with little to no experience, but a great attitude. She’s excited about game culture.”
The first season was a success and not just because it was an entertaining piece of web television. “It really grew through time,” explains Stamboulieh. They released it to great support from Montreal as well as winning awards at different festivals.
Then, an LA based webseries developer, Geek and Sundry, contacted them. Stamboulieh says that involving himself with this developer was more than he ever imagined. “When we made LARPs, we dreamt that we would approach [Geek and Sundry] and speak to them. In the end they approached us.” As a result of Geek and Sundry’s involvement, viewership grew to 2.5 million views.
For season 2, LARPs held a crowdfunding campaign and got Fairmount Bagel and Delmar on board to help produce. “It’s a much more ambitious scale,” says Stamboulieh.
For one thing, each episode is twice as long. “One of the most common criticisms of the show is that the episodes were short,” says Stamboulieh. “It’s something rarely said on youtube. We debated whether to make more episodes or to make the episodes longer. We decided to make our episodes around 11 minutes, about double the length. The season finale is half an hour long.”
Other more technical changes include a new camera and a bigger crew, as well as plenty of supporting cast members.
The music, one of the notable parts of the first series, is also improved. “We have a live orchestra and a great composer.,” says Stamboulieh. “We have this composer from Los Angeles who is an old friend of [the producer of LARPs] Benjamin Warner, Michael Shlafman. We have 30 music cues with live musicians recording at the studio. Our orchestra has cellists, a bagpipist, piano, guitar, everything. One of the first thing people notice about season two is the music is epic.”
Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without its stories. The story arcs of season one carry on into their next phase. One story follows up on Arthur Becker (Jonathan Silver), who sacrificed his much loved character in season one. “He starts off the season exploring new characters that he’s not attached to anymore. It affects his appreciation for gaming,” says Stamboulieh.
On the other hand, the LARPing couple, Will (Scott Humphrey) and Brittany (Charlotte Rogers) broke up at the end of last season. However, because “the love of an elf lasts forever,” Brittany’s character continues to have a relationship with Will’s. “It’s confusing the crap out of Will,” says Stamboulieh.
More attention is given in the second season to the game master, Evan (Jon Verrall) who feels under-appreciated by the players. “It’s one of the things that people relate to the most,” says Stamboulieh. “People relate to the pressures of being the leader and not being appreciated enough for it, of feeling taken advantage of.”
I’m curious if Stamboulieh is planning a season 3. “Season 2 was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and continues to be the hardest thing,” he says. “It’s been a year of grueling work.” Nonetheless, he notes that he draws motivation from “the appreciation of the fans.” However, season 3 will only come into being if there is a little more financial reward for the effort. “We have great stories. I know people will want season 3. But, we need to make sure the means are there. Like a game master, I don’t think people know the amount of work it takes, and the work that so many people put into this.”
Stamboulieh encourages everyone to take the hour to watch season 1, and if they don’t, to watch season 2 and support it. “It’s based on the support of everyone who is watching it,” he says.