Drew L. Brown

By Linnda Durre’

Linnda Durre'

Drew L. Brown won the Gold Medal Student Academy Award, given by AMPAS – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and at 21 is already an Oscar winner! What a thrilling way to start a career as a filmmaker!


His winning entry, among eight finalists, was the 14 minute dramatic short film entitled, “Person”, which he shot without dialogue and only with music. He played multiple roles in the cast and crew – he was the male lead, and the writer, director, producer, editor, composer, and sound editor.  Quite a multi-tasker!  It sounds like Drew’s version of “Multiplicity” starring Michael Keaton!


The film is about a teenager who attempts to resolve the internal conflict she has carried through her life in hopes to understand the person she truly is.  Rita Manyette played the mother, Victor Jones played the father, and Drew played their teenage child.


“Person” was shot by DP Zane Hall, who also was the AD on the Jacksonville shoot. The executive producers were Orlando Jarquin and Ramona Ramdeen, with Victoria Lover as associate producer, Hillary Warren as makeup artist, Julia Baker as art director, Keisha Burr as costumer, and Samantha Strickland the choreographer.


The AMPAS Student Awards ceremonies were held on June 07, 2014, at the Directors Guild (DGA) Theater on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. Presenting Drew with his award and his $5,000 check was the Oscar winning directing/producing trio of “Frozen,” including Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck and Peter Del Vecho, plus Oscar nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Heat), Adrian Grenier (Entourage, The Devil Wears Prada) and Nate Parker (Non-Stop, The Great Debaters).


There were more than a dozen colleges and universities around the world who were represented by the submissions. Drew was one of the nominees, and is now a graduate of The Art Institute of Jacksonville. There was an entire week of LA industry events, studio tours, and meetings with professionals.  As the week went on, Drew discovered that, at the age 21, he was the youngest of the 15 winners, most of whom were in grad school, had graduated from graduate school already, or were married with children.


An interesting “sign” for Drew and Ramona occurred when Ramona and Keisha were shopping at a store on Rodeo Drive and met the producer of the Slamdance Film Festival, who asked to see a screener.  She viewed it and said she wouldn’t change the movie at all.  She advised them to submit it to this year’s film festival, which they are doing.  As the adage goes, “Coincidence is God working anonymously.”


Rita Manyette, who played Drew’s mother in “Person” and who was at the Student Academy Awards for the ceremony in Los Angeles, commented about his talent. “Drew is phenomenal to work with and an amazing talent.  I met Drew when we did a play together called, “Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens,” in Jacksonville for the Five & Dime Theater.


I've also shot a PSA with Drew, and he seems to like to get me to cry for everything he does.  I've begged him to write a comedy next!” and she laughed.


Drew’s background has been about overcoming challenges, which, I’m sure, has made him very flexible, determined, and persistent.  He was born in West Palm Beach and will be celebrating his 22nd birthday this month on July 31st.  He began taking painting lessons in first grade and continued learning the craft.


Due to a great deal of chaos in his childhood, Drew lived with mother and father until he was about nine and in the fourth grade, when his parents divorced.  Throughout his childhood, his family moved about 12 times to various states including Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia because his father was a master woodwork finisher working on very expensive homes, boats and offices.  He stayed with his mother until he was about 12 and then moved in with his father and stepmother, who is and was a nurse and home school teacher, and who had two children from her previous marriage, so Drew had a stepbrother and stepsister. All in all, Drew moved about 12 times in his childhood.


In sixth grade, Drew joined the school band as a percussionist.  By the time high school arrived, Drew and his family had moved to Jacksonville, where he was interested in becoming even more artistically involved.  At that time, he believed he would pursue a career in the arts.  His heart was set on becoming a high school art teacher.


Drew began acting, dancing, and singing in 11th grade, and he also enrolled in television production classes.  He soon realized that filmmaking is the one art that can encompass the other arts within it.  It was then that his career goal changed from art teacher to filmmaker.


