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EXCLUSIVE: Damsels & Dragons, How You Can Help A Fantasy/Comedy Web Series

Interview

We’ve got a very special treat for you today, readers. How would you like to find out more about a fantasy action/comedy web series about a women’s LARP (live-action role play) group? And what about the added bonus of some killer talent? Directed by Greg Aronowitz (The Guild, DragonAge), co-produced by America Young (Geek Therapy) and Jessica Mills (Awkward Embraces), and written by Eric Collin Campbell (Geek Therapy, Connect To), it’s called Damsels and Dragons and we have an inkling it’s up your alley, as it features some rounded female characters. The Mary Sue is also proud to be the first to announce the IndieGogo campaign to fund the second season of the series. Now read on and find out all about it! 

The Mary Sue: Tell us a little about the inception of this project. Whose idea was it, where did the idea come from?

Jessica Mills: Back in 2008 America Young and April Wade had an idea to do a web series about a group of female LARPers. They took that idea to Eric Campbell and they produced the original web series from that. I saw the show this past summer, and loved the concept so I contacted America and told her that if they put me in the show, I’d help produce Season 2. And here we are!

America Young: What Jessica said. HA. I had seen a documentary called Monster Camp about Larping and told April all about it. We did some research and got really excited about the idea of a show about an all girl larping group. Eric Campbell was the perfect guy to write it for us. As much as we loved it, after first season we got distracted by a few other projects. When Jessica approached us about Season 2 we were thrilled to get to work with her and to bring back the show.

Greg Aronowitz: What America said about what Jessica said! America had told me about the idea when she was forming it back in ’08, but I was off on some other crazy adventure, so I didn’t get to be overly involved. The show was ultra low budget, as web series tend to be, so I offered my yard as “the park” location. After the show was done, America asked me to create the logo for the titles and site. I did a marker rendering of, well, a damsel and a dragon. But it’s more of an intimate, excepting pair, not the typical damsel in distress and fierce dragon, or scantly clad warrior and victimized dragon. It’s one of my favorite pieces!

TMS: What kind of action/story can we expect to see in Damsels and Dragons?

Jessica: This new version is bigger and better than the original. In this season, the girls form a new LARP group and end up getting into a Sharks vs Jets stand-off with the Bone Shards, a slick, semi-professional group of LARPers who try and bully the girls out of gaming in the park they all share. The girls fight back, and the season culminates in a huge, epic, winner takes all battle for the right to use the park.

AY: In the original, we stayed within the fantasy world and with only the Damsel characters. In this season, we open that world wide up. New larping group. We see them IRL. They struggle with working out the kinks of a new group PLUS unexpected exclusivity from the Bone Shards. It’s a richer more layered world and story. One of the ways I pay the bills is with stunt work. So we’ll be able to bring in people to train the girls to make the fights look great. One of the things that Jessica and I talk about is the girl gamer phenom. That people doubt not only geek girl gamer legitimacy but their existence. That is what excites me most about things we address in this season.

GA: The story is MUCH bigger this time around. Dare I say epic! The fantasy elements of LARPing are the launching point, but at it’s core, this is a story about fighting for the things you love, and finding balance between your dreams and your realities. Everyone has something they are passionate about, and the struggle to make that passion a major part of your life is the greatest adventure of all. For our characters, it’s LARPing, and we get to see the effort put into organized fun. This is “The Blind Side” for geeks and gamers.

TMS: What’s your personal experience with LARP?

JM: None whatsoever! I’ve never table topped, either. But our writer is a very experienced RPer, and we’ll have the head of the LARP Alliance on set to advise us technically as we shoot. We want to make sure we hold true to game.

AY: Nope! Been to the conventions but never actually been out in a game. I’ve been wanting to for years so I love that this will give us the excuse to finally go out and do it.

GA: This is the saddest set of answers ever! I have no direct experience either, but I have the utmost respect. I’ve made a ton of LARP weapons for people, so I’ve been involved peripherally, but I don’t pretend to be an expert on the game. I do feel, however, that our outside point of view will help make the show, and LARPing in general, more accessible to the public, and hopefully get more people interested and excited about this amazing community.

TMS: Talk to us about the actors involved.

JM: America Young is my co-producer. She’s a stunt woman, fight choreographer and experienced director and actress. Most recently she produced and starred in the Geek Therapy series on Comediva. She’s basically a badass. I can’t wait to work with her on sword tricks and stuff. Eric Campbell is our writer and will be playing a role. He’s done quite a bit of work in web series as well, mainly one of the writers and actors of the Geek Therapy series on Comediva. April Wade and America are both in this season of Damsels, they were in the original 2008 version of the show. Otherwise, for the most part, we haven’t solidified the cast. We have people we really want to work with, but no official casting has happened, yet. We’ll be announcing our cast over the next couple of months.

AY: The coolest thing is this being a mutual appreciation club. I have been a fan of Jessica’s work for a while. And getting to work with her has been everything I could have hoped for and somehow a little bit more. We just had a reading of the script and I broke into giggles every time she opened her mouth. Greg Aronowitz is brilliant with EVERYTHING he does. The incomparable April Wade and I have had a few projects together and have a few more in the works. Eric Campbell has written many things with me and is a hilarious as an actor.

GA: At this time, our cast is still forming, but we have the cornerstones for an awesome ensemble. We also have a pack of triple-threats, in that America, Jessica, and Eric are all wearing multiple hats in addition to acting, including producing, writing, and stunt-coordinating. All of these roles are massive undertakings, but because everyone is so invested in the project, the love and care is going to radiate of the screen. I think it is an important message from the web world, that people with ideas CAN make them happen, and they can do it themselves without the studios and networks.

