Do you like good things? Do you like good, nerdy things? Do you like good, nerdy things that have relatable characters and a fun plot in an easy to view format? If your answer to all of the above is “Mm, why yes, you’ve piqued my interest” then, oh boy, do I have a webseries to distract you from your boring, everyday responsibilities.
The Platoon of Power Squadron, or PoPS as it will be henceforth referred to in acronymical form, is a slightly popular web series on YouTube. What do you need to know if you haven’t seen it? Well, my soon to be PoPsTart, let’s journey forth into the realm of fact checking. Episode One/Part One is one of the few intro episodes to a web series that has over 80,000 views and only 6 dislikes. If that doesn’t sound impressive, you are either seriously underestimating the trolls on the Internet or this series itself. We’ll go with the latter.
In all seriousness, PoPS follows the shenanigan filled adventures of four strangers who move into an apartment together, and all just so happen to have superpowers. Jake Jarvi, head hancho and writer guy extraordinaire plays the telekinetic-with-mysterious-past Jonas, with the object of his affections conveniently played by his lovely wife Eliza Toser as the Princess of the 4th Dimension. Or Virginia, if that codename is a mouthful. Carlyn Janus is four times the amount of adorableness rivaled only by Nyan Cat as indie cutebucket Sebastian, with the ability to create duplicates of herself, and the aptly named alias Madam Generator. Rounding out the fabulous foursome is Craig Benzine, (or WheezyWaiter to all you non-n00bs) the supercharged Mr. Dr. Electricon who usually goes by his unsuper alter ego, Donald. The series follows the SuperRoomies as they go about their everyday lives – with the added facepalm of having powers. Sound interesting enough to waste a minute on? It should. Still haven’t convinced you to watch it? I urge you to rectify this situation immediately by delving into the current five episode arc and take a good look at what you’re clearly missing out on. Or for the frustratingly lazy, just check out this embedded trailer and see if it tickles your fancy.Please enter the url to a YouTube video.
Fair warning, though. Don’t start watching unless you clear your plans, get in PJs and grab some tacos because once you sit down, you’re watching the whole thing through. Trust me.
Jake and Eliza kindly gave me some of their time after filming PoPs Update 96 and we talked everything from production to why Taco Bell might beat Joss Whedon in a contest. Follow the jump to learn more about PoPS and check out an interview with Jake Jarvi, with commentary by Eliza Toser!
Kimmie: Ok, so, first things first! How did The Platoon of Power Squadron come about? What was the inspiration?
Jake Jarvi: The Platoon of Power Squadron came around because I was working in two video stores at the same time trying to make a living wage and during that time I was watching a lot of TV on DVD. And two shows that I was really into watching during store hours were LOST back when it was in season 3 and Smallville, and so I was like “Oh, LOST is so cool because of all these mysteries and you don’t know how everything came to be!” and at the same time, “Oh, Smallville is so cool because they’re normal people who get awesome abilities!” so I just threw those ideas together. I know PoPS is nothing like LOST, but you don’t know yet how the characters got their powers yet, so there are little mythology mysteries that still need to be answered.
Kimmie: How long does the writing/filming/editing process take until we see a full episode on YouTube?
Jake: It takes FOR-EVER. Well, Episode One was shot in two days and then I worked on editing for about two weeks, so that was done in less than a month. We did do a couple of pickup scenes after because it was too short. I initially wanted them to be ten minute episodes but then I was like nope! I like story arcs that happen in at least 22 minute episodes, if not 30 minute episodes. After that, Episode Two took 9 months to film because we were doing it whenever we felt like it. And we were getting married, so we were planning a wedding, me and my wife. And that took forever, so we decided we needed to come up with a new way. Now I write an episode probably, if I’m dedicated enough to do it outside of work hours, in about two weeks. Shooting takes a month and a half because we’re only doing it weekends and nights. And now Carlyn, the girl who splits all the time, she can’t film weekends so scheduling is a bitch. We’re all getting older now. Editing and effects usually takes around 3 months. So it takes us 6-7 months on average to complete an episode. But we keep trying to change how we do things and it makes things last longer each time.
Eliza: We come up with new fixes and then we come up with new problems!
Jake: That’s exactly right. Yesterday was nothing but problems. But we found fixes!
Kimmie: So your characters, Jonas and Virginia, have telekinesis and time based abilities. Are these the superpowers you’d choose in real life?
