Posted in Blog, Movies

Brains EU: A reflection

Mid 2016, a crazy idea came about. I was slogging through Brains season 2 production and already feeling the bottomless depression over likely not getting a season 3 when it occurred to me that the Brains universe was pretty big. I mean, it was a worldwide apocalypse- Alison’s campus isn’t all that’s left in terms of survivors, in terms of people whose lives have been forever altered. And then I chatted with filmmaker friends and family and then it was official: we were gonna do some extended universe spin off projects because I couldn’t let it go yet.

What’s great about the EU is that it’s infinite- if I so pleased, I could make as many mini spin offs as I want. I’m not going to, because I’d rather gather resources for new projects and because I do have a little bit of shame left in me, but still. As it stands, we now have 2 complete EU projects: Apocalypse Yesterday and dusk of the dead.

Apocalypse Yesterday

Posted back in December, a couple weeks after the season 2 finale aired, this project was written by me and directed/pulled together by my baby brother, Vinny. It follows four LA-based survivors and roommates in a slice-of-life documentary. Originally, there was a bit more of a story arc, but Vinny asked me to cut back on that because of time constraints, scheduling, and a wish to focus more on visuals than narrative, which I was more than happy to do.

It was really fun working with my brother on something for the first time since we were kids, especially because we now both have a similar career trajectory and a shared vocabulary in film jargon. Perhaps if we’re ever in the same city, or even on the same coast, we’ll team up again. He’s got all those “technical skills” and that “knowledge of professional film sets” that are apparently “important.”

Also, his cast was absolutely delightful. It was a fairly light-hearted script and the actors went above and beyond, often improving funnier jokes than I’d written, which is both infuriating and a wonderful addition to the production. Since I couldn’t really be involved in the production process, and because it all happened over a weekend, it was sort of fun to send off a script and a few weeks later watch that script get beautifully brought to life before my eyes. It was also sort of surreal, because it was the least connected I’ve ever been to a thing I’m producing, and honestly I probably wouldn’t want to do it again. If you have a film crew and want to commission a script, I’d be happy to write you something, but I would probably never commission a long distance crew to do the filming for me again, especially not for something I’m ultimately in charge of uploading and promoting and all that.

dusk of the dead

Co-written by me and my old collab channel pal RJ, this project just aired it’s final of 3 episodes. Set in Wales, it follows the reunion of two siblings who were separated during the plague. RJ actually wrote a lovely post about the process from his end, which I’ll be referring to intermittently, so you should go check that out as well.

This was the first project I’ve ever co-written, which was an interesting change of pace for me, especially because ultimately the story was still set in a universe I wrote by myself. It was half like being a showrunner, half like selling a show to a third party and then them taking over. After writing the first draft of the first episode and writing detailed treatments/outlines for the next two episodes, I passed it over to RJ to “Wales-ify” the dialog and do the first drafts of the episodes from the outlines. Then we argued about the science of the world and passed the drafts back and forth, each making changes until we agreed on the final scripts.

RJ mentioned in his post that he pushed a lot for the show to be much more melancholy than the “main series” of Brains, which I’ll admit at first I wasn’t super comfortable with. Brains can get dark sometimes (Carl tortured/starved in season 1, Sophie murdered/brought back to “life” in season 2, and in the season 4 script there’s one episode that takes place entirely in the graveyard where Alison’s parents are buried) but the overall tone is generally light. The overall tone of the original “dusk of the dead” was also lighter with toe dips into the darker stuff. RJ felt very strongly about toe-dipping into the light instead, and after a while, I realized how much it meant to him, so I agreed. We weren’t writing the “British Brains,” he was right. And these new characters should get to tell their own story, not the story Alison’s mood might have dictated for them.

We also had some arguments about the nature/existence of the “point of no return,” which was something I couldn’t compromise on for the sake of the main series and the less melancholy tone of it, but we eventually found a common ground that worked out for all, which was heartening.

The scheduling of this particular project was the worst part for both of us- RJ because he was attempting to align the schedules of several retail workers during the holidays and me because I couldn’t help at ALL. We were both relatively powerless and running out of time- we’d announced the release dates for the mini series back at the end of November. They hadn’t even wrapped filming before we aired the first episode. But in the end, it must have been meant to be, because it got done, and it got done good. Like, the production value they had from their locations ALONE was worth it. This cast was fantastic as well, and had some A++ chemistry. Whodathunk that the 18 year old kid who joined my collab channel as our Friday vlogger all the way in Wales would eventually collaborate with me on a major film project? It really was a blast to work with RJ again, especially after all our years on TheseFolk.

Working on the extended universe was a very different process from that of the main series and of other projects I’ve done since coming to New York, and I’m grateful for that. The more I know, the better I can make things in the future. Like I said in the Apocalypse Yesterday section, I would probably not do this again. If I’m going to produce something that I’m ultimately responsible for, I need to be able to be there, on the ground, making it happen. If someone wants me to write them a script to film but that would be kinda their project, hey, sure, you can live in Antarctica for all I care. But for something like this, something that exists within a universe I created and am responsible for, I don’t think my heart could take being so disconnected from the process again. If it’s my project, I’d prefer to have a bit more control. Maybe my new therapist will help me work through that, but at the moment, it’s where I’m at.

I’d like to once again thank my brother, RJ, and both their phenomenally dedicated casts and crews. I’m so glad I get to share a piece of Brains with you guys.

What's up, my dudes?