An Interview With Brian Remus: Science Genius Web Series Creators
Brian Remus: Science Genius is a project that has a great potential of becoming a funny and entertaining web series, focused around misfortunes of Brian Remus, who gets his dream job of running his own science show at a public broadcast station, but faces difficulties he couldn’t imagine. Recently, I had an opportunity to have an interview with the series creators, Lyman Johnson and Evan Muehlbauer who hope to raise $22,000 through kickstarter for their project to succeed.
1. Every project starts somewhere; how did the idea of creating Brian Remus: Science Genius come to you?
A while back we were playing around with a script that looked and felt a lot like the new Cartoon Network show, “Rick and Morty.” It featured a pair of brothers going on zany adventures with gadgets, explosions and goo. But the structure was unrealistic for a low-budget web series. We went back to square one and re-imagined the series as the quest of an aspiring science show host who wants to change the world but gets stuck in a workplace where nobody wants anything to do with his vision. The result is something that feels fresh, funny, and honest. Most scientists we know of don’t go on space adventures, but many of them are trying to save the world. So we kept the heroic attitude but brought Brian back down to earth – made him more like the real scientific heroes we love.
2. The science geek culture is often surrounded by a set of stereotypical images in the eyes of general audiences. How much are you planning to lean towards using stereotypical traits in portraying characters of the show?
We decided early on not to make Brian Remus a stereotypical geek. A lot of portrayals in pop culture are still stuck in a 1980’s mindset, where geeks are idiot savants who can perform complex tasks in math and science, but they’re incapable of basic social interactions. They live with their parents and can’t talk to women, or men, or anyone. They’re losers intended to elicit scorn as well as sympathy. We don’t necessarily object to these stereotypes, but the paradigm’s been played out, and frankly, it feels dated. Geek culture has gone mainstream, so a lot of geek stereotypes no longer have the currency they once did.
Brian Remus is a pretty well-adjusted guy. He’s OK with women, he looks good and he dresses well. What makes him a geek is his enormous enthusiasm for scientific progress. He really believes in Carl Sagan’s vision of a better future, and people don’t know what to make of that. In fact, a lot of the conflict in our show comes from characters not knowing how to react to Brian’s sincerity and optimism.
3. In the project description you stated that the science aspect will play a major role in the show. How knowledgeable is your team on this subject?
Every episode in the first season was co-written by Lyman Johnson (who also plays Brian Remus) and Evan Muehlbauer. Lyman is a certified mechanical engineer, and Evan did a college minor in archaeology. We’re also huge fans of pop science.
We grew up watching “Cosmos,” “Nova,” “Scientific American Frontiers” and “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” The first season touches on some science but focuses much more on the characters and their situations. That said, Brian is a model of scientific thinking. He’s analytical, evidence-driven, and allergic to superstition. These traits bring him into conflict with his coworkers, who tend to be cynical or merely ignorant; believing in conspiracies, superstitions, astrology, and so on. He’s not above dropping great scientists’ names, like Johannes Keppler and Albert Einstein, in casual conversation. In the first season, Brian is still struggling to get his television team together. Once the show gets off the ground, there will be many more opportunities to bring in hard science.
4. It often happens that science geeks are interested in other aspects of geek culture, like role-playing, reading sci-fi and fantasy books. Do you have any plans on bringing these interests into your show?
It’s a safe bet that geek culture will continue to find its way into the show, just from us writing what we know and staying true to the characters. Lyman’s Youtube feed is crammed with Dark Souls speed runs and Dwarf Fortress tutorials, and Evan is gold-ranked in Starcraft. We can’t help it. Brian the character is acutely aware of modern global problems; every day, he makes them his own and does his part to solve them. In the evening, he escapes into games and fiction.
5. Besides Carl Sagan, are there any other people or sources that inspire you?
We love Sagan’s heirs: Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, and all the other speakers, authors, and hosts who first made science accessible, exciting, and fun to us. And history is filled with scientists and mathematicians whose personal stories are as amazing as their works.
In the comedy and fiction world, some names that spring to mind are Tina Fey, Louis C.K., Mark Maron, Flight of the Conchords, and Matt Groening. These people play to smart, genre-savvy audiences. They’re self-aware. Each has a voice and an idea. We’re also connoisseurs of non-jokes and meta humor. The Internet has pretty much created a golden age for that kind of stuff.
6. Can you tell us more about your cast?
So far we’ve cast two extremely talented comedic actors – Curt Mega and Tristen Winger – to star opposite Lyman. Check out their headshots below. We’re still considering actors to play Claire, Brian’s brilliant but cynical producer, and Kipp, the inept station manager, as well as the supporting characters. This is an exciting process, thanks to the many amazing actors who come out to read for the show.
Lyman Johnson (Brian Remus)
Lyman, a certified mechanical engineer, would like to take this opportunity to dispel any rumors that he ever competed and won on Nickelodeon’s “Guts” in the 90’s.
Curt Mega (Fred)
Curt, who plays Nick on “Glee,” can sing like an angel but would like to remind fans that his hair and body parts do not contain special properties and that further attempts to harvest them will not be helpful or profitable to anyone.
Tristen Winger (Devon)
Forensic crypto-sports historians will determine that, had Float Ball existed in the early 21st century, Tristen Winger would have been the greatest player of all time. But in the absence of fluoro-mag pulsers, he must be content with his career as a talented and versatile comic actor.
7. When someone hears the word ‘show’ it is often associated with a production coming out once a week, with episodes approximately forty minutes long. How often are you planning to release new episodes and what running time each of them will have?
The first season has seven episodes, which range from 4 to 7 minutes long. We’re constrained slightly by our resources in that the show is entirely crowd-funded. And we’re still raising money, so hopefully our fans will come together to make the show a reality. That being said, the brevity of each episode was actually liberating. Short and sweet works well on the Internet, where attention spans tend to be shorter and multitasking is ubiquitous. And even the best television tends to have lots of filler. By limiting our episodes to one or two scenes, we were able to focus on the characters and their situations, making every scene fun, dynamic and story-driven. That means there are more spaces “between” the episodes, which is great. We don’t get caught up in shoe leather or boring connect-the-dots. If our calculations are correct, everything left onscreen will be pure comedic gold.
Thank you Lyman, thank you Evan for sharing this with us.
From myself, I can add that I hope this web series will see the light, because from what I could see, the amount of effort the project team is planning to put into it is astonishing. Every participant has a great background in cinematography and acting to back them up, which promises a quality production. That is why I personally hope they will succeed and we all be able to see the show in the future.
Rin created our website logo and many other graphics that we’ve used throughout our social media platforms. They’re also an avid gamer and gives us insights into all things gaming. They’re also heavily involved in our ongoing eBook project.
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