Purpose | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Interview on the Secret Origins of Steve’s Quest

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I was honored to be interviewed by Kimberly Lew over at Emerging Musical Theatre, which is a blog that covers some amazing, contemporary composers and shows.  We talked about the origins of Steve’s Quest, the Comic-Con panel the cast and crew will almost certainly, eventually, do, the reasons I decided to play the title role, and the proverbial “much, much more!”  Enjoy.

How To Make a “Location-Independent” Webseries

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One thing you may not know about Steve’s Quest: The Musical, the animated musical webseries I wrote and directed (which is now live!), is that the cast and crew of the show are “bicoastal,” meaning they are located on both the East and West Coasts of the U.S.  The upside of this arrangement was that I got to work with exactly the people I wanted, but of course working with people mainly over e-mail and file sharing came with a unique set of challenges.

In this piece over at The Snobby Robot, I talk about how we’ve worked through the challenges that came with being on opposite sides of the country, and what I’ve learned from the process.  Enjoy!

Steve’s Quest Episode 1 is Live!

The wait is finally over — Episode 1 of Steve’s Quest, the animated musical webseries I wrote and directed, has hit the interwebs!  Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

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As you’ll see, it’s an eclectic and spicy blend of hard rock, science fiction, computer games and software engineering (yeah, basically a mixture of things I like).

If you enjoy it, and I’m pretty confident you will, please take a moment to hit the “Like” button on the YouTube video — that will help the show, and the hyper-talented team, get the attention they deserve.  If you would like to share it with people in other ways as well, please do!

Here’s a fun fact:  as far as I can tell, this is the first animated musical web series ever.  Yeah, I mean the first one in the world, and potentially in the universe. It’s daunting but exciting to be creating a new art form, or at least a bizarre hybrid of old art forms.

This show is the culmination of more than two years of work on the writing, storyboarding, animation, casting, and vocal and audio recording — not just by me, but by the nearly twenty people who have contributed their talents to the project.  Not surprisingly, it’s hard to express how pleased I am to see it come to life.

Looking forward to hearing what you think. Episode 2 is already well on its way!

Steve’s Quest Official Trailer

We finally have a definite release date for Steve’s Quest, the animated musical web series I wrote and directed!  Episode 1 will go live on March 14.  The weird idea for a musical I had on one fateful plane ride in September 2011 is, at long last, coming to fruition.

I know I’ve given some release date estimates in the past that proved to be, shall we say,  overly ambitious, but this time I have the full episode in hand (or whatever the digital equivalent of having something in hand is), and there are no remaining obstacles in Steve’s Quest‘s path toward domination of the interwebs.

Enjoy the trailer — I’m looking forward to hearing your reactions!

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The New Look of Steve’s Quest, Part 4: Some Superlative Screenshots

Well, unfortunately, we didn’t end up releasing the first episode of Steve’s Quest last month, because some of the visual effects needed to create the episode proved to be more involved than we expected — you know, stuntmen flying through breakaway glass, CGI dinosaurs and digital skin-grafting on the characters to create a younger look in the flashback scenes.

Okay, because technically we’re doing 2-D animation, we didn’t do any of those things.  However, we are doing some complex visual effects and artistic flourishes that I think you’ll find to be worth the wait.  We’re expecting the episode to go live in mid-February.

Here are some screenshots that will give you an idea of what I mean:

Gain, the hero of Steve’s cyberpunk novel, charges through Tron-style digital tunnels.

Gain does battle with the minions of futuristic crimelord Wotan.

Gain leaps off a building, like any self-respecting superhero should do at least once.

Gain streaks through the skies of Metro City, powered by his jetboots.

Steve is not a morning person.

Seeking Album Cover Help

I’m excited to announce that I’m putting the finishing touches on a four-song “EP,” which, for those of you who weren’t around in the days of vinyl, means basically an album with four songs on it.  The album will be called “Slow Burn.”  It’s the first music I’ve recorded with myself as the “lead singer” (unless you count the singing I’ve done in Steve’s Quest), and it’s been an intimidating but rewarding experience.

As part of putting the album together, I did a photo shoot on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California with superlative photographer Suzette Hibble.  We were there for a few hours, and ended up with literally hundreds of great shots, including photos of me in front of about sixteen different graffiti displays.

I’m now left with the daunting task of choosing which photo I’m going to use for my album cover.  Naturally, I decided to seek the expert advice of people who read my blog.  So, I’m going to post the finalists among the photos we took, and ask you to let me know which ones strike your fancy.

I’ll put a number underneath each one, so that you can tell me which one you like.  Thanks for your suggestions, and I’m looking forward to sharing more music with you soon!

Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #4

Photo #5

The New Look of Steve’s Quest, Part 3: The Backgrounds

So far, I’ve shared samples of the animation, the new character designs, and the storyboards for the upcoming Steve’s Quest web series.  But the crown jewel of the new artwork, in my opinion, is the backgrounds.  And in this post, Dear Readers, I will be your, er, crown jeweler.

The following backgrounds are from Metro City, the gritty, futuristic metropolis in which our hero Steve’s cyberpunk novels are set.

I think Michelle, the artist, does a great job creating a sleek Blade Runner-esque landscape, but keeping it somewhat cartoonish and lighthearted, consistent with the spirit of the show:

Gain, the protagonist of Steve’s novel, surrounded by the obligatory flying cars and floating ads.

The high rise belonging to Wotan, arch-crimelord and Gain’s main nemesis.

A closeup shot of Wotan Industries.

In early December — just a month away — we’ll be unveiling our first episode.  I can’t wait to see the visual final product!

