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The Brains Behind Brains, Season 2

IMG_3377 (1)First of all, I cannot believe I got to make a season 2 of my silly zombie web series. Frankly, I can’t believe I got to make a season 1. But I can believe that they are as good as they are because the people I’ll wax poetic about below were involved. This intro serves as a blanket thank you to every single person who has made this dream of mine a reality, from those who donated a buck or two to the IndieGoGo, to the actors, to the crew, and to the people who gave advice and support in my many times of need. Brains exists because of all of you, and I will never get over that.

The following thank yous are in no particular order.

IMG_1381First, to Andrew Williams, my steadfast director and producing partner, without whom Brains would not have gotten past the script stage. He insisted we could do it, helped me figure out how, and his direction carved Alison into the kickass force of nature we all love and get frustrated with. He has been there since day 1, and there’s no one I trust more when my stupid face is in front of a camera. He also does a fantastic job stepping up to the acting plate this season, and rocks a sweater vest like you wouldn’t believe.

IMG_3685Next, my wonderful DP Brandon Smalls, who I didn’t think would agree to come on board. Andrew and I worked with Brandon on Andrew’s show last summer, and we knew how busy he was. But from the moment he said “yes,” everything changed. Season 2 looks fantastic, and that’s almost entirely due to Brandon’s steady hands and aesthetic vision. He plays Alison behind the camera almost better than I play her in front of it, and he’s also a constant shining light on set even as things start to get tense. I never want to be on a set without him there, and that’s the furthest thing from hyperbole.

12687873_1666348706987057_1028676607696070743_nI don’t think I’d met Michele Austin Rodriguez, our new executive producer, before we started working together. Andrew spoke very highly of her, and about two weeks after Michele moved to the East Coast, she was Skyping into a production meeting from New Jersey during a blizzard. Michele makes spreadsheets and has a keen business and organizational mind, so of course I’m completely in love with her, and she’s also just a super awesome person. She directed an episode this season, an episode which is funny and a little sad that I’m thrilled she got to work on.  Now she’s also my roommate, and having constant access to her makes me a better person.

13047882_1694617810826813_7780206278896439874_o (1)I was terrified that, because of schedule concerns, we weren’t going to be able to work with Marshall Taylor Thurman again. Not only is Marshall perfect as Damian, but he’s also such a positive presence on set that the idea of working without him was unimaginable. Marshall is one of my favorite actors of all time, and I’m not talking about just people I’ve had the pleasure of working with- he’s one of the best and I hope that someday he gets the chance to show that to the rest of the world. I just hope he doesn’t forget about us when he makes it big, because even if this is the last season of Brains, I want to work with Marshall for as long as he’ll agree to work with me.

IMG_3223Replacing actors is never an ideal situation, and it’s hard on both fans as well as the actor that must step into a character after a season of that character being played by someone else, but Colin Hinckley does it with such charm and ease that I don’t think anyone will mind. We kind of stalked Colin into getting involved after we saw him in a play with Marshall, and that has been one of the best decisions we’ve made for Brains ever. Colin is an absolute dream: funny, kind, smart, talented, and I hope this isn’t the last I see of him, because he also deserves to be appreciated by as many people as possible. Colin also came to our most grueling day of filming after vomiting five times and still delivered one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.

IMG_3324Masha Danilenko is the only person who can glare at me in betrayal one minute and laugh about butts with me as soon as we call cut. She is one of the funniest and most energetic people I’ve ever met, and I’m so glad she came back this season to play my frenemy Greta again. Masha also came to the first ever Brains IRL screening, bringing along a friend, which was super sweet and also made our group look super legit with all the other filmmakers. Thank you for being kickass on and off screen, Masha.

Professor Sherman (Kmur Hardeman)Filmmaking isn’t all fun and games, and sometimes what takes the longest isn’t getting through a long take but cutting through the bureaucracy of paperwork and location agreements. Thankfully, both on and off screen we had Kmur Hardeman on our side, tirelessly advocating on our behalf with LIU to let us continue filming on campus in a variety of weird and awesome locations. She took frantic phone calls and texts from me at all times of the day to help me when we were denied permissions we’d been promised before, when other things fell through, and I couldn’t have done it without her. She is also one of the most hilarious and kind human beings I’ve ever encountered, despite playing an absolutely terrifying murderer on screen.

13002521_1691968754425052_4370871074820306182_oJean Perez binge-watched season 1 the night before the table read for season 2, which acted as his audition for new character Ben Roscoe, and he’s been a fan and ally ever since. He is one of the happiest, most genuine people I’ve ever met, and I can’t wait to work with him again. Jean’s enthusiasm for the show, for his character, and for getting to know the rest of us was infectious, and I hope to be half as wonderful as him in every project I work on from now on. He is talented and funny and had an attitude so bright it was a pleasure just to get to know him, let alone get to work alongside him.

