Friday, 25 February 2011

Exclusive Interview with Josh Bernhard

I'm very pleased to present an interview from Josh Bernhard, co-creator of Pioneer One. The last question contains some mild spoilers.

P1FS: First of all thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

JB: Sure! One of the things we were most looking forward to with doing this show was being able to have a dialogue with our viewers.

P1FS: The show ticks all the boxes for me: mystery, geekiness, retro-technology. Your approach of making the show available for free and funded from various sources is very brave; are you meeting your targets? Have you had to rethink your approach at all?

JB: Thanks, though I'm not sure I'd call it bravery! We wanted to tell this story, took stock of what resources and opportunities we had, and decided this was a way we could make it happen. And we constantly rethinking our approach. Not necessarily from the bottom up, but definitely recalibrating. Six months ago we thought we might be somewhere different by now, and six months before that we thought something else entirely. We've exceeded some of our target goals and fallen short on some others. But after the first two releases we have a much better idea of how to use our resources most effectively, and that's affecting how we're moving forward.

P1FS: I heard in an interview recently that you see more of an affinity with TV shows like the Green Wing [JB: West Wing I think we had mentioned, GW is the hospital show yeah?][P1FS: Yes, I'm going to quote Homer Simpson here: "Doh!"] and I think 24 than with the usual suspects like the X-Files and Fringe. How happy are you with the label of 'Science Fiction', with all the baggage that this brings?

JB: I have absolutely no problem with being labeled science fiction, it's just not the first label I'd slap on the package. And that's not dithering, because I think to do so would create false expectations of what the show is going to be. We just want to make sure that "Mars" and "space" are not all somebody hears before they stop listening, because the premise, while a little high concept, is really more of a launching point for the drama. I'd describe it more as a piece of speculative fiction, but people give me funny looks when I call it that so I decided to shut up!

That said, both Bracey and I have pretty strong credentials in the sci-fi department, and we're making a show that we would want to see ourselves.

P1FS: The pacing of Pioneer One seems to me to be very like a novel. Are there any particular authors or novels that have influenced Pioneer One?

JB: Thanks, that's one of the things I like about it too. Our show has a serial narrative and is more of a slow burn, and it builds to something that I think will be very satisfying.

P1FS: The central concept of the show is a really great one, how did you come by that idea? Did you decide you wanted to make a web series and get the idea, or the other way round?

JB: This is probably the question I'm worst at answering! I can't say for certain, but those who know me well have pointed out my long-standing interest in both the space program and Cold War history, so I guess it was natural that's where my head would end up.

The story came first, and this was the best way to tell it. If I thought it would work better as a one-off, we would have made it as a movie instead.

P1FS: The soundtrack to the show is beautiful. Can you tell us more about it?

JB: Thanks for asking about that! This is really a question for Bracey to answer, since wrote the signature pieces himself and is overseeing the rest of the score. We have a few composers (Felix Bird, Josh Cipolla, and Mike Sweeney) working on different sections but Bracey is very concerned with creating distinct melodies and themes that will recur throughout the show.

P1FS: There are a bunch of other web only TV series, but it seems to me that Pioneer One has been by far the most successful to date. What's your secret?

JB: That's very flattering, what gives you that impression? I guess it depends on by what measure you judge. The only thing I can say is that from the beginning we've thought of the show we're making not as a web show but as a TV show that appears primarily on the web. It might be a semantic distinction, but that's the mindset we're operating with.

The biggest boon for us in terms of exposure has probably been our distribution through VODO and our association with their DISCO Distribution Coalition. Part of what I meant earlier when I said we took stock of our resources was that we knew we had a venue to get the show out there through our relationship with VODO, which started when they distributed a movie I wrote and directed called The Lionshare. [P1FS note: hope to do a post on this in the future.]

P1FS: How are episodes 3 and 4 shaping up? Can you tell us something exclusive about the upcoming episode?


JB: Episodes 3 and 4 are both in stages of near-completion, which is why the gap between these two releases will be short. The next episode is called "Alone in the Night" and we'll be spending a lot of time with Yuri, our supposed Martian cosmonaut. Episode 4 is titled "Triangular Diplomacy" and will give us a perspective on the events of the story from the outside world.

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