Updated: May 4
The Ragin’ Geek explores the world of Emmy award winning Brian A. Bernhard and takes a look at his recent art creations inspired by Star Trek and Star Wars. Brian and I discussed his life’s travels as a multi-faceted artist to successful video producer/editor and recently the rediscovering of his passions through his artistic brand “Embrace the Weird”.
The Early Years
Brian’s story starts off years ago in Virginia where he attended his local community college and thought his calling was in oceanography. Interestingly enough the course was cancelled due to lack of applicants and he decided to major in art studies. Upon getting enough credits he then moved on to Virginia Commonwealth University and specialized in sculpting and painting. During his stay at VCU Brian developed skills which would allow him to combine his art with video. He began to pioneer video installations for various art galleries. The video installations would later be known as projection mapping where bizarre environmental transformations for venues are made with video and sound. Brian acquired a Bachelor of Fine Arts from VCU in December of 1999. During his college years Blockbuster video would serve as Brian’s obligatory retail job. One day after closing the Blockbuster retail store and making his way to his car Brian was held up at gun point by a masked assailant and forced to return the store to clear out the safe. He was later fired by the company as what was believed to be an insurance liability. As fate would have it, he was then able to get a job as a Broadcast Engineer at the local FOX TV station channel 35 in Richmond, VA, this would also be the place where he met his lifelong love.
New York City
At FOX-35 Brian built up some solid experience that would enable him to land another engineer job in Brooklyn, NY at WNYE (NY Board of Education). He then moved with his girlfriend to New York City (only 2 weeks before 9/11) where he worked at WNYE for a few years. While at WNYE he was able to teach himself how to use “after effects” and would begin to utilize these talents doing the on-air graphics and broadcast design for the station. Realizing he had the skills to create a TV production from start to finish Brian eventually got the opportunity he was looking for and took a position at CUNY TV. Here Brian would go on to create his first major TV project series “Art… or Something Like It” where he would venture around NYC in search of a variety of artists, one notable being Lloyd Kaufman creator of the Toxic Avenger and co-founder of Troma Entertainment Film studio. He also co-produced a number of ABC World News celebrity sketch comedy interviews with names such as “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin Smith and Chris Hardwick. Brian hinted at possibly indirectly inspiring the creation of Chris Hardwick’s All Celebrity Bowling series. When asked who his favorite celebrity interview was with he stated “Weird Al” and that he was an inspiration to him and a fan. During this timeframe he also attained a Master of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design.
From 2006 to 2012 Brian definitely was hitting his stride with a number of EMMY nominations, two TELLY awards and finally an EMMY award in 2012 for what would be his last project at CUNY “Study with the Best” where he was a Producer/Editor. With greater ambitions Brian decided to pursue his own production company called “Blight Productions”. One highlighted Blight Production series called “A Fools Idea” which he created with the assistance of clown royalty Jef Johnson was shot primarily with a Flip cam and an MP3 recorder. The series explored the true meaning of what a clown is and the little known world of clown society. I asked Brian if there was any special connection he had to “A Fools Idea” as it seemed much effort was put into documenting the obscure art of being a clown. He mentioned he had a number of jobs during high school where he took on the role of a clown. One position in particular he mentioned which was on the Virginia Beach ocean front called Rockin’ Rosie’s Funhouse. It was described as “a funny haunted house, with black light paintings and jokes on the wall”. He remembered one Halloween there playing as a hobo clown and since then enjoyed playing as a clown. Afterwards he would go on to create his own clown persona called Blight the Clown. Brian and Jef would also work on other productions such as “A Love Story” and “White Noise”. Jef Johnson use to run a renowned clown lab in New York City where Brian attended for two years. He moved to Mexico shortly after they shot the first interview for “A Fools Idea” and spends most of his time creating performance art and teaching clown workshops around the world.
With higher aspirations Brian moved to L.A. to expand his production company. He had actually already moved to Los Angeles when he won his EMMY and attended the awards ceremony via Skype. Life in LA turned out to be harder than anticipated as NY video production credentials didn’t seem to hold up as expected on the west coast and finding employment with a top-tier LA production company became difficult. This left Brian in a temporary career purgatory so he decided to continue working on his own production company. Work with Blight Productions would go on to bring Brian a number of awards at the LA Web Series Festival. Brian’s goal was to ultimately stop looking for jobs and be the one people looked for to do their job.
Embrace the Weird
Life working on a production company usually left Brian realizing other people’s artistic visions and not his own. He decided to then create his own artistic brand called “Embrace the Weird – A lifestyle brand for weirdos” www.embracetheweird.design . This brand would enable him to express his artistic views to the mainstream and also potentially allow him to focus on more projects with Blight Productions that better represented his creative visions. I asked Brian “A lifestyle brand for weirdos?”, “Would you consider yourself a weirdo and would you say everyone has an inner weirdo somewhere inside?” Brian responded “Yes to all that. If you examine the original definition of weird it means a person’s destiny. It is a very interesting word that has supernatural connotations to it. Weird allows you to be creative without baggage or fears.” He recently released some Star Trek and Star Wars inspired prints which are displayed on a number of his designer products. Upon seeing his new Sci-Fi inspired work I asked him if he was a Star Wars and Star Trek fan and if so, could he give us a favorite moment or episode from these two titles. Brian first seemed at a loss due to him obviously being a fan where he couldn’t come to a decision but eventually stated “Empire Strikes Back – it was the quintessential Greek Tragedy”. He also recalled seeing the original movie release as a kid in the back of his family Ford F-150 at an outdoor Drive-In movie theatre in Virginia where they ate popcorn out of a large black bag. For Star Trek he stated Wrath of Khan was his favorite Star Trek movie and that Ricardo Montalban will always be the “true representation of Khan”. He also mentioned as a memorable moment the part where Khan places the Ceti eel larva into Chekhov and Cpt. Terrell’s ears.
Embrace the Weird definitely seemed to be off to a good start with its new sci-fi genre inspired works so I asked “What’s next?” Brian explained to me there is usually some inspiration to any artwork he does, for Star Wars it was the recent release of movies, for Star Trek he started binge watching the original and TNG series with his girlfriend. Recently Brian had started watching old episodes of Xena Warrior Princess so I asked if this was a possible future project and he told me “Definitely a possibility”. He told me about a favorite Xena episode which he thought was worth mentioning called “A Day In the Life Of”. I look forward to checking it out.
Continuing our conversation I asked Brian a couple of more questions:
What geek habits or attributes that you had in your youth have lasted through the years into your present adult life?
Brian maintains a modest action figure toy collection in his house and more in storage where he also keeps a large comic book collection.
2. What is the geekiest thing you’ve done either in your distant past or recent history?
When Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” was released Brian and his brother tried to attend a premiere showing of the movie at Union Square in New York City whilst wearing full gorilla costumes here they were denied access unless they removed their masks.
3. If you could give advice to an aspiring artist based on your life lessons what would it be?
Success is determined by how bad you want something. The person willing to fail more than anyone else is usually the one who succeeds in the end. Spend more time making, focusing and building your own ideas and voice instead of doing it for someone else.
We enjoyed our talk with Brian and hope you did too. You can enjoy more of the wonderfully weird world of Brian A. Bernhard @ http://www.brianabernhard.com .
Brian also hosts a Twitch channel where he shares his art and other interests, feel free to follow it at https://www.twitch.tv/brianabernhard .
If you like Brian’s work, please check out his Patreon page at www.patreon.com/brianabernhard .