Simon Mark-Brown began his screen career in 1987, buying props for TV commercials. He worked his way up to set dressing and art directing for adverts and feature films, including Ruby and Rata and The Footstep Man. In 1990, Mark-Brown set up his own production company, Republic Films, where he directed hundreds of commercials. His first short film Going Down followed in 1995. Later he made two feature-length documentaries about musicians: The Secret Life of John Rowles and The Sun Came Out. His first feature The Catch was released in 2017. Two years later he co-directed wine doco A Seat at the Table.
Working on Vincent Ward's The Navigator was like a prison sentence of hard labour. I swore to never make filmmaking so hard for myself. And I haven't — I shot a feature in 10 days. Simon Mark-Brown
When Frenchman Daniel Le Brun moved to New Zealand in the 1970s, he decided the wine was "nothing short of garbage". Fast forward nearly 40 years later, and Kiwi vino has gained respect and prestige around the globe; especially Marlborough's sauvignon blanc. A Seat at the Table asks whether Aotearoa wine truly deserves its top table status. The film provides a visual feast of wineries in France and New Zealand. Interviewees include English wine critic Jancis Robinson and wine wholesaler Stephen Browett. The film premieres at the 2019 NZ International Film Festival.
Feature film The Catch follows Scotsman Brian (Nicol Munro) – a hard up builder under pressure from his ex – and his mate Wiremu (Billy’s Tainui Tukiwaho). The two vie for a $50,000 kitty in a Kaipara fishing contest. A potentially prize-winning snapper bites the hook, only it is three days early. Inspired by a true story, The Catch was written by Glenn Wood and directed by advertising veteran Simon Mark-Brown, who billed it as a "comedic eco-drama". The self-funded film was shot over 11 days with the help of locals; it debuted in New Zealand cinemas in summer of 2017.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
One of a select few Kiwi dramas about filmmaking, The Footstep Man centres on a man whose job is creating footsteps and sound effects for movies. Lonely, toiling under a demanding director, Sam (Brit Steven Grimes) gets trapped between real life and reel life. Cinematographer Leon Narbey’s second movie is a portrait of the strange pressure cooker of creating films, a luminous film within a film — with Jennifer Ward-Lealand as muse to painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — and a reminder that for all the technology involved, moviemaking is about the human touch.