Why I’m Doing Steve’s Quest, Part 2: Resurrection

In the last chapter of this epic saga on what brought me to develop Steve’s Quest, I talked about what led me to shift my focus away from impressing other people with my way of life, and toward doing something I actually liked to do.

Conveniently, my decision to do something more fulfilling came at a time when the pace of my law job had slowed.  Before, during lulls like that, I hadn’t known what to do with myself, and I’d usually ended up, like any self-respecting office worker, browsing videos about dancing kittens and people falling off jetskis or roofs.

The Power of Positive PowerPointing

Now, at least, I could make better use of my time by looking at career alternatives.  Seeing as how I was in Silicon Valley, the first idea that naturally came to mind was to start a company that offered some kind of best-in-class, results-driven, turn-key, workflow-automation solution, and sell it for big bucks.

So, I spent the next few weeks putting together PowerPoint presentations describing what, at least at the time, I saw as killer startup ideas.

The funniest part of these slide decks was definitely the clip art.  In one slide, I wrote that starting my proposed company would be a “professional resurrection” for me.  Next to that statement, I put the cover of Judas Priest singer Rob Halford’s solo album Resurrection (pictured above).  Totally rockin’ album, by the way.

PowerPointing Proves Pointless

Anyway, in the midst of this frenzy of PowerPointing, the idea occurred to me:  if I did build a tech company and sell it for millions, what would I do with the money?

The answer, I realized, was that I’d somehow use it to help people forge their own dream careers.  No one, I thought, should have to suffer through days of online kitten-watching, or anything else they’d rather not be doing at work.

Inevitably, then, the question came up:  why spend years producing turn-key workflow solutions in order to make millions I can then spend on helping people find something they love to do, when I can find more direct ways to help people do that now?

Thus began the next chapter of my lifestyle explorations, which I will call the “life or career coaching, or consulting, or workshop leading” era to express my uncertainty about what I was really up to.

This ties into the more intimate and risqué aspects of my lifestyle redesign.  But more on those later!

The New Look of Steve’s Quest, Part 2: The Storyboards

By now, you’ve probably seen the excerpt from Episode 2 of Steve’s Quest that shows the new animation style we’re using for the series.  But unless you’re into animation, you might not be aware of how much work it takes to put together even a 1-minute clip like this.

For this clip alone, the current art team of Hoyt Silva and Michelle Poust prepared 30 storyboards showing, in detail, what the characters are doing, and what part of the background appears, in each “shot.”  The entire Episode 2, which is about seven minutes long, spans a whopping 117 boards.

The most impressive part of this, to me, was that Hoyt and Michelle drafted these boards based on an audio track I sent them.  In other words, I didn’t record the music and sound to match the animation — they prepared the animation to match the soundtrack they got from me.

This takes precision work — particularly in a musical like this, when the animators are trying to get the characters’ mouths to move in sync with the singing.

Here are some of the boards used in putting together the Episode 2 clip, which will give you an idea of the detailed work it takes to draft them:

Late for work, Steve frantically tries to boot up his computer.

Steve’s co-worker, Tord, urges Steve to focus on his work instead of office romance.

Steve tells Tord that the party he wants to invite Sabrina to is tonight.

With Tord’s grudging consent, Steve makes a beeline for Sabrina’s cubicle.

Just think, you didn’t even have to wait for the Steve’s Quest DVD to watch behind-the-scenes bonus materials (and yes, I do plan to eventually release a DVD once the series is done).  More glimpses into the inner workings at Steve’s Quest HQ are coming soon!

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Why I’m Doing Steve’s Quest, Part 1: Something to Talk About

A mentor of mine suggested that I explain what drove me to create Steve’s Quest, because that might help people connect with the show and understand what it has to offer.  And, by golly, I think I will.

Basically, as odd as it may sound, I came up with the show as part of an effort to feel comfortable talking to people about myself.

About seven years ago, I really didn’t have anything going on my life other than my career as a lawyer, and that wasn’t just because of the amount of time I spent in the office.

Granted, I can’t recall how many times I stayed up all night working on a project, or (perhaps worse) the number of times I woke up at 4 a.m. to make sure I could turn in a document I’d drafted by morning.  (At 4 a.m., the coffee in the office was really stale.)

But despite this schedule, I did have a good deal of “free time” — I just used it in unfulfilling ways.  Basically, outside of practicing law, my life consisted of going to the gym, playing video games, and going on uninspired dates with women.

I Needed Others to Show Me My Life Sucked

The funny thing was that, when I was by myself, my lifestyle seemed tolerable.  After all, I lived in a comfortable, sunny environment, and all my basic needs were met.  It was when I got asked about myself that I struggled.

When someone asked what I did with my life — whether they were talking about my career or my spare time — I’d find myself getting irritated and I’d usually try to change the subject.  Somehow, talking to other people about my life revealed how dissatisfied I was with it.

Living to Impress Others = Solitary Video Gaming

Eventually, I found myself asking a strange question:  “what can I do with my life that will make me feel better when I talk about myself?”

This was a sea change in my view on the ideal lifestyle.  Before, consciously or not, I’d been designing my life based on a very different question:  “what can I do with my life that will impress people when I talk about it?”

Naturally, this way of thinking led me to a career I thought would sound lucrative and prestigious to others, and to a secluded, risk-free life that was calculated not to offend anyone.

But that . . . was soon to change.

In the next thrilling episode of “Why I’m Doing Steve’s Quest,” I’ll talk about my various lifestyle experiments and the hilarity that ensued.