11025797_10206211813280163_895153409363608318_nRebecca McDonald is one of the first people I met after moving to New York two years ago. She and I worked for almost a year together as baristas and formed what I know is a lifelong friendship. During season 1 she was our head of wardrobe and played the adorable Sophie in one episode, and season 2 I specifically expanded Sophie’s role so we would get to see Rebecca more. She is a bright and wonderful presence 100% of the time, she is funny and kind and talented and amazing, and I am her biggest fan in all the ways. She also made a short documentary about me and my work on this show which was the most flattering thing of all time. Someday I’ll make one about her to return the favor, and I can’t wait.

IMG_0324Chris Cherry, due to our work schedules no longer syncing up, wasn’t able to be on set as much as he was last season, but his presence was felt just as strongly. Chris was there from the moment I endeavored to outline a season 2, despite believing it would never come to fruition, and he was there during the first, second, third, and final drafts when I actually wrote the thing. His notes and workshopping not only made the season work, but they made it better. He was also so charming and funny as Billy Jack in season 1 that I expanded his part in season 2, and let me tell you, though you’ll only see one take per episode, every take was golden. He also convinced his day job, a dog hotel, to sponsor the show, which was both very helpful and very funny.

13403943_1711560372465890_1798511889483559758_oStephanie Diggles was also one of the first people I met in New York, because she also worked as a barista with Rebecca and I. In fact, she was hired on the same day I was. She vaguely mentioned she had done some acting back when I was casting for season 1, and I’m so glad I kept her in mind, because she is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a knack for spoken and nonverbal comedy that is unparalleled. As with Chris and Rebecca, because of this, I expanded Rita’s part as well so that I could work with Steph more and watch her nail every take by being hysterical.

IMG_6941Quinn Ramsay is the unlucky bastard who has to put up with me as his girlfriend, but because he is the best person in the entire world, he has been one of our most vital assets on set and we literally couldn’t have done this season without him. He has given up weekends to sit around and watch our equipment, he has run out to buy craft services when I forget stuff, and he’s also been an extra in two episodes. During the episode he’s featured in the most, he was game for hamming it up in any and all ways, and flirted with both of my on-screen love interests in the background to the delight of all. He is my partner in crime and is so supportive of my stupid dreams that I will happily spend the rest of my life trying to pay him back.

IMG_1232_2Scheduling is the bane of my existence, and it also meant that the cheerful and dedicated Alex Martin had to step down as executive producer this season. Thankfully, he still managed to cameo as the hippie zombie once more by doing homework in between takes in full zombie makeup in the middle of Prospect Park. He’s one of my favorite people in the world and I’m so glad we got to work with him again, even in a smaller role.

IMG_0505Page Schumacher moved to Seattle towards the end of season 1, which was a blow to production as well as my heart, because Page is amazing and I miss hanging out with her. Despite the distance, Page still served as our production designer for season 2, helping me design several new sets as well as sewing us cushion covers for our ugly couch. Guys. She sewed us something for set. With her own hands. And then brought them with her when she visited the city a few months ago. She is amazing.

IMG_3618James Gold took over this season as our special effects makeup person, and holy god did he deliver. I met James at FIKA, my old coffee shop, and we forged a quick friendship because we both like to complain and do not suffer fools. I discovered his knack for SFX makeup on Instagram, sent him a direct message, and after explaining the project to him over drinks, he was fully on board. Even in 40 degree weather in Prospect Park, his presence was positive and fun, and he was an absolute delight to have on set.

IMG_3148Aidan Gavril Wallace is in the MFA class just below me, and I met him at the insistence from our program’s director because he’d made his own zombie film before moving to New York. I’m thrilled I listened, because Aidan is awesome. He was a PA for several episodes, which is the most unforgiving job in showbiz, as well as an actor in episode 4, where he is hilarious and adorable. I hope we get to collaborate on a more equal level in the future, but I will gladly PA for him if he needs me to.

12998420_1692126294409298_7038737856114572948_oDavid Fine hates being on set. He is also one of my best friends, and I suspect it’s because of this fact that he agreed to be a zombie again for season 2 (he played the first version of the hippie zombie in season 1). Not only this, but he also lent us his hands for our awesome season 2 poster. I’m so grateful that despite his hatred of filmmaking’s nuts and bolts, David was willing to do me a solid, because he knows how much Brains means to me. He is a stand up dude and there’s no one I’d rather get drunk and whine about job prospects with. He also invested in the show via his own creative endeavor, FinerBub.

IMG_3679I’d never met Ian Boswell before he met me at LIU one morning to play what we’re calling the “Douchebro zombie,” but he saved my ass in a big way. After scheduling punched us in the nuts once again, Ian volunteered to be a zombie for a decently grueling two day shoot, which included a fairly involved stunt and a lot of standing around with fake blood all over him. He was a champion in spite of it all, and holy crap I can’t wait for you to see his episode, because it’s so freaking awesome.