Jake: Ahhh…we have the superpower conversations every once in awhile, which ones we would have. Um… telekinesis is a good one, especially with the way Jonas uses it. Like when we found out in Episode Five just how powerful he is! It’s kinda hard to argue with that. It’s like you could have whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it, and that can be very dangerous to life as we know it. Teleportation would be a cool one to have though. Eliza and I were in a long distance relationship for years, teleportation would’ve been awesome! When I talk to Craig about it he would choose flight, always flight, which is a good one. And Carlyn just wanted to have whatever she wants, whenever she wants, so I guess kind of like Jonas’ powers. Or to get paid to do whatever she wanted. What about you, babe?
Eliza: I like my time stopping powers. I’ll go with that.
Kimmie: Without giving anything away, how much are your PoPS brigade going to explore the extent of their powers in the next few episodes?
Jake: Well we’re almost done shooting Episode Six. We were only gonna have two more nights of shooting for one sequence if we finished everything, but we had a 14 hour day yesterday and we didn’t get everything we needed so we had to add another shoot date to the end of the month. So Six is practically done and Seven is written. And we explore our powers a little bit more, but for me, it’s not so much coming up with cool things that they can do with their powers, but I’m always wanting to show the character aspect and what they choose to do with their powers regardless of how far they can just push them. Donald’s whole arc is just pushing to become this “hero” and we follow that a little bit further, but I like what happens with Virginia and Jonas. Episode Six will be a great one for Jonas, and Six and Seven will be great for Virginia. Her storyline doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but there are these huge, momentous occasions for her character. They are always going to try and see how far they can push their abilities in the realm that feels comfortable for their characters. Virginia and Jonas would be less apt to push further, Donald will probably keep on doing things that no one really cares about, and Sebastian…her thing is just living, you know? We’re still thinking of new things she can do with her abilities and gimmicks for her. We try to focus on the relationship between the four.
Kimmie: All of the actors seem to have great chemistry. How did you guys come together?
Jake: Good question! Um…okay, well, let’s see. You’ll learn how we come together as characters in Episode 9, however, as people… Eliza and I met because were from the same hometown and she lived very close to the video store that I worked in, so she would come in and hang out. Then after we started dating –
Eliza: Many years later.
Jake: Yes, many years later! She was going to the Art Institute of Chicago and she befriended Carlyn there. I was out in LA trying to do the whole acting thing and when I moved back to Illinois, Eliza and I ended up being roommates with Carlyn and Ty (the guy who played Hitler) and we did a couple of short projects. And PoPS developed in all of our minds collectively to be us, originally with Ty playing the part of Mr. Dr. Electricon. Shortly after, Ty dropped out of the show because he was moving. My buddy Ryan, who shoots the show, went to school at Madison with Craig and said “You guys have to check out my friend’s weekly blog!” So Craig and I worked on a few other shorts and became friendly through that and we had to find a new Mr. Dr. Electricon anyway. The first episode was written two years before we shot it, so I called Craig up because I knew he was interested in internet videos and because he already had some internet presence, probably like 3,000 subscribers at that time. So I was like, “Hey dude, you wanna work on this show with me?” and he was like, “Yeah man, give me the script!” and then he was like, “I’m totally in!” And then he blew up. After we shot Episode One and Two, he blew up on YouTube. He has 300,000 something subscribers now and he makes his money blogging for a living. Ever since that happened he became way busier and had less time for hanging out and filming the show. He tries to work around our schedules as best as he can but since his YouTube popularity is what drove people to us, we’ve been very fortunate that he has been so fortunate! (laughs)
Kimmie: If you could get away with it, how long would you go without showering?
Jake: If I was just barricading myself in the apartment and had enough DiGiornos in the fridge, I’d have to put the cap at day 4. After that, I don’t think I would be able to stand myself.
Eliza: I’m gonna go with day 4 as well.
Kimmie: Who is your favorite superhero?
Jake: It’s a really lame answer because it’s so obvious, but I’ve always responded most strongly to Batman. He’s always been this hardcore dude who just wants to help. Sure he’s a rich dude, I guess that’s fair. But he’s on the fence. You never know, he could actually kill someone on a bad day and I dig that about him. Although, the Smallville story is very interesting, but once he learns about all his powers it’s over for me. Outside of that, other superheroes, I’m a big fan of Hancock. I love Hancock. And I’m a big fan of the comic Runaways and within that group, the coolest has gotta be Molly. She’s just a kid who can Hulk out. And that’s badass.
