We left the story of Sam Brown on the release of his first major music video. So far, Brown had been modest in his achievements, paying tribute to the role models and influences in his life as instrumental to his success. It is, however, these people who could identify Brown’s prolific potential as a visionary of work that, throughout the last fifteen years, has been seen across the globe.
Today, an audience can see his work on national television for Virgin Media’s current ad campaign, Delivering Awesome, depicting a plethora of Hollywood chaos racing through the tunnels of cables that lead to our entertainment system. In fact, to recount his body of work would be mostly a trip into the last fifteen years of popular music videos and British advertising.
Brown continued his trajectory, which began with the music video for The Doves, The Man Who Told Everything, by entering into music video development; working with the likes of Feeder, Elbow and Death in Vegas, to name a few. “What you can see in those films is really someone who doesn’t know how to make them, but is trying to use those limitations to positive effect. Everything is shot very formally and simply and symmetrically. I would try to remove anything that complicated the process, and I think for a while that became an aesthetic in itself.”
By the mid-noughties, Brown's reputation within the music industry for his work was at the height of demand, due to his work on the music videos for James Blunt’s debut album Back to Bedlam, and most notably the single You’re Beautiful. The video can even today be recognised around the world. "I remember feeling very excited doing the first James Blunt video, because it was the first thing I could point at that didn’t feel like a poor imitation of someone else’s work. For better or worse, it felt like mine.”
In five years, Brown had begun and built a reputation among the elite in music videos across the world. Before the end of the decade, Brown had a body of work around the biggest names in the music industry. Working with the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, Foo Fighters, Jay-Z and Adele, by 2010 he was the name to know for music videos with multiple awards to his name.
At this time, however, the music industry was changing. With the birth of modern day music platforms and the explosion of social media, the way in which we consumed music had changed. “The bottom fell out of the music video world. Budgets got slashed. Record companies were losing money. It suddenly wasn’t a fun place to be. I’d also seen a succession of artists get very big off the back of videos I was making, in which a budgetary squeeze had forced me to make them for practically nothing.”
Brown was one of the last elites of the music video heyday. With the end of the music industry as we knew it in the twentieth century, Sam Brown was soon to carry his reputation to Rogue Films. Here, his expertise was utilised in an entirely new way: to develop commercial ads for high profile brands. “It was a pretty mercenary choice, but one that ironically led me to a place in which I was creatively more happy and inspired.” Brown thrived in his new direction.
Brown has been enlisted by the likes of Virgin, Lloyds, and Guinness among many other British brands, to create promotional ads that stood above the rest in terms of production quality and creativity. Brown now finds himself at the top of his game and relishing in a new-found love of commercial directing.
“Without getting too flowery over my analogies, it’s like the difference between writing a poem or a book. I prefer poems. You have to use the time restrictions of the form creatively, and I find that very interesting and exciting. I like it that I’m making a new film every couple of months, and starting from scratch creatively each time. Each project is a completely new set of problems… But what I like most is that people generally have such low expectations of advertising. They see it as an unwelcome intrusion, something you have to endure [until] the TV show or the game comes back, and in most cases that’s what it is. I’m striving to subvert those expectations when I make a commercial.”
Sam Brown is now a revered commercial filmmaker. His ethos on the manner of his work is reflected in the talent his early influences identified in him and the respect his peers have for him today. It is something that has been natural to him, even as a school boy on the fringes, unassuming and shy, Sam Brown could not keep away from the director’s chair.