Come for the cute take on an apocalyptic world and leave whenever you’re tired of the lackluster cast performance or shaky camera.
Hi there. My name is Bri and this is my 10 year old website, and, in the twist of the century, I want to talk about Brains, my web series that is now in the middle of “airing” its second season. The above quote is from a recent review of season 1, and this blog is not a response to that review, not exactly.
We spend a lot of time shitting on season 1 of Brains, through very little fault of its own. A lot of this derives from season 2 being, in a lot of ways, much better- we had a much better camera, a slightly larger and more experienced crew, and a few fresh new actors. To amplify how proud we are of season 2, we often end up putting it at odds with season 1, which, I’m realizing, isn’t really fair to season 1, a season of dreams and love made with literal blood, sweat, and many, many tears.
I could do a full response to the above review (which, to be clear, is not something I’m unhappy with. I reached out to that publication myself, asking for a review as part of my press outreach, trying to get more viewers. You can’t ask for a review and be mad when they’re honest) and I could give you a play by play of excuses for every low production value complaint. I could tell you about our budget ($0) and our equipment (borrowed and stolen and, in the case of our original camera, lost) and give a behind-the-scenes reason for every moment of “sloppy” filmmaking. But I’m not going to do that, because I fucking love Brains season 1, and today, I want to talk about the things I think we did absolutely RIGHT.
First, shout out to my wonderful cast and crew and everyone who supported us in making that first season. This is the link to a full breakdown of how much I love them and why. I made so many wonderful friends as a direct result of this production, and I also deepened several preexisting friendships, which is unrelated to the final product but which is just as important.
Next, I think the writing is top notch. I think every character is complicated and interesting and has clear motivations for their actions. Only two people have so far admitted that they figured out who the murderer was before it was officially revealed: everyone else had many other theories due to several red herrings I layered into both the writing and the editing. I think Alison as a character is incredibly compelling and sympathetic and weird and kind of selfish and I love that about her. I love that this girl has unilaterally decided that the apocalypse has been over long enough and it’s high time to get some lovin’ back into her life. I love that she genuinely cares about the kind of person Damian is as well as if he’s undead, asking about his hobbies as well as his food preferences, because girl can multitask.
I love that Carl puts up with a lot of crazy from Alison with a smile and a healthy dose of sarcasm, because he completely understands her as a person and knows how much she cares about him. I also love that she can still surprise him, like when she decides to take his case in episode 6, putting aside her love trap for a moment.
I love that Damian, in spite of himself, grows to kind of like Alison, because she forced him out of his martyrdom and because she showed him that there is more than one way to recover after the world almost ends. I love that Damian is steadfast in his protection of campus, that he takes his job seriously, and that he doesn’t write off the crazy girl harassing him immediately because he’s curious, and maybe a little bit lonely.
I love that Greta isn’t just a one-note antagonist, and that she doesn’t just hate Carl because he is one step away from being the kind of creature that killed her friends in front of her. She also hates him because, in her eyes, he stole her best friend, and that is inexcusable, especially post-apocalypse. I also love that she kicks ass.
I love that Sherman was so committed to her own survival and the understanding of this new species that she set someone up for murder and manipulated an entire campus to further her experiments. That’s so believably evil to me: lady needs to know her own limits and discovery and understanding are more important than a few lost lives. She is evil without malice, calculated with cause, and, in her mind, completely in the right. She also deeply cares about Alison, her prodigy, her mentee, so much that, if Alison had agreed to keep her mouth shut, she would have put herself at risk to let Alison live.
I love that the camera moves, while sometimes shaky, are entirely character motivated because I, the character, was moving the camera. When Alison films Damian’s arms or ass, it’s because Alison is admiring his arms or ass, not because I forgot he was talking and stopped paying attention. When Greta whips to see an advancing zombie and falls to the ground, the camera jumps all over the place because Greta literally whipped to see an advancing zombie, actually freaked out a little, and fell on a pillow we’d set up for her. I don’t see the roaming camera as sloppy: I see it as real, because it is.
I love the production design in Alison’s bedroom, concocted by my friends Page and Jim, because it is perfect for her. They created an entire backstory for Alison with her bedroom- scavenging a broken campus for cool looking posters to redecorate, cheeky zombie references because what’s survival without a sense of humor, and enough color to make up for the death and destruction just outside.
In that same vein, we also have to give huge props to Rebecca, who coordinated our wardrobe with a Prezi that described why everyone wore what they did. Alison is Buffy with more believable shoes, Damian and Greta have their uniforms for utility over fashion, the student body wears a mix of normal college clothes paired with camo and army surplus to exemplify having one foot still in the horror, and Carl wears normal clothes because he died early enough to never get used to the whole army green thing. That attention to detail is phenomenal, and it shows.
I love that every single member of the crew eventually ended up as part of the cast, because we didn’t know many people and because that’s what you do on a no budget indie production. I love that because of this, we are now a weird little zombie family.
I love that Connor Bowen, who played Carl in season 1, choked down the most disgusting edible brains with a smile on his face because we needed him to, and he only complained after the shoot. What a champ.
I love that we told a mini story in the background of episode 4 about a boy falling in love with Damian, injuring himself, then mimicking him because love knows no pain, simply because we needed things for the background actors to do.
I love that we used old ski poles and pieces of wood and gardening tools as weapons because that’s all we had access to and because they totally make sense as weapons people would use in an apocalypse.
I love our zombie makeup, done by the excellent Page, because for only $25 she managed to make bloody skin look like it was falling off peoples faces.
I love that I would wake up at 4am, work an 8 hour shift at a terrible coffee shop, then come right to set to be prettified by Page and to hang out with my friends.
I love that after four years of this story kicking around in my brain (hah), my friend and now roommate Andrew said to me, “we can make this,” and then we did. I love that even with no money, no equipment, limited access to actors and locations, and an almost dangerous level of filmmaking naiveté, we finished this project. We filmed ten episodes with people I adore of a story I loved writing. We completed something, then came back for seconds, because once was simply not enough. We made something, something that has its drawbacks, of course, but that exists. That people who I do not personally know are fans of.
P.S. I hope I don’t have to say this, but please don’t leave hate in the comments of the review that sparked this vlog. Again, I reached out to the website to review us, so I literally asked for this. And everyone is entitled to their opinions. This blog was not meant as a critique of the review or the reviewer, but rather as a reminder to myself that for all its faults, I am incredibly proud of Brains season 1. Thanks.