A singular focus

Corvallis cinematographer Sean Brown with his RED Scarlet-x motion picture camera that he is using on his documentary project about Jagat Lama. Brown will travel to Kumari in Nepal in March to finish shooting the documentary. (Andy Cripe | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Andy Cripe

Sean Brown builds a filmmaking career far from the Hollywood spotlight

Corvallis might seem an unlikely launching pad for a filmmaking career, but Sean Brown is giving it his best shot.

Brown grew up in New York City, where he had some success as a child actor, landing parts in stage productions and commercials and coming close to snagging a role in a major motion picture (“I had three call-backs for ‘Home Alone’”).

As a young man he came West, settling in Corvallis in 2004. Since then, he has pieced together a career for himself in video production.

Brown is employed as the technical director at Corvallis Community Access Television. He also gets a fair amount of work as a freelance cinematographer, mainly on commercials.

But his primary focus these days is on making documentaries and other feature films, either through his own company, 117 Productions, or in partnership with others.

He’s made a half-dozen feature-length films of his own so far, starting in 2006 with “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” an hourlong documentary on his adopted hometown.

Now he’s working on one of his most ambitious projects to date, serving as lead cinematographer on a documentary with the provisional title of “Kumari: The Jagat Lama Story.” The film chronicles the efforts of a Nepalese man to bring modern medical facilities to Kumari, the remote region where he grew up.

It’s a collaborative undertaking being organized by Mountain Leadership Institute, a Portland-based guide service that runs Himalayan expeditions. Brown got involved through another Portland outfit, a group of photographers and filmmakers called the Freesolo Collective.

With a budget cobbled together from corporate sponsorships, crowd funding and individual donations, Brown and three other filmmakers will travel to Nepal on March 6. Among other things, they plan to shoot footage of the grand opening of a new health clinic in Kumari.

Proceeds from the film, slated for completion in April 2014, will help pay for teacher salaries in Kumari.

“We want to educate the world, and we want to educate Kumari, too,” Brown said.

Making the film will be part of Brown’s education, as well. It will be his first foray into international filmmaking and should be a nice addition to his resume, possibly leading to even bigger and better opportunities.

“This is a big step for me and for a lot of us on this film,” Brown said. “We’re hoping to grow as filmmakers, and we’re hoping to have our story reach as many people as we can.”

Despite the challenges of being a filmmaker so far outside the Hollywood orbit, Brown plans to stay in Oregon and continue to make Corvallis his home base as long as he can keep making the films that matter to him.

“I’m not looking to be anyone who ever goes to L.A. or anything like that,” he said, “but I am looking to be someone who makes a difference.”

Got an idea for a “Story Next Door” profile? E-mail your suggestions to news@gtconnect.com, with “Story Next Door” in the subject line.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

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Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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