Lights, Camera, Acadiana
● By Aimee Cormier
By Lyndsy Bradley | Photos Submitted By Marcus Brown
The executive producer of Believe Entertainment, a film production and consulting company, has amassed 64 acting credits, including roles in critically acclaimed films like “12 Years a Slave,” “The Great Debaters” and “Monster’s Ball.” He also coaches beginning to advanced acting classes for children and adults. And he’s not doing it in Hollywood; Marcus Lyle Brown’s work is done at home – in Acadiana. Brown lives in Lafayette with his wife Yvette, and their three children Andrew, Alexander and Ayden.
Brown, 44, who was born in New Iberia, cites “Star Wars” as the first ember of inspiration that sparked his acting career. He also credits Michelle Leblanc of Saint Thomas More Catholic High School for nurturing his abilities and Yvette, who was his girlfriend at the time, for encouraging him as an undergrad at LSU to do “what I loved to do and pursue an entertainment industry career.”
During his time in Baton Rouge, Brown took a role in Steven Soderbergh’s 1996 experimental piece “Schizopolis.” It was Soderbergh, director of acclaimed commercial Hollywood films like “Erin Brokovich” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” who put Brown’s career in perspective.
“Soderbergh and I were standing on a balcony in Baton Rouge and he said ‘You don’t have to be in Hollywood to make movies,’” Brown recalls. “That statement enlightened and challenged me to become a player in the industry from home.”
After receiving two bachelor’s degrees in communications and theatre, a master’s of fine arts degree in performance and working as a doctoral fellow at LSU, he returned to Lafayette and took up a post as one of the first faculty members at South Louisiana Community College in August of 1998.
Brown was appointed chair of arts and humanities at SLCC and functioned as faculty senate president; all while authoring and administrating workforce training programs that received more than $4 million in grant funds for film, music, as well and digital media production and development.
“Marcus began working consistently as an actor while at South Louisiana Community College,” says his wife Yvette. “Because he had so many auditions and was hired for feature films, television projects and commercials, he found himself requesting time off of work much too often. As a result, I suggested that this might be an opportune time to start our own company. So, we did!”
Brown says his work at SLCC established a successful entertainment industry production program, which was the catalyst for putting he and Yvette in touch with production companies interested in partnering with them.
“Yvette and I founded Believe Entertainment to serve as a liaison between private sector production activity, public sector students and resources to develop commercial content and workforce education programs simultaneously,” says Brown. “We continue to focus on providing our community with access to careers in the entertainment industry.”
Noted by the Louisiana Film Entertainment Association, Louisiana has hosted approximately 1,000 film and television projects since 2004 – the same year Believe Entertainment began.
“With regard to local economic development, 2014 marked Louisiana being ranked number 1 in feature film production across the United States,” Brown says. “To expand this achievement’s impact on our region and our community’s access to careers in this industry, the development of comprehensive, industry-engaged workforce education programs capable of achieving national recognition becomes paramount.”
In 2014, Believe Entertainment produced its first feature film, “A Sort of Homecoming,” a coming of age drama written by one of Brown’s former STM classmates, Lynn Reed. Yvette says that the company has finished post production on the film and is working on entering national and international film festivals as well as looking for the perfect distribution avenues. “A Short Homecoming,” which was filmed predominantly in Lafayette, has already received accolades by winning the Gold Award for original drama at the 2012 Worldfest.
“It was also very poignant that we were completing our last night of production on ‘A Sort of Homecoming’, when ‘12 Years a Slave’ won Best Picture at the Academy Awards,” adds Brown. His role as Jasper in “12 Years a Slave” and his work on “The Great Debaters” are the two films he is most proud of. “They were both based on actual events that we should all be exposed to, lest we perpetuate the perspectives that led to these tragic circumstances.”
Presently, Brown and Yvette are in the final stages of development for Believe Entertainment’s next feature film, “Dirt Road to Lafayette,” a project highlighting Lafayette’s premier festivals and music; it’s being co-produced by partners out of Scotland. They are also working on a contract with Nicholas Campbell for his project titled “Forked Island,” a developing documentary with Terrance and Cynthia Simien focusing exclusively on the Creole culture and its influence on Zydeco music. They are continuing to pursue a passion project with Tony Chassion titled “The Legend of Amedee.”
“Marcus and I work as a team on all projects,” says Yvette, who claims she hasn’t caught the acting bug. “Producing is what I love most, and I am enjoying working with Marcus as well as our producer partners on our film projects. Marcus and I spend the majority of our time working on our present and upcoming film projects.”
Their agenda also includes preparing for acting classes that are held every Monday and Tuesday for adults and monthly for children. In addition to film production and teaching acting classes, Believe Entertainment serves as a consultant firm.
In 2007, the company created and now manages The Lafayette Entertainment Initiative; designed to promote Lafayette as a prime destination for creative content production by liaising between industry professionals and the city’s governmental and economic development infrastructure.
“To drive our own destiny with regard to future entertainment industry development, community-minded entrepreneurs must have a vehicle to invest in financial and physical infrastructure to further cultivate indigenous intellectual property and attract high-profile content to the Acadiana region,” says Brown. “Believe Entertainment is squarely focused on achieving these objectives.”