Photo from the original Damsels and Dragons.

TMS: How does Damsels and Dragons fit in the current world of swords and sorcery (Game of Thrones, Skyrim etc)?

JM: Well, we have two aspects of the story. We’ve got the girls in their regular life, jobs and whatnot. And then we have them in game. When they’re in game, and things are intense, we see the real world dissolve and the girls are in full fantasy. It’s really fun. We also have a lot of homages to great epic films planned as well. Basically, we’re all just having as much fun as possible living out our own fantasy daydreams.

AY: MAN don’t you WISH we could live in Skyrim? Slay dragons and quest? Have your own direwolf?? We can’t sadly. BUT in game, if you believe it enough, you can be. The girls are in search of the game that will transport them into these worlds. They can get there in their minds.

GA: We are seeing a huge upsurge in the fantasy genres: published work is more popular than it’s been in years, fantasy film and television is not considered “failed”, and video game sales are at an all time high. I feel that D&D falls right in between those categories. We are showing the audience how film, television, literature, and gaming affect peoples lives. Our characters want to live and breathe the adventure. We all live vicariously through the books, shows, and games we consume, and wish we could physically be part of those worlds. And there is a way. Put down the controller, leave the dice behind, grab some Nerf gear, and LARP!

TMS: Greg, what attracted you to the project?

GA: I have two words to answer that: DAMSELS and DRAGONS! There is so much to do with that. I fell in love with the idea of the show years ago when America first presented it to me, and I was disappointed that the most I could do at the time was illustrate the logo and provide the location. I was thrilled when she came to me to direct the show this time, and even more so when she and Jessica decided to go deeper with the story.

I grew up with movies and shows like Terminator, Alien, Buck Rogers, and Star Wars. Their strong female characters influenced me heavily, and if you follow my body of work, you’ll find that I am most drawn to focusing my stories around leading women, whether it’s my comic books like Blue and Alley Cat, or shows like Power Rangers: SPD. Strangely, mainstream Hollywood is opposed to projects centered around women leads [Editors note: perhaps not so surprising for our readers], despite the fact that they are hugely popular. I feel that D&D is an excellent opportunity to show multidimensional women characters dealing with realistic situations in a realistic way, all the while having this wild fantasy background, and a talented cast that will make us laugh, cry, and raise a broadsword over our heads while exclaiming “Victory!”

TMS: You’re attempting to fund the project on Indie GoGo. Jessica, I know you had success funding your web series Awkward Embraces on the site, are you approaching it differently this time around?

JM: Well, this is the first time I’ll be doing Indiegogo for a project that is, basically, brand new. But we’re so excited about the story and the concept, that we’re really hoping people will get behind it and help us get it made. The show is so fun, and it’s telling the story of a really underrepresented aspect of geekdom. We’re really excited about it, and hope our excitement is contagious. Luckily, the people involved (Greg Aronowitz, America Young and myself) all have a strong reputation for making good content. So you guys can trust us to make an awesome show.

AY: All three of us have extremely high standards for production. And with Greg directing, every dime will stretch to make the most incredible props/weapons and costumes you have ever seen. Since this is a passion project, something we are all so excited to make for fun and laughs, we are looking to be as involved as possible with the people who invest and believe in us.

GA: This will be my first venture into online funding for a project, so I’m a total noob! The team involved has a strong body of work, so I’m hoping that there will be enough support out there to help us bring more entertainment to the interwebs. Visually, I really want to push this show even beyond the work I’ve done with The Guild and Team Unicorn. I promise I will do everything possible to make this a great show, and I’m pretty sure the girls will vow the same!

TMS: Who do you think will be most attracted to Damsels and Dragons? Are you aiming towards a particular audience?

JM: Well, I’ve been thinking that of course LARPers will get behind the show, and I’ve felt that a lot of geek girls will really love it. Since I started talking about the show and describing it to people, I’ve been surprised by the reactions. Everyone I’ve described this show to has gotten really excited about it, regardless of whether they are a guy or a girl. Though a familiarity with what LARPing is really helps with that. I can’t wait to get this show made so people can see it. The creative team is amazing and we’re having so much fun developing it. I’m just stupid excited about it.

AY: I think the LARPing community will be excited about. Especially since we are coming from a place a genuine interest and fandom. But I also think that it has a wider audience. Everyone I have told about it, even people that aren’t even the slightest bit geeky, are excited about it. They didn’t know this world existed. And their inner child seems to be thrilled to find out that it does. Ultimately, the story is underdog story. The scrappy group of girl larpers that pull their act together to try to compete with the big dogs. We all have had that struggle. We all have had to face this conflict for something we are passionate about. Whether you LARP or not, are a geek or not, it’s a heartwarming, funny story. Just thinking about it make me sit here with a stupid grin on my face.

GA: I think the timing is right for this show to find great success. It can be argued that the current popularity of geekdom is a passing fad, but the reality is, many people are finding happiness in new things they are being exposed to that they used to shy away from when it wasn’t hip or cool. Girls that called me “nerd” in high school are now asking me for comic pull recommendations on twitter. It’s a different world, and people are becoming much more comfortable expressing their connection with sci-fi and fantasy. Our show is kind of a bridge between those who have and those who are still unsure. Hopefully, by the time we’re done, tons more people will have crossed over to the geek side, because we intend to show you that it’s pretty fun over here!

TMS: Thanks so much to all three of you for taking the time to talk with us about Damsels and Dragons!

The IndieGogo campaign is officially LIVE. Head over to find out even more about the series as well as gander at the type of incentives you’ll get for donating.

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