Interview: Harvey Bertram Brown Part 2


Following on from last week, here’s the second part of our interview with director and designer Harvey Bertram Brown.

MOFILM:  What would you say are the qualities you need to make it in the world of film … it’s somewhat clichéd but there is a kind of golden rule you’d recommend?

Harvey: I have a few pieces of advice:

Firstly is, if your going to direct a film the main thing you need to have is a very clear vision of what it is you want to make. I can pretty much see the film I want to make in my head from the get go. Make notes, write this down and then stick to this!

It sounds easy and simple advice but when you start making a film nearly everyone helping you will try and add something of their own and it is very easy to get persuaded off your vision. Even people on your side for example your art director, your cast, your make up artist, your location manager or your producer let alone your client (the person who is paying the bill) will all try and helpfully offer you something of their own… sometimes this is great but the trick is to just doggedly try and stick to your vision.

Secondly remember all projects are a team effort and you need to be a team player and a team leader. Your film is only as good as your weakest link and as a director it is your job to guide your team into making your vision come to life. For me I find that people respond best to kind words and encouragement. I like my shoots to be fun and for everyone to feel appreciated from my DOP to the runner because they are all working to make the film happen.

Every director has his or her own way of doing this… it has taken me a while to find mine.

Final piece of advice is to have tenacity, hang on in there. Nothing worth doing is ever easy!

MOFILM:  What the best things about your job – what inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing and for good measure, is there anything you don’t like about what you do?

Harvey: To me making a film is like having a dream in your head and then you set about making that dream visible for everyone to share. What a privilege, and what a way to make a living and this is the very best thing about what I do.

The worst thing is when people don’t understand the dream.

I get frustrated when I finish a piece of work, everyone says they are happy and then the client or the agency (or both) set about secretly trying to “improve” on this and end up wrecking the work. When the film goes on air the buck stops with the director… if your film ends up a turkey the only question people ask is “who directed that?”

The industry is full of egos and often everyone wants to make their mark and make a difference… this is not always a positive thing.

MOFILM:  What’s the proudest moment of your career to date?  Is there something in particular that still resonates as a real personal success?

Harvey: I have so many great moments. I have worked with some incredible people and created some wonderful work that has touched people.  I get a thrill when my boyfriend shows off my work to his friends or when my parents and family boast about me when they think I am not listening. I love it when people say that they enjoy what I create, it somehow makes me feel validated.  Having said that I guess that I am proudest of the fact that I am still here and still being asked to make film and constantly work on exciting projects.  As much as it pains me to quote Ronan Keeting, I think he is absolutely right in saying that “life is a rollercoaster”.  There are always ups and downs, highs and lows, but still being here and being a player in the in the industry is a fabulous thing.

MOFILM:  Could you tell us a little about what it’s like when things don’t go how you’d like them to?  It seems like keeping the balance between running a smooth set, to one that descends into pure chaos can be quite precarious at times – any moments that drove you mad at the time, but with the safety of distance can be looked back and laughed at?

Harvey: Every shoot is a balancing act between success and chaos. Nothing ever runs absolutely smoothly. There is NEVER enough time or money to do what you really want to do.

Part of the pleasure comes from the angst and the pain.

Good design is about finding a great solution to any problem. These are often about budget and time, but no film ever comes with a price tag or an explanation of “wow he shot this in 3 hours and on no budget” it is judged as either good or not. When you do something that is perceived as good then I still get that rush.

MOFILM:  Who/what has been the biggest influence on your career in creative terms – do you have a creative ‘hero’, it doesn’t have to be just one person…

Harvey: Everything inspires me: people, travel, books, other films, models, actors, and friends to name a few. There are so many to choose from!

I guess the early influences are the ones from my youth. I was born in South Africa in a time before TV. My dad was obsessed with films and we used to have film nights at home in the lounge with a makeshift silk screen and a massive projector. It was really exciting and film nights were magical.

I first saw a television set when I was 6 years old when we immigrated to London, and it blew my mind! It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen… and then 6 months later I saw TV in COLOUR and I nearly exploded.

It was truly amazing, I saw a cartoon called “Stop The Pigeon” and the colours were just mesmerising.

MOFILM: Finally before you consider something drastic, a couple of quick ones – Favourite Film?

Harvey: The list would just go on too long. I have a huge back catalogue and every year new films get added on.  My tastes are so varied, I love action thrillers, worthy arty films, costume dramas, strange foreign subtitled films, animation, romantic comedies… and I LOVE a musical!

MOFILM: Who would you invite to your ideal dinner party?

Harvey: Friends and family. Boring but true. This is not to say I wouldn’t want to meet the great and the good to work with, but a dinner party is when I relax and want to be with the ones I love.

MOFILM: Do you have any outstanding creative ambitions?

Harvey: To still be here, making films and adding something beautiful into the world….

And I want world peace…. and a pink pony…  and to bake a cake out of rainbows and smiles and we’d all eat a piece and be happy!

Many thanks to Harvey for speaking to us then, hope you’re all well, and as the man said, be happy!


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