Do What You Love and Never Stop Shooting: An Interview with Russell Brownley, Filmmaker

Field Notes: Russell Brownley, Filmmaker

"I just love being invited into other people's worlds. And treating that with lots of respect. And then, hopefully, eloquently trying to tell their stories."

Russell Brownley was drawn to filmmaking by his love for surfing and storytelling. Combined, the two have led Brownley all around the globe, capturing waves and hours of footage, and sharing them with the rest of the world. Recently, Brownley made a short film called My Saturday Morning, about professional surfer and  friend, Mikey Temple, who doesn’t let a little snow -- or a serious heart condition -- stop him from doing what he loves.

Drawn to this inspirational story and his impressive collection of work, we caught up with Brownley to talk about My Saturday Morning, how to build a career out of what you love and where it all began for the adventurous filmmaker.


What's your story and how did you first get into filmmaking?

Russell Brownley: I got into filmmaking in the early 2000s -- I went to college for documentary storytelling. I just had a real passion to travel. I've also been a surfer my entire life, so, I think that those two things kind of came together. And, I found that with surfing I had a really unique perspective on stories in different countries and things like that.

And then from there, it went into more of a pure documentary filmmaking kind of approach, then it turned into some branded content, commercials and things like that. I love telling stories about interesting people, my friends, inspiring people, the whole nine yards. That's where it comes from and is kind of translating into a lot of the work I do now.

I feel like you being a surfer directly ties into some of the projects you've worked on, specifically Mikey Temple's story. You probably had to be in the water with him and be able to keep up with him while you were filming, right?

Yeah, yeah. It's funny because I work as a commercial director a lot. We also do a lot of cuts for branded content, like short documentary kind of projects. There are a few projects I've done over the years where being familiar with the ocean has definitely helped me out.

I actually used to surf in contests with Mikey way back. He's really created a great surf career for himself and finally we got the opportunity to not only work together, but creatively tell his story. It was so much fun to get back in the water with him, float in 40 degree water for three hours. I'm from the east coast originally, so it was kind of nostalgic to be freezing my butt off. I definitely prefer the warmer waters of the west coast and the tropics, though.

With surfing, so much of it is weather dependent. Ironically, when you shoot in the winter, you kind of want the nasty weather. The last day we were slated to fly out and we actually changed our flight because we saw a snow storm coming in. So, that's how we kind of got the snow story put in as well..we made the most of it.

How did you take a long story like Mikey's and consolidate it into just a few minutes?

I actually got into filmmaking more on the editorial side. Nowadays, I have some great editors, like Pat Stubborn -- who I've known probably since I was 15 -- who edited the piece. I like to work very closely with editors, but I also like to hand off the a lot of the creative, because, I’ve found with documentary work, is that when you're directing in the field, sometimes it's not a good idea to stay too close to it in your edit, because you might try to cut it the way that it really happened.

I like to work with a really great editor because I feel like he or she can see things that I can't -- they're not as emotionally attached because they weren't there. That's kind of the way that we can meet together -- I come to him with a vision and then he can help me bring it down to where it needs to be.

As far as finding the best moments, it's the hardest thing about editorial. We have probably close to an hour of really beautiful, cinematic water footage of Mikey. But maybe that'll surface someday.

A lot of your work has been outdoor and action sports focused. Is that just by coincidence?

Well, I grew up watching surf videos and skateboarding videos and going to punk rock shows. That's kind of the background that I come from. I looked up to guys like Ty Evans and Taylor Steele -- all these surf and skateboard filmmakers. So I think that's where I learned to do a lot of what I wanted to do. I never wanted to make Hollywood movies or anything like that. I wanted to go in the direction of shooting our world.

I did also go to school for documentary storytelling, so I wanted to be able to tell a story beyond the visual. That's what I'm still most passionate about. I love shooting surfing or skateboarding, or any kind of  action sports, because it's going to be part of a bigger story.

Even though I love these really grandiose snowboard movies that come out, I'd much rather tell a story about an interesting person that maybe just so happens to surf as well.

