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The Work That Made Me: Corey Brown


Framestore's executive creative director on his love for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dorothy's first steps into Oz and the project that changed his career

The Work That Made Me: Corey Brown

An experienced and highly respected VFX supervisor and creative collaborator, Corey joined Framestore's New York studio in a managerial and mentoring role. His focus is on developing all creative aspects of the advertising business, partnering with artists and supervisors, and overseeing projects. With over 25 years of industry experience, including the last 12 at The Mill in New York, he has worked on high-profile projects such as Chanel No.5's 'You're the One That I Want' directed by Baz Luhrmann, Jameson's 'Iron Horse' by John Hillcoat, Porsche's 'Compete' by Mark Jenkinson, and FDA's anti-vaping campaign 'Epidemic' by Darren Aronofsky.

Corey’s diverse interests, ranging from puppetry and fine art to stop-motion and real-time engines, make him a uniquely abstract problem-solver. Beginning his career as a Flame Artist in New Zealand, he has gained experience across multiple countries, having worked in Australia, London, and New York.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Corey> How do I filter my massive media consumption into such a definitive answer?

While not strictly a music video, Talking Heads Stop Making Sense (1984) was definitely a tangible moment for me, I don’t think my 12-year-old self fully appreciated the scope of creativity that went into that production when I first saw it, but there was something magical that reset my expectations of what a performance could be. I was also heavily influenced by Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, from the wit of his writing style to his fundamental philosophies, and I still quote him religiously.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

Corey> That’s easy… Labyrinth (1986) I wore out a VHS copy of the behind the scenes documentary and was just hooked. For some reason the puppetry felt more tangible than all the complex VFX in Star Wars, and if I had known for a second that it was actually a real career I could pursue, I would have.  It didn’t occur to me for a long time.

I started thinking more about career options when, while studying at the Otago School of Fine Art, I saw Peter Greenaway’s 'Prospero's Books'; it was such a ground breaking visual treat, and blurred the lines of film and fine art, using a Quantel Paintbox to create digital wonders that heavily influenced the direction of my own work.

The creative work that I keep revisiting…

Corey> There’s a few go-tos that I talk about constantly.

The first is Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990). It’s just a genius way of reimagining an existing story, literally turning Hamlet on its head.

Peter Greenaway’s Drowning By Numbers (1988) – another complex and multi-layered work of art, with so many stories within stories.

There’s a shot in The Wizard of Oz (1939) I make reference to ALL the time – when Dorothy first steps into Oz, a sepia-toned Dorothy opens the door of her sepia house to reveal the magical and fully technicolour Oz. One shot with no cuts. The solution was so simple, it’s genius. A stand-in Judy Garland is painted in shades of sepia (along with the interior of the house) and filmed in full colour; so appears to match the first scenes of the film. As the camera moves into the full colour Oz, the real Judy Garland steps out in full colour. I love looking for these simple solutions to every job.

Finally, Spike Jonze’s IKEA Lamp commercial from 2002 is perfectly executed storytelling, bold, creative, emotional, all with inanimate objects. It’s a great example of the power of good direction and really smart creative.

My first professional project…

Corey> My first project was a title sequence for a local New Zealand real-estate-themed TV show. I was just learning Flame and it was the first real opportunity I had to work with the software. Just saying, the expectations weren’t high, and they were barely met.

The piece of work that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

Corey> I think ‘angry’ is too harsh a term, but there have been a lot of very frustrating jobs – the ones you really go that extra mile for, but end up being completely unappreciated.

I’ve also been lucky to have never felt forced to work on a project I was morally opposed to, but those do exist out there in the world.

The piece of work that still makes me jealous…

Corey> I like to look at the beautiful work that others produce as inspiration to drive my craft forward rather than seethe and fester quietly.

The creative project that changed my career…

Corey> That’s a tough one as there are so many steps in the journey of a career, but I’d say it was the one that introduced me to London – the 2004 Will Young UK arena tour. Michael Gracey had just completed a music video with Will and was invited to direct his stage performance as well. Which, of course, included a bunch of huge screens and a LOT of content. A large part of the job was built in Sydney, but there was a point when the whole project needed to move to London for finishing and rehearsals. I was part of the core team who packed up a box of tape archives and flew out to the UK to set up shop at The Mill’s studio in Soho.

Apart from being an incredible experience in itself, it was also an awesome introduction to the London VFX world, to which I would soon return and be part of.

The work that I’m proudest of…

Corey> There are a few contenders, but I think I would have to go with Baz Lurhmann’s Chanel No.5 commercial ‘You’re the One That I Want’ (2015). It was a really demanding job, and a lot of fun on and off set. Baz has a really unique approach and I learned a lot from him and Catherine Martin. The proudest part of it all though is that it ended up being my own handwriting used to track into all the letters that Giselle reads. Really surreal to see something so personal on screen.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

Corey> Ha! SO many… too many. It’s usually individual shots rather than whole jobs – sometimes the plans change and we’re expected to make a ‘square peg fit into a round hole.’ We always manage to make it work, but know that kind of thing is built from compromise and could have been SO much better.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

Corey> The project I’m excited about now is probably my whole job! I have recently taken up a position as ECD at Framestore in New York, and it’s a really exciting challenge. Stepping into this role is not about an individual project anymore, but the entire New York advertising creative output. Luckily there is already a well-established and phenomenally talented team I get to work with. My challenge is to help get that talent out there for everyone to see. I’ve always been the quiet artist holding the brush, now I get to step out of my comfort zone and talk about how awesome everyone else is. Taking risks and shouting from a rooftop is definitely an affront to my delicate Kiwi sensibilities, but that’s what makes it exciting, right?

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Framestore - New York, Fri, 28 Apr 2023 10:41:28 GMT