Kimmie: Which villain would you want to go up against if you had to pick and why?
Jake: You gotta choose someone lame so that you look way better! I should totally be cooler than my answers. The best villain has and always will be the Joker because he’s just such a psycho. But you don’t wanna go up against him. I’d wanna go up against… Harley Quinn. I kind of just want to be around her, you know? And I realize I’m just stuck on the Batman-verse. Does it have to be superhero villain? For that, I’d go with Harley Quinn or Catwoman because they’re both super hot…and if it was going to be a movie villain I’d kinda want to meet Hans Gruber from Die Hard. I feel like that would be a really fun conversation before all the shooting. Honey, do you want to battle a villain?
Eliza: Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. That would be another great conversation. He was so joyful about all the evil!
Jake: Or you know who else would be good? Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’d be fun to go up against because she’s spunky, a little bit sarcastic, and you’d still really love to beat her into the ground.
Eliza: Ooh ooh ooh! The Geek Squad, also from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season Six! Andrew, Jonathan and Warren. Those guys would be a lot of fun.
Jake: Yeah, we love Joss over here. Obviously! Joss Whedon is all over PoPS. Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is on the mantle behind Virginia in part one of Episode Three, and later on Sebastian mentions Giles. The first few episodes I kept dropping Joss’ name in there, hoping someone would be like, “Hey, these guys keep talking about you in this show!”
Kimmie: What has been the most fun to shoot so far?
Jake: There have been a couple of really great experiences on the show. Any time there are a lot of people or a lot of complicated things to do it’s more stressful than fun. In Episode Three, Craig and I have a a drunken conversation on the roof. We shot it in two days and the first was freezing, freezing cold. The second day we shot on the roof was warm, we were playing around with the dialogue a little bit, and we were getting kind of legitimately drunk.
Kimmie: I did wonder if you guys were actually drinking!
Jake: Yeah…yeah. We didn’t have the foresight to empty the bottles and put apple juice in the whiskey bottle. We were just downing whiskey. And it was very irresponsible, BUT it was a great day and we had a lot of fun with that scene. The problem is, every time the show comes around we try to pack way more into a much tighter schedule because we’re shooting around the rest of our lives, you know? Everything gets going so fast and it starts to become more stressful than a fun, hang out type of environment. It’s inevitably worth it, because we love making the show and we have a good time, but we used to hang out more after we wrapped shooting. And now we’ll wrap anywhere from 11:30pm to 1:00am and we’re all tired, we work in the morning, we want to go to bed. Some of the most fun that I’ve had are the scenes between Jonas and Donald because he and I have a good dynamic and I think that gives our characters a good dynamic as well, and I think it’s fun to watch because it’s fun to act.
Kimmie: If you had to pick, DC or Marvel?
Jake: Marvel. Batman is my favorite and I know he’s DC, but Marvel heroes just feel more…human.
Kimmie: All superheroes have an alter ego. What’s your day job?
Jake: In real life I write for a couple of luxury lifestyle magazines on the north shore of Chicago. One is called Forest & Bluff Magazine, which is super local for the communities of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, and the other is called Sheridan Road Magazine which is more for high end living. So I write for both of those publications and I do the web videos for Sheridan Road as well.
Eliza: I work as a library assistant. I don’t have a Masters yet. (laughs)
Jake: And let’s see. Carlyn works retail at a lovely little boutique as well as a ton of other side jobs, from running her mother’s galleries to making her own stuff and selling it on Etsy.com. And Craig just does his blog stuff, WheezyWaiter.
Kimmie: And all superheros have their Kryptonite, too! What is your weakness?
Jake: Kryptonite defined by what? I love the question, I just want to know what my parameters are! (laughs) Is this the kind of weakness where I’m writhing on the floor trying to push it off my chest and my dad walks in yelling, “Clark!”
Kimmie: Hmm…well, let’s just say…what can’t you resist?
Jake: Other than my lovely wife, I’m gonna have to say…the works of Joss Whedon. If it is available, I will watch or read it. Also… OMG, Stephen King. Books, articles, interviews. If it’s around Stephen King I am going to partake in that. Other Kryptonite is this thing called Taco Bell, not sure if you’ve heard of it. I love Taco Bell! I love it. If I had my way I’d eat there all the time but my waistline isn’t happy with that decision. Oh, and pepperoni pizza. If I had to narrow it down to one…Taco Bell above the rest. Even Joss Whedon, as shameful as that is.
