- World building
What is Brains?
A found footage vlog web series set after the zombie apocalypse on a college campus. Our story is told by Alison Sumner, a neuropsychology college student who decides to vlog about her new life. There are two complete seasons online. You can watch both all at once here!
Where can I find more stuff about Brains online?
Is there fanfiction or fan art?
YES! If you have written or made any, please send it to us!
Carl/Professor Sherman (slash fic)
Who makes the show?
A scrappy group of filmmakers based in New York City, many of whom met during grad school. Full breakdown here. It was created by Bri Castellini, who plays Alison Sumner, writes every episode, is an executive producer, edits every episode, ran sound for most shoots, and did a little bit of everything else at some point or another.
Where/how was it filmed?
Every scene except for one was filmed in Brooklyn, at either Prospect Park or Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus. The one scene filmed in Manhattan was the apocalypse YouTuber/ hippie zombie iPhone scene, and that was filmed on the upper west side.
Season 1 we filmed it with a camcorder, because the DP we had for a single day of production lost his nice DSLR camera and all the footage from that first day before the second day of production. Season 2 was filmed with a Black Magic pocket cinema camera.
Why did you make this?
Do you have any good behind-the-scenes stories?
So many. Here’s our season 1 blooper reel:
And here’s season 2:
Ok, so like, what are the zombie rules in this universe?
Our zombies take a lot from their better-known media counterparts. The major difference is that, when our zombies ingest brains, it keeps their own neural synapses firing, meaning that they can appear human in all ways but diet. So it’s easy for zombies to pretend to be human, as long as no one sees what they do or do not eat. They can drink water but only because they get parched, not because they need to stay hydrated.
Eating brains make their brains act human, allowing for them to appear human in all biological functions other than eating.
What is the point of no return?
Basically, if a zombie goes a certain amount of time without eating brains, then they permanently become a “shambler,” a classic, stumbling, drooling, hungry monster, and no amount of brains afterwards will change that.
Is there a test to determine who is or isn’t a zombie, other than brain-starving?
Not yet, unfortunately, which is why Alison spends season 1 trying to trick Damian into revealing himself one way or another. With more study, Alison, Greta, and Professor Sherman hope to be able to develop a test (not unlike the Gaius Baltar plot line in Battlestar Galactica), but with only one test subject (Carl), it’s been hard to extrapolate. As of right now, other than brain-starving, the only indicator of a zombie is whether or not they eat normal food.
When you say “half of the world’s population” in regards to how many living dead there are, do you mean….
Yep. 3.5 billion people were or are zombies at one point in this world. However, most passed the point of no return early on because they were only surrounded by OTHER zombies. They might have had mighty numbers, which was their initial strength, but once the humans started picking them off and learning how the plague got transferred, shamblers aren’t all that hard to kill if you’re not an idiot.
Is it known that zombification can only be transferred through saliva?
Mostly. While Alison, Greta, and Sherman are definitely on the forefront for zombie research (there’s even a rumor going around campus that Sherman is frequently called by the newly elected president for advice on undead legislation because of her studies), most other human factions learned within about a year what transferred the infection. And even if they didn’t, it’s pretty obvious that you shouldn’t let an undead person bite you or spit on you. Because, like, gross.
How long is zombie-spit infectious, outside of a human body? Could heat destroy the infection?
Damian is working on figuring that out! It doesn’t come up much, but remember, he’s a bio major, and has his own lab and everything! (coughSeason5cough) (cough that’s not a joke this comes up a lot in season 5 which Bri may or may not have written because she is a glutton for punishment cough)
Must it be transferred directly into the blood-stream, through injection/open wounds, or can it be transferred through kissing?
The plague cannot be transferred through kissing, unless you have mouth sores or a cut or something. It also cannot be transferred through undead semen, something Carl and a beau found out on accident. When he told Alison about this development, she was too grossed out at the thought of investigating further, and they never spoke of it again. However, Edgar has been asking about this, so it will probably have to be brought up again.
Is anyone immune to the plague?
Not that they know of.
Can people who are already dead become zombies?
No. This is something they DID test, early on, and it seems that your heart must be beating in order for the infection to transfer. Carl did not like this test one bit. This is also how he learned that Alison is a little bit too comfortable around dead bodies.
Carl aside, are other zombies picky about the brains they eat?
At first zombification, no, zombies are not picky, they’re just trying to stay alive. If they pass the point of no return, they’ll eat just about any brains, though they prefer human brains because they lack empathy and have a natural predatory understanding that human brains are the biggest meals. Once they manage to regain their self-awareness, however, most zombies opt for animal brains for empathy’s sake, even though human brains are the tastiest, and develop their own specific preferences and cravings.
Does eating brains make zombies smarter? Does it change them?
Not as far as they can tell. From what they have discovered, there is no indication that the consumption of brains is anything more than for sustenance and sustaining of “humanity.” Because Carl was a student at the university before being turned, the few who knew him “before” have confirmed that his personality hasn’t changed any more than the next guy with severe PTSD from literally dying and being resurrected as a zombie that must eat brains to survive. Carl also has confirmed that he doesn’t feel any different, aside from his food choices, of course.
