The Future of PIONEER ONE

TL;DR–PIONEER ONE is 6 today. And a big budget reboot is a real possibility. Help us celebrate by spreading the word with hashtag #morepioneerone

Six years ago, my friend Bracey Smith and I did something crazy. Armed with nothing but an idea, some naivete, and an unhealthy amount of coffee, we decided to make a TV show. With no backing and very little idea of what we were getting ourselves into, we used a new crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter to raise $6000 to produce the pilot episode of our sci-fi drama. (And back then, every plea for donations was immediately followed by an explanation of what this newfangled Kickstarter thing was. Those were the days, huh?)

On June 16, 2010, we released the pilot episode of PIONEER ONE through VODO’s BitTorrent network. Frankly, the response was beyond our wildest expectations (and we can dream pretty big). Within two weeks the pilot was downloaded over 2,000,000 times. During the same period, people we had never met from all over the world clicked on our PayPal donation button and gave us $20,000 to make more episodes.

Over the next year and a half, myself, Bracey, and friends old and new went on the wild adventure that was making PIONEER ONE’s first season of 6 full-length episodes. There were times when the going was rough. Whether it was a quadruple hard drive failure the night before release, a head-on collision with a deer during a rainstorm after a late night shoot, or simply running out of money…the thing that kept us going was the knowledge that we had fans who were watching. And waiting. …and waiting.

Since 2011 when we released our last episode, we’ve been looking for ways to continue the show. But we knew we wouldn’t be able to do it as we had before. For over a year, PIONEER ONE became mine and Bracey’s full time job. (More like 17 jobs, actually.) And it was only due to the generous time and commitment of our cast and crew, who did professional work without pay, and calling in every favor we had from friends and family, that allowed us to pull it off. Basically, we’d cashed in all our chips.

Some promising opportunities cropped up over the next few years. Someone would discover the show, contact us with ideas of how to finance and make more, but those plans would inevitably fall through. (After one particular meeting with a studio executive who will remain nameless, we got off the phone on a Friday with the promise of an offer to come on Monday. Monday passed with no word. On Tuesday, I read that the executive and his entire department had been let go from the studio. Such is Hollywood.)

But life doesn’t stand still. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an editor and a writer, and Bracey produced a celebrated animated short and has since moved on to work in the virtual reality space.

And we came to the conclusion that season 2, in the form we had done the first season, just wasn’t feasible. With growing careers and growing families, and no way to compensate our cast and crew for their work, we just didn’t see a way to do it. And, frankly, from the beginning we had envisioned a show that would broaden in scope that was always beyond our means.

From time to time Bracey and I would still talk about PIONEER ONE, brainstorming new story ideas and how we might revive it in some form. But, as tends to happen, life would pull us away and reality would set in. More than once we reluctantly admitted to ourselves that the show might truly be over and done with.

But this show is stubborn. And so are our fans. Every single time we’d written it off, some weird opportunity would would pop up out of nowhere and rekindle the flame. And in these last few months, maybe because of renewed interest in Mars or the success of movies like THE MARTIAN and shows like THE AMERICANS, there have been some new developments that represent the best chance we’ve ever had to do more PIONEER ONE.

Really. Best ever. Hand on heart.

In the last few weeks we’ve made exciting additions to our team, some of whom whose work you may have heard of. A tireless producer in Los Angeles who has been our champion for some time has joined forces with a visionary TV director whose work includes some of the most celebrated episodes of shows like THE 100. They believe strongly that there’s a way to bring PIONEER ONE back in some form, most likely as a big budget reboot. (Though at this stage anything is possible, as discussions are still preliminary.)

Our efforts will only be bolstered by spreading the word and demonstrating that there is an audience for PIONEER ONE. I can tell you that people are watching and they are listening.

So if anyone reading this is so inclined, using the hashtag #morepioneerone please share the YouTube link to the pilot episode (, the series trailer (, or this little promo clip that we’ve made to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the show.

We tried to tell a story about hope, about human ingenuity and courage, to remind us that the impossible is sometimes possible. Given recent reminders of how ugly the world can be, the idea that we are capable of incredible things when we allow ourselves to imagine a better way is as important as ever.

I think our best days might just be ahead. Keep watching the skies.

Josh Bernhard
June 16, 2016
Los Angeles, California