Being a geek is one of those things that is simultaneously one of the simplest and one of the most difficult things to do. On the one hand, you can geek out about virtually anything: comics, books, movies, tv shows, music, games, etc. On the other, with geek culture so pervasive in our society, and so very, very vast, it can be a bit intimidating to anyone looking to join a new fandom (just ask anyone who tried to watch Doctor Who for the first time this year). Enter Diana Dekajlo and Michael Nixon, co-creators, and co-hosts, of ‘Geek Crash Course’, a web series that attempts to fill you in on the endlessness that is geek culture … 5 minutes at a time. I was able to sit down with Diana last week to discuss the show, the internet, and the challenges of boiling down some of the most complex narratives into simple, bite sized videos.
“Michael Nixon and I went to college together, and we worked on a couple of film projects together… we ended up being really good friends on set and we thought that we worked really well together. We sort of balanced out each other’s crazy,” she explains. “So, after we graduated we still kept in touch, and he called me up one day and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this idea for a show I wanna do.’ and I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’” While an outside observer might consider calling shenanigans on an explanation that simple, one can hardly argue once they realize the amount of work these two have put into their little web show, and how it has evolved over the last year. When it first began, ‘Geek Crash Course’ was, as she explains, conceived quickly, logically, and with little argument, and then shot with whatever they had on hand. “We shot 7 episodes literally in his roommate’s bedroom in Brooklyn. We had no microphone, we literally used the mic on the camera, we had a mirror propped up so we could see the viewfinder to see where we were in frame, and we shot by the light of day because his roommate had a really big window. And frankly it was not the best thing I’ve ever done.” But, much to their surprise, it worked, and they began to see a response through comments, e-mails, and a steadily growing audience. “I think we were like 50 episodes in before we turned to each other and said “Holy crap! We have 50 episodes of a show … that people watch.‘”
And its not just their short runtime, or engaging, sometimes very timely, episode topics that keep people coming back. The show works because the two co-hosts work very well together, and that camaraderie is evident, not just in the shared dialogue, and on screen antics, but the manner in which they conceive, write, and produce each week’s episode. They plan out their episode topics months in advance, and then divvy up the list based on each other’s interests, talents, and previous knowledge. “Michael and I, we geek on very separate things. I’m more into literature, we’re both very into TV, but different shows, which is good, and I’m actually the gamer,” says Diana. “For the most part, between the two of us we have a pretty wide range of knowledge.” While they write the actual scripts separately, they spend time editing each other before finally getting together to shoot, which is a herculean task in and of itself. “We get together every couple of months, and we shoot a whole block of episodes at once. So, like 2 weeks ago, we shot 15 episodes, which is the most we’ve ever shot. We didn’t sleep for two days, it was crazy.”
‘Geek Crash Course’ has evolved greatly over the last year. They’ve added a real, live person behind the camera, actual lights, and a microphone, but its not just the technical stuff that’s changed, the format has evolved as well, in large part due to viewer response. “As we were doing the show, we took the feedback we were getting from our fans and our friends, and sort of changed the format of the show as we went along,” explains Diana. “We made little adjustments, little tweaks here and there, but we used feedback to really give the fans what they want, because we’re making the show for you to understand. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about Green Lantern, but if you don’t care what I have to say, then there is no point in having that show.”
With more than 70 episodes under their collective belt, and their one year anniversary coming up in July (I hear it’s going to be a Star Wars two-parter), I asked if they were considering branching out, taking time off from their first show to focus on another endeavor, or seeing where this first ride takes them. To that, Diana replied, “When we started the show we didn’t have a particular intention for where the show was going. Now it’s kind of gone somewhere, and we’re working on sort of crafting a brand … I guess the biggest branching out that we’ve done personally is we’ve been expanding our website, so we’ve put up a blog. We’re trying to put up a blog at least once every other day, and it’s all of the stuff we’re doing in between the time that we’ve shot.” But that’s not to say they aren’t dabbling outside of their own little circle. Recently, they launched an experimental new series for New Media Weekly, called the ‘New Media Moment’, in which they use their experience from the last year to start a discussion with viewers about New Media, the internet, and what works and doesn’t within that medium.
Even through this success, Diana and Michael remain geeks to the core, more than happy to discuss the intricacies of the Stargate universe, or futilely attempt to explain to me the plot of Primer. After all, it’s the geek world that gave them their idea, and the geek world that eats up their newest episode in increasingly large numbers. Before we parted ways, I asked Diana to express what being a geek really meant, to her, and she responded, “Being a geek, I think used to be a very confining term … and I think now its more about imagination, and having passion for something. Even if I didn’t have a web show, I would still play video games, and read Hunger Games, and watch Star Wars, and email my coworkers on May 4th saying ‘May the 4th Be With You’. I would still do that because I’m okay with that. I can proudly fly my little geek flag, and say I’m a geek.”