How do you find the subjects whose stories you tell? If you're working with a brand, do they come to you with a story or do you have the freedom to choose your own subjects?
 

It's right down the middle. I work with a lot of creative agencies in the commercial world. A lot of times they'll have a great casting setup. Or, sometimes, it's just people that I really admire or think have really interesting stories.

For instance, I did a story about my barber, Brett Ferris. We did a series called The Craftsman Project. He's a barber, a surfboard shaper, a father, a surfer. He's just a really interesting guy.

That was just somebody who I really liked that I wanted to give a voice, because I felt like no one had really done something interesting about this very, very interesting person. So, it's both. Sometimes, I'm given subjects to work with, and on the other side of it, I get to pitch people I think are worthy of a story to clients.
 

Do you feel like you're at a point where you're able to choose which projects and brands that you work on?

Not quite. I do pass on work from time to time, but I also kind of look for the best case scenario in a lot of jobs. Jobs will come through that aren't crazy interesting or maybe what I'm most passionate about, but I love working with the people that I work with. So, maybe if we do something that's not as interesting on the surface, we can make it up with the experience we create on set. So, it's kind of a balance.

I’ve definitely come into a place now where I want to do work that I'm interested in because I feel like the work just comes out better. However, I love what I do. So even whether it's a bank commercial or a film about a surfer, at least I get to make something, you know?

What was your first film project?

RB: Well, my first film project, I wouldn't actually call a full film project. It was a Civil Rights documentary. I was the DP and co-director with my friend, Jeremy Dean. We both went to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. He realized that Dr. King had spent a lot of time in St. Augustine and nobody really knew about that. So, we spent about a year or so making this documentary, straight out of college.

I just screened it the other day. Jeremy's still screening it. It’s basically a sociological examination of this small town in Florida, the Civil Rights Movement and then how it translates into the modern day...It's called, Dare Not Walk Alone.

If you could create your dream project, what would it look like? Or, have you already done it?

I haven't done my dream project. I've had some incredible experiences in my life. But, I know that the dream project for me would be telling a story that is going to inspire and spark passion in people, but then also involve some of my favorite people, causes and passions. It's kind of convoluted...I'm still kind looking for that. I've written treatments for some projects that haven't happened. I do know that the dream project is still out there.

What is one of the most memorable projects that you've worked on?

This past year, I did a short film with my friend Kahana Kalama. He's a Native Hawai'ian friend of mine who was going through a pretty tough time in his professional and personal life. He had decided to take a big part of his business back to Hawai'i -- his dad is also Native Hawai'ian, speaks Hawai'ian, and is really just an interesting person -- so, we went back and shot a film about Kahana going through this process of bringing his company back to Hawai'i, and he actually asked his dad to sing in Hawai'ian for the soundtrack.

That was a passion project. A lot of great friends helped me out on it to make it happen. For me, to catch someone in a very timely manner, in a very compromising time of life, was really, really awesome. I think that was probably one of my favorite jobs I've done in awhile. It wasn't a job, it was just a project that I was really passionate about.

If you could pinpoint the one thing that you love most about filmmaking. What would it be?

You know, I think getting out of my comfort zone and feeling vulnerable and having to work in that vulnerable place to tell a story is one of my favorite things. Whether that's freezing cold water in New York in the winter or a village in Rwanda, working with people who have overcome a genocide. I just love being invited into other people's worlds. And treating that with lots of respect. And then, hopefully, eloquently trying to tell their stories. I'm very passionate about that.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to make a living as a filmmaker?

Yeah -- don't try to make a living at first. Just do it, just grab a camera and go. Man, when I started, we didn't even have YouTube. We were barely on DVDs. You can just post videos every single day right now, it's amazing. And that's what I told a lot of guys, “Don't try to start a business, just shoot.” Grab cameras, shoot, shoot, shoot. And, don't take a vacation. Film your vacation. Get out there and just do as much as you can.