Eliza: Sea foam green. If I see something sea foam green I gravitate towards it. We only have blue and green walls in our house though.
Kimmie: Sounds like time for a project!
Jake: Eliza is always working on the apartment and it just keeps getting better and better. However, it is the WORST possible thing for PoPS continuity! But I’d rather have a happy wife for real life.
Kimmie: Any advice for aspiring web series creators?
Jake: That’s actually the question I get asked the most via YouTube messages and email. The best advice I can give to aspiring web creators or video creators in general is to stop talking about it and just do it. The best way to learn is by screwing up. Seeing what you’re good at and seeing what you’re bad at. Just try it out. Get whatever kind of camera you can get your hands on and some kind of editing program. I know it’s lame, but there are tons of usable free ones on the internet, even the YouTube editor. Just start making stuff.
Eliza: You’ve gotta do both. Get out there and do it, but keep watching, because watching the stuff you like is a great way to see what does and doesn’t work.
Jake: And your story. The thing that is going to make people want to watch is a story with are characters they can relate to. People they would want to hang out with.
Kimmie: You guys do seem like fun to hang out with, even without the superpowers.
Jake: I think we are! That’s a huge part of the feedback that we get too, people say they want to hang out in the PoPS apartment. Our fans want to be our friends. I think that’s the key! A large portion of our fans actually donate to the show because they feel like they know us and like we’re already friends. And to get access to the outtakes! The outtakes that they can get on the DVD by donating are hilarious. I watch them all the time to feel like I’m hanging out with Craig and Carlyn.
Kimmie: How can your fans donate?
Jake: Well for Episode Five we raised money through Kickstarter.com and for Episode Six we used IndieGoGo.com and it has definitely helped us up the ante with shooting. We got a Canon 5D Mark II and everything is just beautiful now, it’s just gorgeous. I feel so uncomfortable taking donations from our fans but they do it because they love what we’re doing and so that we can keep making things better and keep pushing as hard as we can, which we only do because our fans have faith in the show. You just hope you can live up to it, you know?
Kimmie: What is your biggest geeky guilty pleasure?
Eliza: Most of the things that people might consider geeky guilty pleasures we don’t feel guilty about enjoying! We’re really gonna have to dig for that…
Jake: Let’s see. You know, this might not count because it’s not too geeky, but I get flack from a lot of my guy friends about how much I love the Gilmore Girls. I am a Gilmore Girls geek.
Kimmie: (through uncontrollable giggles) Why…why do you love the Gilmore Girls so much? I have to know!
Jake: Because the writing is amazing! It’s so good! Lorelai is someone you want to hang out with, Rory’s trials and tribulations about what it feels like to be a very introspective teenager, the whole “class” and family dynamics. OH and the whole small town of Stars Hollow. God, man, I wanna live in Star’s Hollow. Even after Amy Sherman-Palladino left for the last season, my affection carried through. And they may have made various mistakes but…I love Gilmore Girls. Lize?
Eliza: I’m going to go with…(long pause) Twilight. It’s a complicated relationship! In no way do I respect it but I just couldn’t stop consuming it. We saw the first three in theatres within a week of release and I have described to Jake in detail the entire plot structure of every one of the books. I hate that people know about it though! I hate it! I don’t want people to think I’m actually enjoying them, even though I kind of do, I just don’t want everyone to think I do. How complicated is that? (laughs) What about Avatar: The Last Airbender?
Jake: You are absolutely not ashamed to admit you love Avatar: The Last Airbender, hon. We both love that.
Eliza: But wouldn’t it be a guilty pleasure?
Jake: No! I think geeky people know how amazing it is. We were actually looking at some of the amazing things that people [on the internet] have created and one of them was an Aang hoodie. It was a gray hoodie with blue arrows along the wrists and over the hood when you pull it up. It didn’t have anything else Airbenderish on it, just that, and I thought it was fucking balls. And there was also a knit Aapa and that was amazing as well.
Kimmie: Awesome! I want one of those to cuddle. Well, I wont take up any more of your time, thanks so much for letting me bother you guys with my questions and creating an awesome fucking webseries!
Jake: Not at all. Thanks for helping us spread the word!
Eliza: Thank you!
Just goes to show that these are the kinds of people who should be representing the nerds in Hollywood. Want to know even more about The Platoon of Power Squadron? Check out these handy links and don’t forget to leave feedback via comments!