“That’s What Being a Nerd is About”: Jeremy Swede Nilson, Founder of Red 6 Events

If you’ve attended a geek event in Duluth or Minneapolis–St. Paul in the last few years, then you may already be familiar with Jeremy Swede Nilson. He’s one of the founders of Nerd Nite Duluth, as well as the driving force behind bringing the Nerd Nite phenomenon to the Twin Cities. Just recently, he helped bring the Star Wars Holiday Special, a massively popular event in Minneapolis, up to Duluth and presented it to a packed house. Local podcast lovers and film buffs will also recognize him as one of the five movie-geek voices behind Remakers Mark, which was recently listed as one of the Top Five Funny Local Podcasts in the Twin Cities by City Pages.

Jeremy Swede Nilson at this year’s Star Wars Holiday Special in Duluth.

Jeremy Swede Nilson at this year’s Star Wars Holiday Special in Duluth.

Recently, Nilson decided to mate his love of the geek community with his event-planning experience to create a hybrid business, Red 6 Events. “I create content and experiences to help people celebrate their passions,” Nilson explained. “Being a nerd about something simply means you found the crossroads of your passion and your knowledge. I want to help [others] share that spot with people.” Recently, I sat down with Jeremy to talk more about his geek loves, the events he’s involved in, and what Red 6 Events means for the local geek community.

Amber L. Carter (TCG): What were some of your geek loves growing up, and why?

Jeremy Swede Nilson: Growing up in the country [Nilson grew up in Upsala, Minnesota], we didn’t have access to a lot of movies or TV. Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in the theater, and that’s what first lit the spark of geekiness in my heart. I used to play outside in the woods, creating games that usually involved time travel or Indiana Jones–esque adventures. I loved watching Voltron and other sci-fi cartoons as a kid, and once I got to college, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was like an epiphany to me.

TCG: Why Mystery Science Theater 3000? What did you love about it?

Jeremy: MST3K is a show about riffing on bad movies, which is kind of a universal language that we can relate to in one way or another. And being a fairly well-read, pop-culture-based college kid [Nilson attended St. Cloud State and Augsburg University], there were so many jokes and riffs that felt like they were written just for me. One of my favorite types of comedy [is] those things that just that one person gets and become like a shared wink.

TCG: How did you get involved with Nerd Nite and Remakers Mark?

Jeremy: With both Nerd Nite and Remakers Mark, the process began in a wonderfully organic way. My friends and I were doing those nerdy things because we enjoyed them, and [we] finally sat down and asked the question, “What if we organized this and made a thing out of it?” Nerd Nite really began with a conversation about the best way to tell people about how great Totino’s Party Pizzas are. We thought it’d be great if we could gather the community and offer up a TED Talk–type presentation to convince them.

After that, we did some research and learned about Nerd Nite as a national movement and started putting the framework together. Six years later and it’s still running strong.

TCG: Ha! I love that. You also recently brought the Stars Wars Holiday Special to Duluth. How did all of that fall into place?

Jeremy: The Star Wars Holiday Special Screening started out as a fundraiser for Toys for Tots here in Minneapolis eight years ago, and the person who organized it and I talked about expanding it to larger event. I brought it to Duluth, and we had a packed house for our first year. The plan now is to continue expanding that program to other cities and build it into a premier fundraising—toy-raising—effort.

TCG: Do you head up any other events in Minneapolis–St.Paul or Duluth?

Jeremy: There are more ideas in the works in both places. I think both Duluth and the Twin Cities are strong centers of nerdy culture and there’s a lot of great opportunity to create programs to tap into that.

TCG: What was the catalyst for wanting to create your own event-planning biz?

Jeremy: A combination of things really came together at the right time to prompt me down that path. I currently live in a community of artists, performers, writers, and musicians who are constantly trying to find clever and exciting ways to promote themselves but are unable to devote the time to actually pull something together. Along with that, Nerd Nite and the other events that I am producing are moving in a direction where I’d like to devote more time to grow and expand them, but I have a hard time finding that with my current work schedule. And the more that I delve into the idea, the more contacts I’ve made, the more I’m excited for the possibility.

Plus I was getting sick of working 60 hours a week to help some other person retire at age 30.

TCG: What was the first step you took when it came to starting your own venture?

Jeremy: The first step I took was talking to people—getting feedback, bouncing ideas off a different mind, and refining the vision. I spoke to a lot of people who were in some form or another working in that role already. Whether that be someone who has jumped out and started their own business, or worked in event production, or understood how to articulate how the process of brainstorming worked, I was finding wisdom all over town.

TCG: What were some of the best nuggets of wisdom that you gleaned from that experience?

Jeremy: I think one of the most important things that was reiterated by many people [was] that I should not stop making those connections with people, and that a business adventure like this won’t succeed well in a vacuum. There are lots of great places in the Twin Cities to network and find people to partner with as well as find support for the journey.

Another great nugget is simple, and that is to take the plunge. If you have an idea, share it, work through it, and try it. As cliché as it is, you’ll never know if you can succeed if you never make the attempt.

And the last one is to not be afraid of failure.

TCG: How did you come up with the name Red 6 Events?

Jeremy: I was looking for something that captured the nerdy spirit of my roots but wasn’t such a pigeonholed “in joke” that it wasn’t accessible to people. Red 6 is the call sign of Jek Porkins during the battle of Yavin IV in Star Wars, which is completely awesome if you know that. If what I just said made no sense to you, Red 6 Events is still an exciting-sounding name that gives people an idea of what I do.

TCG: What can Red 6 Events offer people that other event planners can’t?

Jeremy: What I can bring to the table that you won’t find elsewhere is an understanding of where you are coming from. You wouldn’t be throwing an event if you weren’t passionate about the content and excited to share it with others. That’s what being a nerd is about, and a nerd is what I am.

TCG: One last thing. In one sentence or less, what are your feelings on the new Star Wars?

Jeremy: I have unusually high expectations for Star Wars VII, considering the heartbreak and mental anguish of “those other movies.”

For more on Jeremy Swede Nilson, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook, or check him out on Math Is Hard. If you’d like to talk to him about planning your next event, hit him up at [email protected]

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