As we move BRASS into the strange new world of TV pitching, we’ve learned to anticipate a new question: “What’s your origin story?” In this context the question doesn’t mean “where do your characters come from?” but “where does your story come from?”
That’s often tough for a writer to answer. Sometimes it’s an itch you can’t scratch, or an overheard conversation, or a bit of historical trivia, or a shameful memory you can’t leave behind. Or like the Brass Family, it comes striding into your imagination fully-formed and rather resplendently dressed.
When BRASS was first conceived, it was as an opportunity six years ago to pitch a potential television series to some executives at the SyFy Network. That original pilot was a very different story, but the family were there from the beginning–I saw them clearly, distinctly, and all at once. As to why they were wearing top hats and corsets….
I’d been immersed in the Steampunk subculture for a couple of years while I was working on a novel, and though my novel was about cosplayers and not Steampunk itself, I’d grown interested in the form and its possibilities. So when I saw the Brasses, it was in a world I’d already begun to sketch out in other forms, a shinier and much more pleasant 19th century than its historical counterpart.
The SyFy pitch didn’t go anywhere (though alas, all the executives did), but the idea stayed, and so we began a crash-course in crowdfunding to raise money for a short “proof of concept” film, The Lair of the Red Widow.
And as long as we were trying to raise some money for the film, the idea of creating an audio drama presented itself as a cheap and easy alternative–though ultimately it was neither.
Still, in those early experimental days, we were held up by a collection of artists who worked for free or at a very reduced scale, sometimes with the hope of future payment, sometimes simply for the experience. Even as we’ve continued to raise the amount we pay to our collaborators, BRASS was and remains Artist Subsidized, with most of the cast and crew working for significantly under professional rate.
And when you’ve got a company of actors doing an audio drama and working on a short film, well…why not produce a play?
Creatively, BRASS was always about collaboration with the artists we really wanted to work alongside. Which is why there’s another BRASS film….
So there’s BRASS: the high points–well, that and the 14+ hours of audio drama. But what is BRASS about?
If you’ve asked that question at any time in the last five years, you’re not alone. It’s one we’ve struggled to redefine repeatedly as a country and a culture around us experienced seismic shifts, and our show changed from a classic adventure cliffhanger into a fairly serious-minded political thriller with some major criticisms of colonialism and late-stage capitalism to boot. (Geez, it’s really been a dour few years for us all, huh?)
But whatever form it’s taken, BRASS has really been about the artists who’ve joined us in creating a somewhat sprawling saga and a world that now feels very real. I’ll end here with thoughts from two of them–and appropriately enough, it’s the two gentlemen who between them have probably voiced half the characters in the series!
“My time with the Brass Family started on a purely technical level and grew to become an acting adventure I have thoroughly enjoyed and will always treasure. My career is now almost completely devoted to the creation and distribution of full cast audio drama through Aural Vision, so Working with Battleground has been something of a bus man’s holiday where all that’s been required is my acting talent and being allowed to give voice to all types of well-written characters. It is my sincere wish to be allowed to play a role in some future work be it involving the Family Brass or some other bit of insanity.”
“It is truly incredible to look back at the Brass saga! Tremendous congratulations to you on such a rich, diverse creation. Brass has been a beacon to me in both an uncertain artistic climate and more recently a global catastrophe. You gave me a chance to voice and embody some of the wildest and most joyful characters of my career. I also treasured the opportunity to write with you in this fabulous world you created. The fact that we recorded season 4 during the pandemic still feels utterly surreal, and for the production to be wrapping while the world is reeling seems nothing short of miraculous. You managed to gather a delightful cast whom I feel so fortunate to have worked with, including legends of the local scene that I could have only dreamed of sharing space with previously. I will always look back fondly on the Brass family, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it!”