Anne Winn on Garrett Brown
Garrett Brown's career path intersected my own circuitous wanderings in the mid-sixties. I got a job writing in a Philadelphia ad agency where he had just been made agency producer.
Garrett was tall, handsome, a creative whirlwind, juggling interests in music and film, and, as I remember it now, his particular love was for visual and audio gadgetry. Very early he was into synthesized music and ways of using a camera to see things differently. We worked together often on TV commercials and developed a camaraderie based upon lots of joking at the expense of our older stodgier co-workers. Garrett was much quicker than I and it was an effort to keep up with his wide ranging wit. Early, I found laughter was a great cover when I wasn't quite up to the fast comeback and had to stall for time. Besides he was wickedly funny.
"Laughter was a great cover ... besides he was wickedly funny."
He was also a great salesman. I wrote one commercial for a men's cologne, which he parlayed into a jaunt to England, where he got a top-flight animator and a wonderful composer to turn the spot into an award winner.
When the agency was sold to a New York firm, Rumrill-Hoyt, I didn't want to move again, so I went to work for my friend, Arnie Roberts, who was starting his own shop. I worked for 1/2 salary on the condition that I could make my own hours and never attend another meeting.
It was Arnie's idea for Garrett and I to do some ad lib radio spots for an upscale men's clothing store. He'd heard our banter at the agency and thought we were funny. Surprise! They were a hit.
Garrett had an office one floor below ours and built a studio for us to record in. He and I did lots of spots for local banks, restaurants, etc., but all the while this was just a sideline. He was also directing commercials, doing wonderful shorts for Sesame Street, and really just doing radio commercials to finance his inventing efforts, which finally emerged as the Steadicam, that wonderful camera leveling device that enables a cameraman to move with the action without laying dolly tracks. It was a real breakthrough. And I got to watch the evolution to its final Oscar-winning form.
"Garrett finally had to choose between doing radio spots or shooting on major motion pictures in exotic locales for Academy Award winning directors. Some choice!"
Our commercial work had won a number of awards and we had completed a series of network spots for Kodak. At the same time the demand for Steadicam also increased and so Garrett finally had to choose between doing radio spots or shooting on major motion pictures in exotic locales for Academy Award winning directors. Some choice!
Then residual checks began showing up in my mail. Before we had stopped working together, Molson had hired us to do some radio demos. They sat in someone's drawer for five years and then, as they were moving offices, someone else listened to our stuff again, loved it, aired it and the rest, as they say, is history. They made us an offer which was so good even Garrett got lured back into the work, and we did spots for Molson and American Express and others for the next 13 years.
"Garrett continues to amaze and amuse ... and all I can do is laugh, still."
We continue to ply our trade as writers, producers and voice-over talents (our latest client is Wingate Inns), and Garrett continues to amaze and amuse me with the breadth of his interests and the speed of his wit. And all I can do is laugh, still.