Meet One Half of HBO’s Oddball Duo, The Neistat Brothers

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Since 1999, New York-based filmmakers Van and Casey Neistat have created more than 200 short films, including one that brought them national attention. Their obsessive need to create finally payed off when HBO purchased their show, The Neistat Brothers, back in 2008. Now, it’s finally on air. The eight-episode series is a window onto the esoteric Neistat existence, which the brothers capture on seemingly ancient camcorders, giving the episodes and endless home-movie aesthetic. Memorable scenes include smuggling maple syrup into Amsterdam and Van meeting his biological father for the first time. Casey Neistat talks about getting boners, idolizing his brother, and the biggest failure in the history of the Netherlands.

When did the Neistat series begin? And what exactly sparked the idea for a series tailored for television? In 2007, Tom Scott, who used to own Nantucket Nectars, came to Van and I. He had worked with us on a couple of projects in the past and wanted to do something bigger. We didn’t know what the future project was but we finally came up with The Neistat Brothers series.

Are you afraid of becoming mainstream or do you welcome it? I embrace and have sought out mainstream my entire life. I’m afraid of being esoteric. I want to be pop! Success in art is measured in audience, not money. I think Avatar and Grand Theft Auto are the greatest triumphs in the art world and my generation.

In the second episode you challenge your assistant to smuggle a bottle of maple syrup into Amsterdam. Can you describe Amsterdam’s Stroop syrup? It’s 99.9% corn syrup and less than 0% food coloring. It is like a flaccid blob that does a backflip onto the greatest pancake in the universe. Stroop is the biggest failure in the history of the Netherlands The Nazis left, but Stroop still occupies Amsterdam.

You are six years younger than your brother. How does that affect your relationship? Six years is an interesting gap. When I’m in 6th grade trying to figure out how to have my voice not crack and getting boners, he is cool shit in high school. Six years is the perfect gap because it’s just far enough ahead that I idolized Van.

Who are your influences? I was a high school drop out and Van dropped out of college. It’s a lot like the Tarantino model, which was watch and watch and take from it what you like the most. Spike Jones is interesting. His ingenuity and craftiness is definitely inspiring.

You say you are not on a reality TV show. How would you describe your show model? We are storytellers. Reality gets distorted, but in our show nothing is false or contrived. There are certain things that have been recreated but we are not altering reality.