Sam Brown, a director for Rogue Films, boasts a back catalogue of work which cannot be missed. His work on music videos and nationwide commercials alike have earned him a reputation as one of the United Kingdom’s most sought-after commercial directors, with a number of accolades to his name. However, it was Brown’s route to his achievements we found most interesting; one with somewhat coy beginnings.
General consensus dictates that training must be partaken in order to develop a skill to the point of recognition. One will believe this until they witness a young guitar player, artist, or mathematician (here is looking at you Good Will Hunting) seemingly eclipsing the abilities of those around them with a natural affinity to the craft. As though by chance, they discovered the innate talent inside of them.
When we first looked at the story of Sam Brown, there was unequivocal reason to believe that his life as a filmmaker was an inevitability of who he is. To put it simply, it would appear that Sam Brown is a filmmaker, through and through, made for the job, and people noticed early on.
Speaking on his early days as a creative, “I was never one of those kids who was running around making Super-8 films with their mates. I was quite shy and would have found the whole process of doing that excruciating and embarrassing. I had a desire to do it, but no confidence or awareness of how to make that happen.” It was perhaps shocking to discover his more timid approach to a role that we had always considered to be designed for those with a drive and outgoing nature above the rest.
For Brown, his creative drive was much more reserved, at least in the beginning. “I was always one of those cautious children standing on the fringes and observing, rather than diving in headlong and getting involved in something. Consequently, I feel like I spent a long time just storing things up in my imagination: how things looked, what people were wearing, how they were interacting with each other.”
His attention to the finer details of life were reflective in his decision to attend art classes, and more so in his abilities there. Brown attracted the advice of one teacher in particular; Brown recalls a philosophy on the nature of art he learned. "I can recall him taking me to one side after a lesson and explaining how being a creative person wasn’t just about brushes and pencils and still-lives set up in the corner of the art room. He explained to me that the plastic chair I was sitting on had been designed by someone. The glasses he was wearing. This was a pretty revelatory moment for me." Everything is made in the same way an artist paints a picture, and Brown had taken this philosophy into his own future.
It was then, in the mid-nineties, that a teenage Brown was awoken to the idea of filmmaking. “[I watched] an old Tony Kaye commercial for Dunlop tyres called Tested for the Unexpected. It just popped up on the TV one day and it was honestly like a lump of moon rock had crashed in through the ceiling and landed in the middle of the living room. It had this demonic, drugged-out Velvet Underground music and incredible, other-worldly visuals… Like in the art class, I was suddenly conscious that something had not just appeared but had been made.” His description of the intricacies of the advert was compelling; his close attention to the details of the advert was evident that this was a pivotal inspiration on his choice to pursue Film.
Upon beginning his career, it was very much an experience like any of us would have, as a runner on the sets of various productions around the country. It was here he met, and began to work for, Mary Calderwood. It was Calderwood who gave Brown his first outings as a director.
“I was offered the chance to make some low budget videos…My early experiences were horrific, because I literally didn’t know what I was doing. It was terrifying, like being a pilot but not recognising any of the buttons…Mary spent a long time afterwards convincing me I was a director, and that this was something I could do. She eventually gave me some cash and some short ends from the fridge to do something personal. We ended up making a short film that eventually, by word of mouth, became the [music] video for the Doves [song] Man Who Told Everything.”
This was the turning point in Brown’s career. A window of opportunity, and the sterling tutelage and mentorship of his superiors at school and early filming days saw the visionary promise of Sam Brown come to life; he was only just getting started.Continued in Part Two.