Telling the story of a software engineer with his head in the clouds and futuristic ambitions, Steve's Quest is an imaginative and tuneful new webseries written by Chris, who also provides the voice of the titular character. He also has been blogging for a while about the development of the webseries, documenting the process as he's developed songs and tested out logos. Chris was nice enough to answer some questions about Steve's Quest below:
Me: What is your background with musicals and writing songs?
Chris Edgar: I’ve written songs, and played drums and piano, for most of my life. I’ve run the gamut from being a surly, long-haired, fourteen-year-old drummer in a heavy metal band to playing percussion in the orchestra for musicals. I’d never written for a musical (or rock opera, animated song cycle, or whatever we should call this show) before this one.
Me: Where did the idea of Steve's Quest come from? Where did the story come from, and how did you assemble your production team?
Chris: One day, on a long flight (despite my dislike of flying, I always seem to get inspired on planes), I had the idea to make a video of white-collar workers doing mundane tasks like faxing and stapling, but with this out-of-control heavy metal music playing in the background. I was having so much fun with the idea that I started writing lyrics to the tune, which eventually became a song called “Maximized.” Then, I started coming up with a story (yeah, it was a super-long flight) featuring the characters described in the song, and more lyrical ideas. Most of the lyrics I wrote on that flight ended up on the cutting-room floor, but “Maximized” is still in the show.
As for the production team, I found them through a whole bunch of different sources. Just as a few examples, I actually met the animation team (who are, in their “day jobs,” comic-book artists) through someone in a yoga class I took. The musical director and guitarist, Tim, is my brother, and he was an obvious choice because I always appreciate chances to work with him. The most intimidating part of it was working with Gina Breedlove, who was in the original Broadway cast of The Lion King – she sings the part of the narrator in the first scene of Episode 1, so we basically did a duet.
Me: Steve's Quest is not only a musical web series, but it is an animated one. How did you decide that was how you wanted to portray Steve’s journey? What are some of the unique challenges (and advantages) of writing for animated characters?
Chris: I originally had the idea to do the show in an animated format because I knew that certain parts of the show were going to take place in the cyberpunk realm of Steve’s (the main character) creation, and I wasn’t sure we had the budget to make those parts convincing using live actors and CGI. I also knew that a number of the voice actors I wanted to work with were in remote locations — I’m in Northern California, but a few of the actors I worked with are in New York, where I’m from originally — and using an animated format allowed me to work with them without needing to gather everyone in a single location for a long period of time.
As far as writing for animated characters goes, the approach I took for this show was to have the characters speak in a fairly conversational tone most of the time, without the over-the-top exaggeration we often see in voice acting for animation. Some of the animated shows I find the funniest (“Home Movies,” for example) take this approach. When it comes to the singing, I think the most liberating aspects of the animated format are the ability to have a character sing while the audience’s point of view is directed at an image other than the character (for instance, in the first scene, we see Steve singing about a futuristic city, over images of the city), and to have the characters gesture and shape their bodies in ways that humans (I hope) can’t do.
Me: You also do the voice of Steve. Did you write the character with the intent of filling that role? What do you enjoy most about being able to sing your own material?
Chris: I didn’t originally see myself playing Steve. Ultimately, though, it started seeming like a good idea because I knew there might be long gaps in the production schedule, as it was my first time producing both a musical and an animated feature, and I didn’t want to get stuck in a situation where the actor playing the protagonist told me “uh, sorry, dude, I just don’t have time for this anymore,” and then we had to cast a replacement Steve who didn’t sound like the original. And I think my voice fits pretty well with the role — it has the awkward charm I’m looking for, and if I got someone who was a real Broadway-style virtuoso, it might not have worked as well.
Me: You've been documenting your own experience creating Steve's Quest through the show's website. What has that experience been like?
Chris: My biggest goal in blogging about the writing and production of the show has been to inspire people who have been talking themselves out of a project they’re really interested in to go ahead and take a risk. Working on this project, apart from teaching me a lot of practical ins and outs regarding animation, writing songs for a show, and so on, has taught me that I’m capable of doing a lot more than I believed when I started. Now I’m eager to start on the next project, which will be a stage show about Fraggle Rock-style puppets that live in a sewer (more on that soon).
Me: What do you have planned for Steve's Quest in the future?
Chris: I’m thinking we’ll have our own Steve’s Quest panel at Comic-Con. Joss Whedon will be on a panel in the next room, and when his Q&A is finished he’ll come and tell us how awesome we are. Maybe Stan Lee will also have some special congratulations for the animators. But seriously, my hope for Steve’s Quest is that it entertains, and perhaps provokes some discomfort and contemplation of “big questions,” far and wide. Also, as far as I know, this is the first animated musical webseries out there, and maybe we can spark some innovation and interesting work in this new medium.
Me: Are there any other projects you'd like to plug?
Chris: I put out an album recently of, oddly enough, some country-influenced material -- it's called "Slow Burn," and if people are interested, they can hear a song from the album here.
The video description also contains links for downloading the album on iTunes and Amazon, and the official site for the EP is www.cedgarmusic.com.