13329559_1712311762390751_5436273366699172817_oGiancarlo Chico barely knows me, but came through for me not once, but twice when I was scrambling for extras. He plays a zombie as well as a student in episode 4, and also stars as an extra in minisode 5 after I Facebooked him with a day and a half to spare. He had no reason to help out, but he did anyways, and that is such a cool thing to do. He’s also in the MFA class below me, along with Ian and Aidan, so maybe I’ll get to help out on one of his projects in the future.

arwazombieArwa Turkestani knows me a bit better than Giancarlo, and she also came through for me twice for the same episodes. She played an adorable barista zombie in episode 4 and an extra in minisode 4. Arwa is also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, so just having her around was crazy fun.


IMG_3171Abdiel Bermudez and I once spent four hours together buying $800 worth of craft services for our joint graduate school production, and we’ve been buds ever since. He doesn’t have a ton of free time, but when he did, he PA’d for us on Brains even though it was his birthday. I can’t wait for him to be a big deal so I can totally name drop him at parties, and I hope when we both have more free time we get to work on something together again.

IMG_3003Josias Valdez is the most amped extra I’ve ever worked with, even after wandering around lost in Prospect Park for half an hour. He could not wait until he got to fake fight some fake zombies in his camo pants, and I couldn’t wait to watch him do it. I met him on the same production I met Abdiel, and I’m glad we hit it off because he’s super fun to work with.

IMG_3102Valerie Cardinal just graduated with me, and is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She could also definitely hold her own during the apocalypse, which she proved with style during her time as an extra in episode 4.

IMG_3610Shannon Spangler worked with Brandon and Andrew and I on Andrew’s show last year as one of the leads, because she is a phenomenal actress. She is also a phenomenal person, because in my time of need, she reached out and offered to stop by set for an hour to play an extra with no lines. Despite this being clearly below her because she is crazy talented, she was great, and we were thrilled to be back on set with her, even for just a little while.

But it’s not just people who were on set who made this show a reality.

I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family helping me out. Not only did they donate to our IndieGoGo, but my mom Beth made the barista apron for the barista zombie as well as the quilts in Alison’s bedroom and living room, and my grandfather Robert sent me some of his beautiful photography to use as set dressing. My Uncle Marc and Aunt Elisa, my grandma Chris, and my dad Rick have also all been supporters of our show in multiple ways.

Colton Markham, for being my neuropsychology consultant and my best friend, for donating to the IndieGoGo, and for lending his name to Carl.

Rachel Sherman, for being my oldest friend, for donating to my IndieGoGo, and for lending her name to Professor Sherman.

Kelly Chastain, the woman I want to be when I grow up, also provided some awesome photography for set dressing.

Alex Hintz is a tireless supporter of our show, sharing every post about our IndieGoGo, writing us a TV tropes page, and constantly suggesting Brains to people.

Lauren Wells for finding me a zombie in a pinch.

Norman Steinberg, my graduate program director, donated to our IndieGoGo for this season and is constantly bragging about our progress to new recruits and to anyone he meets, despite sometimes not getting exactly what we’re doing. I am forever grateful to him and hope I can keep making him proud.

Tara Jayn is a fellow web series actress/producer who I met via Instagram, of all places, and who was incredibly kind and supportive and who has offered me guidance and advice at every stage of production. Not only am I a fan of her work (Social Medium, check it out!!) but I also consider her my web series mentor to a certain extent, and I still can’t quite believe I get to talk to her.

Dakota Davison, even though he’s only seen one episode of Brains, for answering neuropsychology questions at all times of the night and lending his name to Edgar for season 2.

Pim Shih for helping us screen three episodes of season 1 so far, and for being such a cool dude.

Jonathan Holoman for coming to one of said screenings even though he’d never seen the show before, because he’s delightful.

Other friends of the show who deserve mention: Emma, Joe and Toni, Jez, Raymond, Taylor, Katie, Jen, Garrett, Lori, Michele P, Jill, and Drew, all of whom donated to the IndieGoGo for season 2 and have been wonderful every step of the way.

I also have to give a shout out to my Wikipedia defenders: Austin, Garrett, Colton, and Alex. They may have deleted us, but we’ll be back!

I haven’t talked about this last bit much because we’re still in pre-production and development, but if you’ve read this far down, you deserve to know: We’re doing spin offs! We have a short film/documentary set in LA being filmed by my little brother Vinny Castellini, and a miniseries/potentially short film set in Wales being co-written and produced by my friend RJ Davies, both projects solidly within the Brains universe. We hope to release both around the same time as season 2, so keep an eye out. Thank you to Vinny and RJ for agreeing to help out and expand our universe, and thanks to RJ for giving me the idea to do spin offs in the first place!

Finally, to all those who were a part of season 1 or who donated to season 1, even if they couldn’t come back, we wouldn’t be here without you:

Connor Bowen, Sarah Turner, Jamie Gyftakis, Jim Worth, Bridget Deely, Jasmine Bayron, Caroline Dowd, Nik Vaughn, Lindsay Partain, Stephanie Leschek, Dennis Raleigh, Joanna McKee, Dana Shiree, Michele Agresti, and Emma Vadapalas.

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