I'm going to Vietnam next week with my family and I'm more excited about taking photos of our adventures. Just document and tell stories as much as you can, that's my biggest advice. I think that if you want to make a career out of it then that'll just happen naturally.

Russell Browley captures the inspiring story of his friend, Mikey DeTemple, a surfer who overcomes a serious heart condition and continues to do what he loves, everyday.

Featured Marmoset Music:

"Precipice" by Analog Colors

 

 
 
Posted on March 27, 2017 .

First Ever Jackson 5 Recording Unearthed + Available for Licensing

Yes, that Jackson 5

In November of 1967, The Jackson 5 recorded their first song ever and the world would never be the same. The recording, “Big Boy,” features nine-year-old Michael Jackson flaunting his already flawless vocals while his brothers play all the instruments and sing backup vocals. Steeltown Records, a small independent label in Gary Indiana, released the group’s debut single, and it was a regional hit, selling over 10,000 copies. A mere one year later, The Jackson 5 went on to sign with Motown Records and become the international superstars we know them as, changing the landscape of music forever.

Serving as a relic of musical history, the master recordings of “Big Boy” were thought to be lost for over 25 years. In 1995, the Jackson’s family friend and Steeltown’s former co-owner, Ben Brown, discovered the tapes in his kitchen pantry and reissued the single via Inverted Records. However, until 2014, the only way this recording could be heard was via CD, 45 or cassette tape -- none of which were easy to come by. Now, thanks to our partnership with Secret Stash Records, “Big Boy” has found a home at Marmoset and is available for listening and licensing. We are incredibly humbled to represent this rare and iconic song, and can’t wait to see the creative ways it’s used with picture. Listen to the original 1967 recording below.

Posted on March 24, 2017 .

Marmoset Presents: Nasty Women, Careers in Music and Film

If there’s one thing the past six months has shown us, it’s that the women of our country refuse to be silent in the face of adversity. From gathering millions strong in streets across the world to getting sh*t done behind the scenes, it’s clear that the influence and effort of all kinds of women is woven into the fabric of our nation.

To  celebrate the impact of the amazing women in our industry, Marmoset’s next Artist Education Event, “Nasty Women, Careers in Music and Film,” will showcase three exceptional female pioneers of the music licensing world. We’re excited to host this interactive experience at Marmoset HQ on Thurs. April 13th and hold a discussion on creativity, collaboration and what it means to be a woman in the industry, led by Marmoset’s own Original Music Producer, Katy Davidson. 


Meet our guests of honor...

Dalia Burde, Founder, Filmmaker Executive Producer, Avocados and Coconuts (San Francisco) -- Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dalia has been in production for 20 years and has worked on everything from large multi-million dollar budget films and brand campaigns for Apple, Google and more to cheeky sit-coms, documentaries and webisodes. Before founding the wildly successful creative agency, Avocados and Coconuts, she headed up the in-house production department at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners as an Executive Producer.

Morgan Thoryk, Creative Music Supervisor, TBWA\Media Arts Lab (Los Angeles) -- Over the past 10 years, Morgan has dipped her toes in nearly every aspect of the music industry, from a tenure as a Senior Music Supervisor at creative agency, mcgarrybowen, to overseeing creative sync licensing at Capitol Records. Her variety of experience in the field lends to her current role as Creative Music Supervisor at TBWA/Media Arts Lab, where she works with a small, dedicated team to curate the music selection featured in Apple brand campaigns.

Jocelyn Michelle Brown, Senior Music Producer, Leo Burnett USA (Chicago) -- Jocelyn Brown is a music supervisor, producer, DJ, musician, writer and conduit. A native of Pensacola, Florida, she has championed music professionally since 1998, starting as a college radio disc jockey at Florida State University. She’s pretty much done it all -- working for independent record labels, music production houses and advertising agencies, all whilst playing records as DJ Clerical Error in her free time. Currently working as a Senior Music Producer for Leo Burnett USA, she still somehow finds time to contribute written and compiled works to Impose and Rookie magazines and serve as a consultant for the International Anthem Recording Company.

