By Eileen O’Brien, CFVA Board Member
CFVA Member: Gewan Brown - Partner, MP&E Equipment Rental Colorado
As I was leaving the offices of MP&E after a long and fascinating interview with Gewan (pronounced with a “hard G” sound), he shared with me that a few years ago he had purchased an old Macintosh similar to the original he had as a child. He explained that inside the plastic case, as in many of the early models, are the signatures of the original Apple programmers - you know, those “boring nerdy guys” named Steven Jobs, Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, Jef Raskin and the rest of the historic team. “I just had to have it as a souvenir of my lifelong passion for writing code.” Believe it or not, to me, this “nerdy” action pretty much sums up and is symbolic of Gewan Brown and his truly adventurous and circuitous journey to his current position as a partner of one of the only all-in-one rental houses in Colorado, MP&E. More about the company later, but for now, let’s focus on this amazing life (in fact, the name Gewan actually means “life” in Hindi) and how he got to where he is today, and how it all relates. It’s all in the details.
Gewan was born in Trinidad and Tobago, where his parents met while his dad was a missionary and his mom, who knew sign language, had travelled there to work with the deaf. When he was two, they moved to Caracas, Venezuela. Gewan grew up there until 1994, when he moved to the U.S. to start college. Three important things happened during his childhood in Caracas. When he was around 8 years old, someone donated a video camera to his father’s mission, while at the same time, he was introduced to the world of Macintosh computers, and then in 7th grade he met his future wife, Mariella. All three of these events would define his life. “I grew up with that camera in my hand” he explained when I asked about the donated camera. “Dad didn’t know how to use it, so he handed it to me and gave me the job of documenting the mission work which consisted of church outreach, medical aid, and natural disaster relief.” So there was plenty of dramatic subject matter. This was the beginning of his interest in moving pictures. It was at that same time that he discovered computers. “My dad got us kids, who were pretty much “super nerds”, one of the original Macintosh’s with Photoshop 1.1! It wasn't long before I got interested in programming and by seventh grade I wrote some code to help me with my geometry homework!”
So you can see how I saw that the purchase of the Mac related to this “super nerd’s” life, as he continued throughout his childhood, working with cameras, photoshop, and writing code. While it seems unrelated at a glance, he decided to study chemistry at Texas A&M where he received his B.A. in1999. “I was always fascinated by the arts and the freedom to create, but I wanted to challenge myself with sciences which is also creative in its own way.” It was a magical moment when as he was graduating, he was offered a job on campus at the Bio-Complexity research group. Through a grant, they were meant to virtually recreate a living cell incorporating 3D technology. During that period, he also used the TCL/TK language to create a 3D elasticity and gravity plugin for one of the 3D platforms. He was then invited to SIGGRAPH, and it was at that moment in time that he found himself saying “Now I know what I want to do!” He realized he could mix and match all his studies and passions by blending science and art through 3D, visual effects and his childhood passion behind the camera. At A&M he was being persuaded to pursue a PhD in “Visualization Aided Research”, but the idea of spending a lifetime in a lab wasn’t what he “visualized” for his own life. “So I did a crazy thing...I turned down the PhD path and went to Full Sail in Florida. Because I had already been to a four year college, I was much more prepared for the self-driven work it took. I graduated valedictorian of my class with certificates in Film & TV Production and 3D Animation.”
Because he speaks fluent Spanish, jobs came from Univision, MTV Latino and other production entities. A move to L.A. was planned after Full Sail until Mariella discovered they would be expecting their first child. His parents now lived in Denver, and it was decided that a move to Denver was the better option for a growing family. He moved with only a few leads in Denver but continued to work his Florida connections with freelance 3D, motion graphics, visual effects and editing. His first Denver break came when he was hired to do visual effects for the first Colorado HD short, Cutthroat. In 2009, someone saw that work and he got a call that led to an opportunity to do graphics for Comcast narrowcasting. During this time, editing and building graphics, he built out a full post room and his partner started a small HD camera rental business that he was asked to manage along with his post work. It was the beginning of HD and most places were still skeptical and holding out on purchasing, so the rental business did well.
Through this opportunity, Gewan met all the folks with rental needs, so it was a no brainer to think about going this direction when in April of 2009, Dean at Film & Video Equipment Services Company (F/VESCO), the largest Denver rental house decided to close. There was a black hole in the community and Gewan was determined to fill it, but how? Through a family friend, he made the connection with Bryan Mayo, who started MP&E with rental houses in Dallas and Phoenix...”why not Denver, Gewan asked Bryan” and in 2010, with the addition of Scott Forbes from the former Film & Video house, MP&E Denver was born! These are the guys to go to if you need camera packages, lenses, lighting kits, grip trucks...their biggest customers are producing commercials, corporate work and independent films. MP&E recently provided all the equipment (including the ARRI Alexa Mini camera with ArriRaw, ARRI-Zeiss Master Prime lenses, and grip & electric including an 18k light sourced from the Dallas office) for the production of Gnaw, an indie horror film directed by Haylar Garcia. MP&E had helped Garcia on a previous film American Terror, so when they started planning Gnaw, they met and it was decided that MP&E would provide all equipment this time around.
Tax incentives for production in Colorado is one of the CFVA’s big issues. Asked about incentives, Gewan is quick to explain the importance of sustainability and follow up in order for the community to grow. “Incentives need to not just be for the immediate moment, they need to create long term growth and a sustainable environment for the community. If they provide support and aid for Colorado equipment suppliers, then we can justify more and better equipment in the state, which in turn that makes bringing more and higher profile productions to the state a reality. After a production has been incentivized, there must be oversight to make sure the money is being used to help local production crews and suppliers, not just out of state entities. This is essential to the growth of the industry in our state.”
So the young boy who began writing code on his Macintosh to help him do his homework has come full circle. Still using computers in every form, he edits and does graphics work, while at the same time providing a place for others to get the equipment they need to make art through science. “Everything is crossing over nowadays, even lenses have firmware.” Don’t you know the guys whose signatures appear inside the Mac case from all those years ago, would love to know how their equipment helped form the life and livelihood of this young “super nerd” all those many years ago!
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