PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
This week we hear from Mark Brown, a filmmaker based in London, who specialises in filming weddings with Super8 cameras. Mark is a free spirit, a dreamer and an adventurer, who just happens to have built a reputation as a wedding filmmaker of such high esteem that he ends up being flown out to weddings on other continents!
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
I don’t think I have ever had a proper job, more a pursuit of interests… I once worked in an old people's home when I was eighteen. I used to sing to them a lot. I would say what I’m doing now is my first ‘proper’ job.
Has filmmaking always been in your blood?
Always. My earliest memories involved either holding a camera or watching a movie that in some way changed my way of thinking. I daydreamed my way out of school with no qualifications. Cinemas were much more interesting.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
I knew a lot about cameras, my editing was taking shape and I was getting enquiries…I was working as a bartender at that time. I couldn’t keep working two jobs, so I decided to give freelancing a trial for a month. It was a tough period in my life – I needed something real to concentrate on. I never looked back.
How did you go about starting your own business?
I had never started a business before, so I didn’t really have a clue on where to begin. Luckily though everything came together organically; I just shot the films, people took an interest and it grew. Business wise, I put where I am today down to four people who helped me tremendously in different ways; Joel Seratto, Annabel Beeforth, Marianne Taylor and my father.
How did you secure your first clients?
I shot a few small wedding jobs through very basic advertising, I worked hard on them and I contacted Annabel Beeforth at Love My Dress to get her opinion. She posted one of them on her blog and that generated what I consider to be my first proper clients.
What is your typical daily routine like?
I can’t sit still for long. I’m an explorer at heart. I do a lot of wandering, I love to meet new people, find new places, take pictures, learn something… Recently I’ve realised that these things are an integral part of my creative world, which lends itself enormously to the way I shoot and edit my work, which generally happens in the evening. My inspiration comes in waves, so I keep an unstructured routine to work around them.
Why Super 8?
Beyond the immediate beauty of shooting film, the colours, the energy, the timelessness… Super 8 keeps me in the moment. I have shot a lot of video, but I find it a somewhat hollow experience, whereas filming a scene on Super 8 I find myself in a conversation between celluloid and light. I don’t do much in the edit – what you see is what I did on the day. Sometimes a shot works, sometimes it doesn’t, but no matter which way it goes there is an art to it that keeps me coming back for more.
How do you decide which kit to use?
You never really know what the best camera for the job is until you arrive and take it in. I always travel with at least three different cameras and three different film types.
Do you have an allegiance to a particular type of gear?
Nizo. It’s never steered me wrong.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to pick up your camera and shoot the world around you?
I’ve always put life and creative projects hand-in-hand. Recently some friends invited me on holiday and I didn’t take any cameras with me – it was the first time I had ever done that. In retrospect, it was the first time I had ever gone on holiday with friends as I usually travel alone. I’ve never felt so relaxed in all my life. I must do it more often.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Yes. But I make up for it. I’m a very social person and I’ve never had problems being by myself at weddings or strange new places…
You shoot weddings, fashion, editorial and commercial work – how do you deal with straddling so many different genres?
Again, it’s the pursuit of interests, I don’t take on anything that’s a ‘job’, I mix genres to keep things interesting, and I feel my style of storytelling is open to all kinds of interpretation.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from other artists. Living in east London helps, everyone here is doing something interesting. But ultimately inspiration lies in my somewhat eccentric fascination to travel and discover.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Keep going, it will all make sense soon…and don’t give up the saxophone!
What would you like to be remembered for?
It sounds a little egotistical, but I like to think I’m a courageous person. I put myself into some interesting situations simply to experience a life out of the ordinary…and if some art comes from that then I will die a happy man.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
I was flown to Texas last year to film a wedding and they treated me like a king. I don’t stop talking about that.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s always the feedback. I’ve had some beautiful words written to me recently. It fills me with rainbows.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
Working with film. It creates a lot of obstacles. But persistence through trial and error in the face of ruin has taught me so much, about the format and myself… I’m a much better person for it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Fer Juaristi gave me some good advice…it’s hard to word, but it’s basically ‘do what you want.' It sounded better when he said it.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Web: Mark Brown Films
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