The following is an interview with Amy Berg and Mike Sizemore, the writers and Executive Producers of Geek & Sundry‘s new digital web series, Caper. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Berg and Sizemore about their inspiration for the superhero comedy, why the show stands apart from other superhero tales, and how they balance their writing duties with their producer roles.
This interview was conducted on February 17, 2014.
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Caper, the digital web series that will soon be released through Geek & Sundry! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the project, how would you describe the series?
Amy Berg: Thank you! Caper is a genre-busting digital series that combines live action with animation. It centers on the alter egos of a team of superheroes who turn to a life of crime to make ends meet. Unfortunately for them, endless gratitude and keys to the city don’t pay the bills. And, without Bruce Wayne’s money, what’s a hero to do?
Mike Sizemore: Thank you! Caper is a comedy series that focuses on the alter egos of four superheroes living together in the City of Angles. Struggling to keep their heads above water financially, the team stumbles across the plans for a heist and reluctantly decides to carry it out. To stop themselves from becoming supervillains in the process, they agree on two rules: 1. Nobody gets hurt and 2. No superpowers. You’ll have to watch the show to see how successful they are . . .
BD: As the writers and executive producers of the series, what inspired you to create this project?
AB: Felicia Day and I have been looking to collaborate again ever since Eureka, and we have semi-regular lunches in which we lament the fact that our schedules never mesh. I shot and edited a pilot for TNT last year, after which I had my first week off in the history of ever. There was a confluence of events in the span of that week that led to the creation of Caper. Mike was visiting from London, and I, coincidentally, had a lunch with Felicia already on the books. I brought Mike along, and we pitched the idea for Caper to her and BAM . . . that was it.
Caper is a collision of the two genres I most frequently work in. Mike is also a huge science fiction nerd and, like me, appreciates a well-crafted heist movie. We got to talking about how alter egos might survive in a bad economy and the rest is history.
MS: We’re both big fans of heist and superhero genres, so combining the two seemed to be a no-brainer. Alter egos of other capes often have it far easier with an inheritance or trust fund to help support their daring-do, so it was a lot of fun to create characters who have none of that to fall back on. No safety net means you occasionally make a rash decision or two. Heist movies often have a crew who have a certain skill set – the driver, the brains, the muscle, etc, but in Caper we wanted to turn that on its head and make sure that our characters couldn’t use the skill sets that normally help them stand out of the crowd. So, no flying, no super strength, etc. Painting them into these corners and then seeing how they’d get out was a lot of fun. But, it was also an opportunity to create something for digital and move away from more traditional models and frameworks.
BD: With the plethora of superhero stories being told through the comic book, film, and television mediums, what do you feel makes Caper unique?
AB: Most of the current crop of superhero films and TV shows seem focused on spectacle. Costumes and visual effects don’t make or break Caper, because, at its heart, it’s a story about four friends who are just trying to get by and the choices they make along the way. It’s about characters who are relatable and funny, not fancy.
MS: It’s the addition of the heist genre that gives it a slightly different tone, plus these are characters who are GREAT at their day jobs, but their personal lives are frankly a mess. It’s harder to relate to a character that spends most of his or her time being almost a god, but scraping together the rent when you’re having a bad month is a lot more universal.
BD: Given that you have worn many hats in the creation of Caper, did you find that one aspect of the creative process was more challenging (or more natural) for you?
AB: I’m a showrunner by trade, so there wasn’t a lot that I hadn’t already dealt with in that capacity. I ran Caper the same way I’d run a television show. The biggest difference is time and money. You have less of both. A smaller budget means making a lot of sacrifices that affect the look of the show. You also have less real estate to tell a story that means finding a way do in ten minutes what you’d normally do in thirty. A lot of things are accelerated because of that.
MS: I’m a writer and have never produced something on this scale before, so watching it come together from start to finish has been a dream. Working with Amy and Geek & Sundry means I’ve been able to step up and help bring the whole thing to the screen from casting, through shooting to the edit, so while everything beyond handing in pages has been new and challenging, I’ve also earned an incredible amount.
BD: In addition to your work on the project, you have had the support of a talented cast and crew. Can you tell us about the process of working with the creative team and the contributions of these individuals?
AB: I’ve been working in television for a while now and have built up my own repertory theater of actors. Beth [Riesgraf] and Abby [Miller] are former colleagues and friends and my first phone calls. Harry [Shum Jr.] and Hartley [Sawyer] are the only ones I met through the casting process, and I’m so glad I did. They’re the best. Super talented and humble, which is a rare and wonderful combination.
All of our guest stars are friends whom I collaborated with on past television shows, as are most of our key crew positions. I produced this series through my production company alongside one of my best friends, Pete Dress, whom I’ve known since film school. This project was a labor of love for everyone involved. Once someone signed on, they became part of the family. It’s incredibly gratifying to have those kind of people in your life, personally and professionally.
MS: Everyone involved is a professional of a certain caliber, so for every recognizable face up on the screen (and we have some GREAT actors) there is a team of people who have decades of experience in both film and television. Again, watching how everyone handles their own particular slice of the project is very inspiring.
BD: Are there a certain number of episodes that have been planned for Caper, or do you hope that it will continue as an ongoing series?
AB: Nine episodes constitute the first season. We’ve premiered the first two episodes on February 12th, and the remainder will air weekly after that. There’s definitely many more stories to tell, so we hope to get an opportunity to continue the series in some capacity after that.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite web series or superhero comics?
AB: I’m a huge comics fan. I tend to follow writers more so than franchises. Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, Michael Alan Nelson, and Greg Rucka are among my inspirations. If you have a few hours, you should ask Mike this question. And, have him show you his Judge Dredd tattoo. It’s epic.
MS: I was a big fan of The Booth at the End, and right now I’m rereading both Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and Warren Ellis’ Planetary. The Booth at the End just nails a really simple premise and has you hooked from the get-go. Hawkeye is beautifully written, but I pour over David Aja’s art obsessively. It’s just the perfect book. Warren’s always had the best eye for subverting any genre and breathing new life into it, and the seemingly effortless way he tinkers with what we think we know from multiple genres in Planetary is staggering. Plus, how can you not love something with a mantra like. “It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way”?
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Caper?
MS: Watch the trailer (below), and then be ready for a few surprises . . .