As executive producer on HBO’s Emmy nominated “True Detective,” Richard Brown has had an exciting year. Born in Scotland, Brown began his career in the music industry working as a talent scout for Island Records and Geffen Records, before moving into the film world in the mid-90s, transitioning into the role of producer. He’s since gone on to produce films in America and the UK, and create and produce “The Directors Label,” a hugely popular DVD series exploring the work of influential directors like Michael Gondry, Jonathan Glazer and Spike Jonze. Though he’s currently in pre-production for the highly anticipated second season of “True Detective,” Brown recently emailed LASTBLOG from his Soho apartment in New York City, to talk about the runaway success of “True Detective,” the ways in which his role as producer allows him to collaborate with directors, and several of the exciting new projects he has in the pipeline.
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LASTBLOG: Now that True Detective has been such a huge hit, have any interesting new projects or partnerships presented themselves? Can you tell us anything about them?
Richard Brown: The success of TD has helped open up a new space in tv with less rules in terms of structure, format and approach – almost anything is possible now. TD was made as a kind of hybrid between film and tv and because it worked there’s now the possibility to experiment further with different ways of approaching tv. That’s exciting for anyone who is attempting to make distinct and original work – something which has become increasingly difficult in independent film over the past few years. Traditionally films are creatively driven by directors whereas tv series are driven by writers and producers. With TD we tried to do both – a real collaboration between a great writer and a great director. I think this is fertile ground for the future of tv and a way to bring more filmmaking into tv.
LASTBLOG: What attracted you to the role of producer when you were entering the world of film? What still attracts you to it now?
RB: The role of producer is often misunderstood or not understood at all outside the business. Put simply the main producer is usually involved in a project from inception to release, and the job involves overseeing all aspects of the process. You could compare it to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. It’s ultimately a collaboration with many different kinds of people, all of whom have specific skill sets and your job is to help create an ecosystem inside which they can all do their best work to make the film / series as good as it can be. Legendary British producer Jeremy Thomas once said that a great producer is one part artist, one part hustler and one part diplomat and I think that’s as good a description as any!
LASTBLOG: You’ve worked extensively with certain directors like Spike Jonze and Michael Gondry. Is there something that interests you about these directors or the director’s role in general?
RB: I love directors. Good ones are typically very intelligent and interesting people with expansive ideas and visions. The really great ones are rare, partly because it requires an unlikely confluence of characteristics inside one person. On the one hand a great director has to be an artist, and on the other an extreme pragmatist who can be an effective leader. And on top of it they must be experts in all aspects of filmmaking – including storytelling, writing, acting, cinematography, lighting, sound, music etc. It’s really a very difficult thing to direct something great!
“… the main producer is usually involved in a project from inception to release, and the job involves overseeing all aspects of the process. You could compare it to putting a jigsaw puzzle together” – Richard Brown
LASTBLOG: Are there any films or television shows that have particularly interested you recently? Why?
RB: Recent films I’ve loved include 12 Years A Slave, The Hunt, Her, Blue Is The Warmest Color, The Trip To Italy, Boyhood, Dallas Buyers Club, Under The Skin and Gravity. All amazing in their own right. But far and away my favorite two films recently are Paulo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty and Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Both those directors are extraordinary artists. I haven’t had time to see many of the current series’ but I particularly like House Of Cards and I think Mad Men in its entirety is a masterpiece, up there with The Wire and Deadwood as some of the greatest tv ever made.
LASTBLOG: Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on going forward?
RB: Specifically I’m working on several other series which will be made using a similar methodology to TD. One is called Snakehead and it’s a true crime story set in New York’s Chinatown which will be directed by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic / Syriana). Another is called Gemstone,written by the legendary James Ellroy. There is another series we’re putting together which takes place in 1970’s Rome and London – that one will hopefully be directed by Paulo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty).