Amy Berg wrote some of our favorite episodes of Eureka, Leverage and Person of Interest — and now she's creating a new digital series about superheroes who turn to crime, called Caper. She told us why superheroes would want to steal, and how to portray supers on a Youtube budget.
Berg created Caper for Geek and Sundry, Felicia Day's digital network and Youtube channel, and the first episode ought to launch early next year.
The show stars Leverage's Beth Riesgraf, Glee's Harry Shum, Jr., Justified's Abby Miller, and Glory Daze's Hartley Sawyer. The show is directed by Donald Murphy, who's worked with the Coen Brothers and Oliver Stone. And in a nutshell, it's about a team of superheroes who have a hard time making ends meet, because there's no money in saving the world — so they decide to commit a heist in secret.
True to its name, Caper is basically a heist show, says Berg. It's "a crime show that happens to feature superheroes as the lead characters," rather than a show about superheroes.
In fact, when the show's super-team pulls off its heists, they're not in costumes — they just wear ski masks and nondescript outfits, when they're being "bad guys."
The team actually seeks out "a consultant, to learn how to be bad," says Berg. "They're so used to being the do-gooders that they can't wrap their heads around how to be a villain. They consult with someone who's known to not havesuch a great personality to teach them how to be both bad and essentially weak, and pretend they don't have superpowers."
The team's leader, the Machine aka Penny Blue, lays down some groundrules, including "no hurting anybody," and "no ripping off people who don't deserve it." And yes, there's a somewhat political edge in the team's choice of victims: they're going after corrupt CEOs and "fighting back against corporate superiority" in a time when "CEOs are the bad guys to many people in the world, including myself."
"What if you're a good guy and you see all this inequality that you can fix, but you can't do it as a superhero," because you have "this face to the world," says Berg. "They're eaten up inside" by all the things they can't fix in their costumed identities.
At the same time, she says the show will have a light touch: "I like to call it a comedy with character," about "real people with real problems." She hopes you'll get invested in these characters, just as you would on a TV show where there's more time to delve into them. "These are people who are very relatable."
So how do you show superheroic action on a webseries budget? By interpolating motion comics with live-action sequences. All of the stuff featuring the main characters' civilian alter egos is live-action, and all of the sequences featuring them in their superhero costumes is done using motion comics.
And meanwhile, Berg promises there will be actual supervillains on the show. We'll see them in their costumed identities in the motion-comics sequences, but also in their civilian alter-egos, in live action. "Whenever our gang and their alter egos interact with the villains, those villains are also in their alter ego form, and that definitely is something I've never seen before."
The series includes a regular human bad guy, but also a supervillain whom we meet when he's not in his regalia — he's just "interacting with the world, pretending to be a normal guy."
And Berg definitely hopes this series will make the jump to television, the way other webseries like Sanctuary have. Everyone who signed onto this project did so with the hope that it would develop into something bigger. "I wrote a TV show in ten acts that are 10 minutes each, and I feel like the level of talent we brought to this project are TV stars in their own right," says Berg.
The idea for Caper came out of a casual lunch between Berg, Day and co-creator Mike Sizemore, who was visiting from London. "Felicia has been bugging me for almost two years to come up with an idea for a webseries for her," says Berg. Sizemore and Berg just tossed out that idea at lunch, and by the end of the lunch, Day was already buying the project.
TV shows about superheroes have struggled on television, with the exception of a few shows like Arrow and Smallville. "It's hard to do right," says Berg:
"You're asking people to invest in characters that don't look like them and don't act like them, and that's not why people watch TV. People watch TV to see reflections of themselves and who they want to be. And superhero elements work very successfully in movie franchises — it's because you're going for the experience, you're not going for the investment. Whereas in TV, it's all about the investment, it's not about the experience. It's about falling in love with characters, and seeing what they get themselves into every week. When you do superhero TV, it takes you even farther away from reality than just a blanket genre show would."
So you have to work really hard to keep the characters grounded, and focus on their real lives and not just their costumed identities.
Check out more exclusive stills and behind-the-scenes pictures from Caper below: