THE DIRECTOR OF WELL-KNOWN TELEVISION ADS HAS TURNED DOGGED DETERMINATION INTO AWARD-WINNING HIGH ART.
You may not know his name, but you definitely know his work: Big Love’s title sequence, with Bill and his wives spinning away from each other on ice skates (“God only knows, what I’d be without you…”). Gabrielle Union in a claw-foot tub, slowly submerging beneath the water’s surface in the promo spot for BET’s breakout hit,Being Mary Jane. The cast of Six Feet Under lip-synching to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” while grocery shopping in the season four promo. Maurice Marable, the founder and creative director of Brim + Brew, has created countless iconic images on the small screen–from advertisements to opening credits, his project launches are often as memorable as the juicy plotlines of the iconic shows he has worked on.
Marable’s career technically started in Bahrain, of all places. It was while stationed there during Desert Shield in 1990, part of his three years in the Air Force, that he returned to a childhood dream. “As a kid, I was fascinated by commercials. I told my parents I wanted to go to school to make commercials, but they didn’t know what that meant, and I didn’t either, really. So I enrolled in the accounting program at Georgia State University instead. I hated it,” he says. He withdrew and followed his father’s steps into the military, which brings us to Bahrain. “Once you’re in the desert, in 115ºF heat, you start to think about what you really want to do. So I got out of the military and went to film school, back at Georgia State.”
Two years later, and just one semester shy of his spring 1993 graduation date, Marable begged his way onto the set of Drop Squad, which Spike Lee was in Atlanta executive producing. “When the movie was done, the producers asked me to drive a truck to New York City to drop off some office equipment. When I got there, they asked if I wanted to stay and work on the movie. I flew back to Atlanta, dropped out of school that Friday, packed up my apartment, and was back in time for work on Monday morning.”
Marable moved up quickly, helping to produce commercials and music videos, mainly working under Butch Robinson, Lee’s frequent production partner. “The highlight in that era was shooting a video [“They Don’t Care About Us”] for Michael Jackson in Brazil. That was awesome, crazy, and surreal,” Marable says.
One day while waiting for the subway and wondering where his next paycheck would come from, he saw a poster for HBO and thought, “Wow, that’s a cool company.” He applied for a job, which he didn’t get. But he did get a gig freelancing as a production manager in the creative services department, which crafts the commercials that entice us to watch. “I begged them to let me write and direct spots. Everybody kept telling me no. Until eventually somebody said yes,” he says. One yes turned into many, and in just two years, he went from a freelancer to creative director of originals, lodging shows like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and Entourage into the national consciousness with singular creative that garnered him an Emmy nomination among other awards.
Commercial clients like AT&T and Wells Fargo soon came calling, and after nearly burning himself out moonlighting on weekends, he left HBO to co-found his first company, Brown Bag Films, which ultimately didn’t survive the recession. But after a three-year stint as VP/Creative Director, Creative Services, at BET Networks he’s back on the entrepreneur’s path with Brim + Brew, launching shows like Emmy-winning Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man, Oxygen’s Preachers of LA, and Being Mary Jane, and kicking off seasons of HBO’s hit series Veep and The Newsroom. And he recently wrapped a shoot for John Oliver’s new HBO show, Last Week Tonight.
“Ownership started to be more and more important; I was tired of being a cog in a wheel. Brim + Brew is an extension of Maurice Marable, which means we take a personal stake in our creative,” says Marable, who opened shop in October 2012 with partner Gary Romano, executive producer and head of production. They moved so quickly, they didn’t even have time to create a website, riding a wave of reputation and results to secure clients.
The company takes its name from Marable’s ever-present hats (he has 50 or so, but is currently enamored with a gray newsboy model). “It’s rare to see me without a brim, and I like the idea of, ‘What’s brewing beneath it?’” he says. He and Romano do much of the work themselves, scaling up with contractors as projects dictate, enjoying the freedom that their work allows them to dive deep and control all aspects of a strategy, then move on to the next. Though the company has already enjoyed much success, Marable pushes for more. “My ultimate goal is to move from a boutique that brands broadcast, to one that brands everything. I want to be a creative shop that delivers content in all shapes, forms, and sizes,” he says. Between his inability to take no for an answer and his innate talent to get in his audience’s heads–and hearts–he’s well on his way.