Katy Davidson, Original Music Producer, Marmoset (Portland) -- Leading projects for brands like Apple, Old Spice and Google, Katy’s creative portfolio is as impressive as her own musical career -- touring with artists like YACHT and Gossip, as well as performing and recording under her monikers Dear Nora, Key Losers, and Lloyd & Michael. As Original Music Producer at Marmoset, Katy is an encyclopedia of musical wisdom


Location: Marmoset HQ -- 2105 SE 7th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214

Date: Thursday, April 13th

Time: 6:30 – 9:00 PM

Due to the size of our space, a limited number of seats are available for this event. If you’d like to join us, please be sure to RSVP.  We hope to see you there!

Posted on March 22, 2017 .

13 Marmoset Artists Take the Stage at Treefort Festival

Marmoset artist, East Forest, will be weaving ethereal soundscapes at Treefort Festival.

Marmoset artist, East Forest, will be weaving ethereal soundscapes at Treefort Festival.

Starting this Wednesday, March 22, thousands of music lovers will flock to Boise, Idaho for Treefort Music Festival, a five-day exhibition of emerging and established indie artists from across the globe. Considering our community is built on the guitar strums, home studios and overcrowded tour vans of independent musicians, quite a few of our artists will be taking the stage at Treefort.  

From STRFKR’s new-wave electronic rock to Y La Bamba’s bilingual folk-fusion, Marmoset’s representation at Treefort covers nearly every genre you can imagine. If you’re lucky enough to attend this magic musical experience, be sure to check out our artists in action and come drink for free with us and Eleven PDX on Friday and Saturday (full list of artists and event times below). If not, you can close your eyes, listen to this mixtape and imagine yourself swaying to the music in the City of Trees.

Dirty Revival

Friday: 9:30PM - 10:30PM @ Hannah’s

Sunday: 12:15AM - 1:35AM @ Tom Grainey’s

STRFKR

Sunday: 11:15PM - 12:45AM @ El Kora Shrine

East Forest

Friday: 4:00PM - 4:40PM @ Linen Building

Magic Sword

Wednesday: 10:00PM - 10:45PM @ El Korah Shrine

Friday: 9:00PM - 10:00pm @ Magic Sword + Boise

Hustle and Drone

Friday: 12:15AM - 1:15AM @ The Shredder

Polyrhythmics

Thursday: 11:30PM - 1:00AM @ Hannah’s

And And And

Thursday: 9:00PM - 9:40PM @ Linen Building

Hillstomp

Thursday: 11:45PM - 1:15AM @ The Reef

Y La Bamba

Sunday: 12:00AM - 12:40AM @ Nuerolux

Jared Mees

Saturday: 11:00PM - 11:40PM @ Nuerolux

Genders

Friday: 10:10PM - 11:00PM @ El Korah Shrine

There Is No Mountain

Saturday: 9:00PM - 9:40PM @ The District Saturday

The Lower 48

Saturday: 7:00PM - 7:40PM @ El Korah Shrine

Sapient

Friday: 10:15PM - 10:50PM @ The Reef

Music Industry Meetup Hosted by Marmoset and Eleven PDX

Fri: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM @ Nuerolux

Saturday: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM @ The Owyhee

Posted on March 20, 2017 .

Support Education + Community with Ural Thomas and The Pain

On Saturday, April 8th, Portland’s “Pillar of Soul,” Ural Thomas and his nine-piece band, The Pain, will bring their soulful blues to Marmoset in support of education, community and equality for the St. Andrews Nativity School.

Serving our community is the bottom line for us at Marmoset. Not only do we strive to take care of our family of artists and musicians, but we hope to foster growth and support in our broader community -- the families we see at the park, the strangers who smile at us on the bus, the friendly faces from the grocery store. We’re honored to host this benefit show for St. Andrew’s Nativity School, Portland’s tuition-free middle school for children who live at or below the poverty line.

St. Andrew’s serves 86 students from the Portland area, offering them a 100 percent scholarship-based program, covering educational needs and beyond. Because of the individual attention that comes from small class sizes, many of the Nativity School’s students are able to advance five grade levels in just three years -- setting them not only equal to their peers, but ahead of the curve.  