Can zombies get sick?
Carl hasn’t gotten sick before, and preliminary tests of injecting him with strains of the common cold and low-level flu have been unsuccessful as far as sickening him. They aren’t totally sure, though.
How do you kill a zombie?
The only confirmed way of killing a zombie is destroying its brain or severing the brain’s connection to the rest of the zombie’s body (beheading, usually).
Since zombies who get enough brains to eat seem to fully regain their former intelligence, memories, priorities, organization-skills, etc., are there any known zombie organizations out there?
There actually aren’t that many human factions who are aware of human-passing zombies like Carl, because they’re quite rare, and those that exist aren’t too keen to reveal themselves for fear of being straight-up-murdered. As I said above, most zombies pass the point of no return fairly soon after dying because of a lack of brain availability.
This is why Alison’s research with Greta and Professor Sherman is so important- they’re some of the only people who have access to not only a functioning neuropsychology lab, but also a known human-passing zombie to study in the first place.
When someone’s initially turned into a zombie, what do we know about the transformation process? What happens in the first hour?
Not much is known about this, since no one would have waited to figure this out, because they didn’t know about the point of no return before Carl and would just shoot infected humans as soon as they realized infection had occurred.
Can zombies detect brains, and/or living creatures, in any special fashion, such as, for instance, an enhanced sense of smell?
They have a natural predatory instinct, like I mentioned above, and recognize living things as prey. Their sense of smell is no more enhanced than any other carnivorous being. They also are aware enough to know that moving towards civilization, if they had a semblance of where that was before death, is a better bet for food.
Can/do zombies eat human food? Or other unspecified nervous tissue?
No. It messes with their digestive tract. Spices and seasonings are fine, as well as water, but that’s it as far as non-brainy-sustenance. Brains or bust, baby.
Can zombies eat other zombie brains?
Maybe. They haven’t tested it yet because it sounds gross. But there is a scene in season 4 that perhaps explores this………
Are there more than one type of zombie, and/or more than one strain of the “disease”? Is it known, or suspected, that the zombie plague mutates?
All unknown at this time. Working theories: there is one type of zombie with two potential outcomes of infection- shambler or functioning. They don’t think the plague mutates, but they don’t have enough information or access to subjects. They know that saliva in an open wound transfers the infection, and that if given a steady enough diet of live animal or human brains, a zombie can function as a human in most respects. That’s it.
Where did the plague come from?
It spread too quickly to determine a point of origin. Sherman and Alison were hoping to reverse engineer it once they understood the plague on the neurological level, with help from the biology department.
What are the zombies a metaphor for?
I’m just kidding. They’re just zombies. Bri discusses this more at length in the video below:
How long has Carl been undead?
About three years or so. As Alison says in episode 2, “he got turned [into a zombie] way back at the beginning of the apocalypse, so he’s pretty used to it by now.”
After the plague broke out, Carl was one of the students leaving campus to try and get home to his family to ride out the worst of it. He did not make it far, and ended up staying just above the brink of the point of no return by stumbling around about an hour or two’s walk away from campus.
Where does the school get all these animal brains?
Hunting expeditions mostly; a combination of traps and shooting things. As established in Season 1 episode 3, the plague is not transferable to animals, so there are still plenty wandering around the geographically-vague forest-y area near campus. Also, this college has a fairly extensive neuropsychology program, so they probably had at least SOME brains in storage and had a system for ordering more.
Are the protective measure in place to ensure that Carl’s saliva never (even accidentally) comes into contact with food? Are such measures necessary?
At first, while the study of zombies was still new but the campus desperately needed a chef, they made Carl wear one of those flu masks. However, they soon realized that undead saliva is harmless at the infinitesimal amount that it might potentially come in contact with the food. Students with cuts or sores in their mouths will fend for themselves until healed, and students like Greta refuse to ingest anything Carl has had near him, requesting that one of Carl’s living kitchen assistants make the food themselves.
How does Carl zombie-proof his sex life?
No kissing people with open wounds, in their mouth or otherwise, condoms in case of undead viruses unrelated to the plague, no biting or rough play. Not everyone is adventurous to trust him, but as he says in episode 2, because he can’t “knock them up and subject the ensuing spawn to a plague-torn dystopia,” he’s kind of the ideal partner for an apocalyptic lady looking for physical intimacy without the fear of bringing a child into this world of nightmares.
Can Carl sleep or dream?
Yes and maybe. Carl definitely sleeps, because again, the only differences they’ve found between human-passing zombies and humans so far is food choice. They’ve been planning on monitoring his sleeping brain, but it’s not really a priority, as their research is mostly surrounding how to best understand and combat the plague on a practical rather than academic level.
Does he have a pulse?
Yes. His blood is pumping and he’s taking in oxygen, because that’s how brains function. Physiologically, he is the same as any other red-blooded American male at initial glances.
