20 For the 20th – Careers Profile Series: Jamie Brown
Jamie Brown – CEO & Executive Producer, Frantic Films
Jamie has produced many award winning film and television projects that have sold to over 130 countries around the world, including feature films, TV dramas and comedies, unscripted series and documentaries. Jamie is Past-Chair of the Board of the CMPA and was Chair of both Canada’s National Screen Institute and Onscreen Manitoba. Jamie currently sits on the Boards of the Manitoba Business Council and Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation. Jamie has instructed career coaching sessions for Film Training Manitoba’s above-the-line participants.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I started out as an entertainment lawyer in Toronto in the 1990s. When we had out first son, my wife and I decide to move back to Winnipeg to be closer to family and the cottage and I started producing at Credo Entertainment in 1999.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
My title reflects my role as CEO at Frantic, overseeing all aspects of our film and television business with offices in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Executive Producer part of my title comes from the role I take on our productions, acting much like the CEO for each individual show we produce. But in a small company, you have to wear many hats. I create shows, work with our scripted and unscripted development teams, give input on creative elements of all shows, court talent, pitch shows, etc. I love the variety and that no day is the same.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The growth of the industry, especially over the last few years, has been incredible. For a long time we seemed to stay in a range of total production each year, but we’ve recently broken out, exceeding a quarter of a billion dollars last year. That is just amazing!
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
Stay in law (kidding!). I’d actually tell myself to enjoy the ride a bit more. There are constant pressures and goals here that drive things forward every day. But my job can also be a lot of fun and I get to work with truly amazing people. So I’d say – worry a bit less and have more fun.
What advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
My eldest son is at McGill and wants to work in the industry. I tell him to think carefully about it and be willing to make a real commitment, because it’s a tough business. The rewards can be amazing and I think I have one of the best jobs in the world, but it’s very demanding and not nearly as glamourous as some might think.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? Is there anything new you’ve been into?
Great comedians are really inspiring to me. Jonny Harris who leads our series Still Standing is just incredible. He’s a host, an actor a writer and a stand-up comedian – and he’s great at all of them. When I see the reaction we get in the small towns he visits, it’s really heartwarming. On the unscripted side, I love high quality journalistic series such as Frontline (all my kids can imitate the Frontline announcer’s voice). And in film, my most memorable moment was watching the credits roll at the end of Schindler’s List and no-one in the audience moved – it was dead silent as everyone absorbed the impact of what we’d seen. It made me realise the incredible power of cinema.
There’s so many new shows coming out every week, it’s hard to keep up. But I’m a fan of Patrick Stewart and the original Star Trek: The Next Generation series so I’m looking forward to the new Star Trek: Picard series coming out soon.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
Nothing about me jumps out, but in thinking about a past experience I could share something I reflect on regularly. The first series I produced was called Pioneer Quest. I was so new (naïve) to everything I challenged a lot of accepted norms and we broke a lot of rules in the way we made that show. Twenty years later, I’m part of the orthodoxy and have internalised all the “rules”. So I try to remind myself to challenge thinking about the way things have to be done and try to question whether that is really true. It’s also helpful now and then to get people from outside the industry to challenge our assumptions.
Is there a film technician or filmmaker that you would really like to work with and why?
There are many, but top of the list would be Ron Howard. He is such a consummate professional with one of the longest and most successful careers in the business I can “Imagine”. And he really comes across as a genuinely nice guy (which counts for more and more the longer I work). I’m also a big “Arrested Development” fan so hearing more about the making of that series would be fun.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Ten years is about how long I think I can keep up the pace in a role like I have now, so by then I hope to be making a career shift. I’d still like to stay in the industry and I enjoy mentoring and teaching (I was once in Teachers’ College) so instructing at a university is something I could really enjoy.