After attending St. Andrews, 92 percent of students go on to graduate high school and 80 percent finish college, allowing for a future that these students may never have imagined.

This year, Portland fixture and soul-legend, Ural Thomas, will be headlining the event. Thomas’s lengthy career includes a breadth of classic soul tunes and performances alongside James Brown, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder.

We’re more than proud to support this amazing cause and we hope you’ll join us, Ural Thomas & the Pain, and fellow members of the Portland community in supporting equal education and opportunity with a night of exceptional music, food, beer and company.

Posted on March 17, 2017 .

Welcoming 15 Extraordinary Artists from Village Green Recordings

Sometimes searching for the perfect ambient song can lead you down a rabbit hole of no return, left with nothing but ears echoing with airy synths and maybe a mind full of rumination. Village Green Recordings is the cure to this conundrum. Curating some of the brightest minds in cinematic composition and herding them into one sonic sanctuary, Village Green is changing the way we think about classical and electronic music. We couldn’t be happier to welcome these incredible musicians to our roster -- meet the artists of Village Green Recordings.  


Scoring over 130 films and working with recording artists like Patti Smith, Nick Cave and Elliott Smith, Matt Dunkley is seated among the few magnificent, prolific composers of our time. We are honored to have a piece of his prestigious songography in our collection.

With an extensive background in scoring for picture -- including Florian Hoffmeister's 3° kälter and Antonia Bird's The Village -- Adrian Corker produces deep, cinematic compositions that move audiences and complete narratives.

 

Rumored to be an inspiration for the likes of Radiohead and Steve Reich, Ben Chatwin’s music has been described as making “dense and dark ambient compositions that aspire to take in the beauty and chaos of the cosmos.”

 

A prolific composer, David John Sheppard uses his virtuoso ability to master nearly any instrument to create countless compositions ranging across cinematic, electronic and organic genres. He also crafts whimsical creations under the moniker Snow Palms.

Angèle David-Guillou’s mastery of her instrument manifests itself in her vast collection of elegant, piano-based compositions, occasionally graced by her angelic, captivating vocals.

 

A knack for experimentation and a fusion of world influences is what sets London-based composer Chris Morphitis apart from him peers. From scoring a Ridley Scott film to working with Kenya's Owiny Sigoma Band, his experience and talent spans far and wide.

 

Mirroring the calm serenity that characterizes the quiet English countryside where they reside, Anna Rose Carter and Ed Hamilton blend classical, ambient and electro-acoustic influences to create ambient gold.

 
 

From collaborating with Radiohead to winning the PRS Foundation New Music Award for his work on the art installation, The Fragmented Orchestra, John Matthias's compositional excellence shines through in his breadth of folk, ambient and orchestral work.

Tim and Rupert, the mysterious duo behind Soft Error combine slow-burning sounds of the digital world with grainy synths and soft waves of piano.

 

Much like the twinkling rain showers that graze his town of Bristol, England, Ryan Teague’s atmospheric compositions invoke pensive rumination and a slight air of mystery.

 

Hill uses unconventional methods of instrumentation -- including typewriters, wildlife recordings, and piano notes altered by screws, nails and cardigans (yes cardigans) -- to craft his cinematic compositions. His music has been used to help with stories for Doctor Who, The Genius Behind and Beyond.

 

Born in Moscow, Ilya Beshevli creates beautiful classical piano compositions, following in the tradition of the brilliant Russian composers before him.

 

Pete Astor and Dave Sheppard of Ellis Island produce experimental, progressive sounds from the ‘70s and beyond, leaning heavily on the sounds of Krautrock, rock ‘n’ roll’s psychedelic West German step brother.

 

Hobden, the violinist for the indie-rock group Noah and the Whale, and James, an award-winning music producer who's worked with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Two Door Cinema Club and Bloc Party, join forces to create gorgeous orchestral arrangements.

Posted on March 14, 2017 .