Carl used to be an art history major, and now he’s a cook. Is he still artistically-minded/creative?
Carl was always good with food, and to be honest didn’t really have a reason why he was studying art history in the first place. His parents expected him to go to college, and he liked art well enough but didn’t want to be bothered to create it himself, so he settled on studying other people who create it. After being zombified and coming back to campus, however, and realizing that his interest in food could actually help people, Carl developed a new sense of purpose. He’s always been a creative guy, but before the plague was a bit of a slacker. Now that he must constantly prove his worth and contribute to his community, he found that cooking is a good way of being creative and also being practical. (This is explored in seasons 4 and 5)
When does Brains take place?
At an undisclosed time in the future. Possibly in the 2070s. A time where renewable energy exists (so as to get phone and internet services back up without much fuss) but still went down for a while during the worst of the apocalypse.
Where does Brains take place?
A liberal arts and sciences college campus somewhere nearby a forest-y area on the east coast.
What college are they at?
The fictional Trebond Granger University, or TGU for short, established 1992. Pre-plague, they had a student body/faculty of about 6,000 people, but many fled in the first wave of the plague. Today, only a few hundred remain, with a faculty of about thirty and a campus security force of about 50. The CPS on campus is comprised of some pre-plague CPS officers who stayed behind and a supplemental number of militia men and women who have been posted there.
All current staff, security, and students live on campus. Since their numbers have been so depleted, there were plenty of empty dorms to go around, some of which have been turned into jail cells.
What’s the current ratio between surviving males/females?
It’s about 1:4 (males:females), though of course there are some gender non-conformers mixed in.
Are there walls around campus? How big is it?
Yes, rough, hastily-constructed walls, but with limited resources and a mostly liberal arts and sciences student body, it isn’t the best, hence why occasionally zombies stumble through. I’d say it’s about 90% effective, the 10% mostly stemming from not being able to have every sector monitored and patrolled at all times, especially since the threat is lessened and classes are starting up again.
The campus is only a couple city blocks large, as it wasn’t a very large school to begin with.
Does the University, post-plague, now just automatically accept anybody/everybody who wants to go there?
Nope, TGU is still very selective in its applicants. Don’t want to waste their depleted resources, academic and otherwise, on students who aren’t worth their salt. Plus, they aren’t getting many applicants anyways, due to their being ahead of the curve as far as falling back into old rhythms.
What resources does TGU have access to?
Once the plague got underway, the mostly-intact armed forces of the country traveled around offering supplies and aid to the various human strong-holds. Within the first six months of the plague, the army had dropped off weapons, sturdy surplus clothing (hence why so many characters wear army green), and a few spare soldiers. The campus is fairly remote, but they were nearby some farmland that they would send small groups out with security to cultivate. One or two farmers managed to remain on their land and would lend a hand when they could. However, for the most part, campus subsisted on raids of nearby (and, eventually, not so nearby) grocery stores for nonperishables that had been abandoned. By the time Carl arrived, the food situation was dire, but Carl’s culinary expertise allowed for him to be inventive with very limited ingredients and earned him the job of campus chef.
Does the campus welcome refugees?
Yes, but there aren’t many. TGU is a bit remote, surrounded by a thick forest on at least two sides, so it’s not particularly safe to travel. However, it’s nearby some more metropolitan areas, which explains the occasional refugee as well as the fairly significant number of zombies they saw during the plague. By now, refugees are mostly taken care of elsewhere as TGU starts to resume its academics.
Are most places in the world/country like the campus, or are there places still overrun by zombies?
There are smaller communities more overrun than others, but on the whole, society has eradicated the overarching zombie threat. Because the human population has been decimated, they can’t be sure there aren’t more pockets of denser undead populations, and the government hasn’t fully reorganized to check on and monitor possible undead clusters.
Is there actual government/county law-enforcement in place, with actual judges/juries? Is everything (still) under martial law?
On a county/city-level, most law enforcement is local and case-by-case. At the national level, the government is starting to reconvene, finding the survivors of the old regime and attempting to rebuild from that foundation. (will be explored in season 6) The apocalypse has only been “mostly over” for about five months, however, so they have a ways to go. At this time, the national government just kind of lets the citizenry decide for themselves how to handle crime and whatnot, because they don’t have the capacity or resources to enforce national laws. They are in communication with as many human factions as possible, and are attempting to solidify certain rules and regulations, however. Yay, the internet!
Do we know how long it took, from first appearance to become a full-blown plague?
Very little time. About a week or two.
You’ve mentioned seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6 throughout this season. Are you making more seasons??
Hahahahaha. No, probably not. Bri has written all six seasons, and we may film a table read at some point, but other than the occasional extended universe project (find out more HERE) we do not have the resources to continue filming the series. The team behind Brains is going to be making other projects together, however, which we will update you on when we have more info!
However, as Canadian hero Justin Beiber once said, never say never. Would you like to help us potentially make more things, Brains and otherwise? Consider joining us on Patreon!