After graduating high school and a year at a local community college, Drew enrolled at The Art Institute of Jacksonville where he studied Digital Filmmaking & Video Production. Throughout his time at the school, Drew created crews of other students to work on films.  He wrote, directed, and edited a short film entitled, “Delusion”, which won The Art Institute of Jacksonville’s Build Your Own Dream Scholarship of $3,200.  He has since written, directed, and edited many short films, music videos, and commercials while also keeping a consistent clientele with his freelance work.


Drew said, “The film ‘Person’ is by no means autobiographical. I’ve questioned my sexuality before and I am gay. I did the film originally because I wanted to submit it to AMPAS in the ‘alternative category’ for students. I wanted to talk about a topic, not in a mainstream way, but as a subject matter that I could display in film.”


When we discussed the topic, Drew mentioned Laverne Cox in the TV series, “Orange is the New Black”.


There are other films, TV movies, and TV series about transgendered issues and characters – “Transamerica” starring an Oscar nominated Felicity Huffman; John Lithgow in “The World According to Garp”; Billy Baldwin’s lover Carmelita Rainer played by real life transgendered actor Candis Cayne on ABC’s “Dirty, Filthy Money”; and Olympia Dukakis in HBO’s “Tales of City,” just to name a few.


I also mentioned to Drew the documentaries and writings by and about precedent setting transgender pioneer Christine (formerly George Jr.) Jorgensen, one of the first globally covered transgendered operation when he flew to Sweden and returned to the U.S. as a woman. There is also award winning travel writer, Jan (formerly James) Morris and award winning composer Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos.


Drew continued, “We studied gender identity in psychology class.  Many people do not understand that gay and transgendered people don’t have a choice.  It’s how the brain works. It’s something that we’ve all heard about, but there has not been much visual representation in film.”


I also cited the sensitively written and filmed cable movie, “Normal,” with Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson, who play a married couple where the husband transgenders to a female and the effect that has on the marriage and family.


There was the stunning portrayal in the TV movie, “Second Serve” (1986) by Vanessa Redgrave as Renee Richards, formerly Dr. Richard Baskin, a leading tennis player and physician, who transitioned from a male to a female and caused much controversy in tennis circles when she entered in the women’s division.  There was protest that she was a genotype male rather than a phenotype female and should be disqualified from women’s competition.  In a lighter vein, some people suggested a new category in tennis competitions should now include, “Mixed Singles.”


I asked Drew, “How were your folks when you came out being gay?”


He responded, “When I did come out, they were very accepting, and they opened their eyes to LGBT community.” asked, “Why did you decide to do it as a silent film?”rts of my brains and I wanted to tell the story without dialogue.  This film is non-verbal.”


He didn’t want to restrict the film just to an English speaking audience.


He continued, “The film is internationally accepted.  There was no dialogue written at all.  We were improvising – as I was directing, I was giving my actors back story.  A short little bio for the father was that he was a jock and high school coach. The mother was very religious and the whole family was brought up in the church as was the lead character that I played.”


After this impressive award – a Student Oscar in the Alternative category - Drew and his producers are submitting “Person” to various film festivals – Savannah, Chicago LGBT, Slamdance, and many others. This is where “Without a Box” is indispensible and one of the many brilliant ideas of the tech age for filmmakers.


Besides winning the Gold Medal Student Academy Award in the Alternative category, Drew has won many awards while a student: The Art Institute of Jacksonville gave him two awards: in December 2012, he won the Frame-amzingly Best Filmmaking Award for directing and editing “To Love Again” with original music by Oliver Tank; and the same award, the Frame-azingly Best Filmmaking Award in October 2013 for the short film “Delusion” in July 2012, as the director and editor.


Drew was the winner of The Art Institute of Jacksonville’s Build Your Own Dream Scholarship in July 2013.  He was given the Ryan Murray Outstanding Service Scholarship from the Middleburg High School Band in May 2010. The Clay County Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Spotlight on Education Award in April 2010, and Drew was also the recipient of the Florida Medallion Scholars Award in January 2010. Quite an impressive list of accolades for someone who just graduated with his BFA in Digital Filmmaking & Video Production.


