Life XP is an action-packed dramatic comedy that takes place both in real life and Virtual Reality. The main character Angela (Cassandra Ebner), finds herself fired from her old job and thrust into Beta Testing the newest VR system. Each week she is immersed in a new video game and it starts to have an impact on her everyday life. All Angela wants is to be the hero of her own story but seeing as she’s never played a video game before and her life is going into shambles this may prove harder to gain the XP points needed to become the hero rather than the zero.
Life XP has been winning awards at festivals all over the world and was selected over 80 other global web series to pitch at MIPTV in Cannes for the Web Series In Development section. I had the opportunity to chat with Cassandra about this exciting new digital series. I’m a fan! You should be too.
What was your inspiration for Life XP?
I grew up playing video games with my dad and my uncle. It was my safe place. Around this time there was a web series that came out called The Guild that was a huge inspiration to me. I felt understood by this series. So when I was 16 or 17, I decided I was going to make a gaming web series someday. Felicia Day, the creator of The Guild, was such an inspiration to me, and I wanted to do that for someone else. The opportunity sort of came about because I broke my ankle on a show. I was working a lot, both acting and doing stunts, and when I broke my ankle, it felt like the world telling me to slow down and create things. I used to create more when I was a kid so I decided it was time to do that again.
You were a gamer and gaming is central to the series. What type of gaming do you do?
I do all of it. All types of gaming, but VR was definitely one of the inspirations for the series. I got a VR headset three years ago and would invite people over and show people what VR was. Every single person would make this amazing face when they first experienced it. That face has really inspired this series.
How much research did you do on VR?
I did a lot of research, and my dad did too. As I mentioned, we always played video games together and my dad really loves all things related to the tech industry, so my dad would do research as well. But, I wanted to create a world that I felt was true to something I was interested in, something I wanted to see in VR someday. I figured if I had a dream, someone else probably had that dream. I wanted to make sure my stories were always coming from the place of a fan.
Did you consider CG?
I knew that wasn’t going to be the approach because I knew we were capable of doing really cool worlds. I knew we could make these fun worlds with cool costumes, so I built that into the script and into what this cutting edge VR experience would be.
This project requires VFX, green screen, location shoots, and stunts. That’s a lot of moving parts. How did you make sure it ran smoothly and all worked?
It took a great team effort. Everything was prepped through me and the other producers: Irma Leong, Trevor Addie (who is also the director), Chris Webb. The extensive prep we did made it all work.
Professionally, before this, you were primarily working as an actor and in stunts. What were the biggest challenges for you as you took on the role of creator/writer/EP?
The biggest challenge was talking to different departments that I’d never talked to before, like lawyers and agents. It was really scary. People can take advantage of you if they think you don’t know what you’re doing. That was the hardest part. I’m very passionate and enthusiastic. People see that as naivety and not knowing what I’m doing. It was a big learning curve of how to communicate to people that I knew what I was doing and that if I didn’t, I could figure it out.
What tips could you offer other individuals who have primarily been acting, but are wanting to expand into producing/content creation?
I know it’s a bit cheesy, but if you’re scared to do it – that can be one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of going for it. You will learn so much and meet so many people. Not only do you get to try to make the thing that you want, but you also get to meet so many amazing people. Maybe that’s not the goal, but there’s something really beautiful that comes out of that. The fact that you tried will be so much more fulfilling than not trying. You’ll always be wondering, “what if?” Maybe it will work or maybe that idea will take you much further than you could have ever imagined.
What did you learn from the funding process? What tips could you offer other creators seeking funding?
I’m very lucky. We have some really great funding programs in Canada that give us opportunities to apply for funding: TV series pilots, film or web series. My tip would be to think outside of the box of what it is you are creating when you are going and looking for funding. You may want to look in a different direction — maybe there is a company that would want to help because of alignment with mission statements or products. There are a lot of ways to figure out how to collaborate with people. Make sure you think about how you can benefit them and not just yourself. Think of others and get creative!
What are your goals for Life XP?
The goal is to share this with as many people as possible, not only because we want to make Season 2, but also because I want it to reach the hearts that will really feel the story. It’s a comedy, but it also has a lot of heart. I think it can help some people that feel misunderstood or awkward. Season 2 is pretty much written. I’m ready to get going and make it happen!
What’s next for you and for the series?
Most of my life right now is Life XP, but I’m also acting on The 100, so that’s coming up. Lots my work is very last minute, I’ll get an audition last minute and be on a show next week or get called to come in on a show a few days after I got the call – so I never really know what I am up to next. Currently, I’ve got a few other projects in the works that we’re hoping to make happen in the near future, but really life is mostly Life XP!
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