Drew’s professional experience includes his current position at Nadia Ramoutar Productions, where he is currently working for one of his mentors as a camera operator, editor, production assistant and he co-shot and edited a feature length documentary.


Drew worked for CollabCreation Films for a year and two months. He was co-manager, head editor, cinematographer, and graphic designer.  He was the web administrator, and led the editing department by successfully editing the company’s most essential videos, trained interns and new associates, professionally filmed and captured live events, designed cover artwork for clients and  administrated the company’s online/social media sites.


He also worked for Alliance Media for four months as a director, cinematographer, editor, and DIT, where he directed and shot coverage of live events, as well as transferred, logged, organized, and compressed media files for them.


Drew credits three of his mentors in Jacksonville for giving him emotional and professional support: Nadia Ramoutar, Isaac Brown, and Ana Habib.


Nadia and Drew are working on a documentary and he’s the editor, entitled, “It’s Huge”, a film following five diverse obese men and their journey to lose weight. They are in post production, hope to be finished by the end of the summer, and will be submitting it to film festivals as well.


His next project is a documentary, called “Curtain of Secrecy,” which is his producer Ramona Ramdeen’s senior thesis project.  It’s about a famous Florida case in the 1950’s involving politics, an interracial adulterous affair, a subsequent pregnancy, drug addiction, mental hospitalization, and murder.


Drew is also writing his first feature length narrative script that he hopes to shoot later this year on location in Jacksonville.


His three mentors Nadia Ramoutar, Isaac Brown, and Ana Habib, all speak highly of him and his talent:


Nadia Ramoutar, Ph.D., stated, “Drew has been a joy to teach and mentor. He is a unique blend of creative and practical, innovator and rule follower. He has an incredible ability to tell stories as a visual artist and is also an outstanding actor, dancer and writer. Finding all these traits in one human being is rare - then wrap all that up in a caring humanitarian soul and you have a genius.”


She continued, “Drew is on top of all that a lovely, caring, kind and fun person. I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors. But Drew doesn't need luck - he knows the key to success in life is hard work. Drew is above all else a very industrious and resourceful young man.  Drew is a wonderful filmmaker and has a dynamic career ahead.”


Ana Habib, one of Drew’s film instructors, remarked, “Drew Brown is a talented all-around artist who is extremely creative, has a unique sense of style and a lot of rhythm, which makes his films interesting, beautiful, and flow like a melody. He uses storytelling in such an effective way that I believe he can actually have a positive influence on his audience. Due to his dedication and humbleness seeing the progress from his first film class to receiving a Student Academy Award has been a pleasure.”


And Isaac Brown, another of Drew’s instructors, wrote, “Drew is a versatile artist who puts his heart into everything he works on. He showed a level of dedication on his school projects that made him a joy to have in class. He is truly a renaissance man; and to top it off, he is a kind and humble human being. I have no doubt he will go far in this world.”


What accolades and accomplishments for someone so young and amazingly, Drew doesn’t have representation. To the savvy agent and agency who signs him, you’d better have producing, directing, writing, acting, and dance departments in your agency to handle this multi-talented young man!


I asked Drew if he went on the obligatory rounds of meetings in LA after the awards ceremony and he replied, “There was no time because I had to return to Jacksonville and go right into finals weeks at the Art Institute.”


I’m sure he’ll be back. So a shout out to the entertainment world - you have been alerted!  Drew L. Brown is a Gold Medal Student Academy Award winning filmmaker, director, producer, editor, actor, dancer, writer, artist, and awesome force of nature.


Drew’s IMDB listing is: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6475153/news?ref_=nm_phs_nw\


His Vimeo page is: vimeo.com/drewbrownfilms


And the Facebook page for his Student Academy Award winning film is: Facebook.com/personthefilm


Drew can be reached at drewlbrown@gmail.com and his cell is (904) 738-9272


©2015 Linnda Durre' , All Right Reserved