Behind the “Botanical” Scenes with Veteran Greensman Bryan A. McBrien and Atlanta’s Cinema Greens

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Written by Mollee D. Harper, Senior Editor

When it comes to production sets for major feature films, most people don’t realize the complexity or small army that works behind the scenes. Georgia Entertainment News takes a special look at the botanical side of the entertainment business through our one-on-one interview with Bryan A. McBrien, CFO and Art Director for Cinema Greens. Cinema Greens is an Atlanta-based plant rental company for the film, television and event industry.

During our time together, 20-year veteran Greensman and Academy Award nominee McBrien describes how he got his start in the business, his move to Atlanta and his work on countless feature films over the past several decades. McBrien shares news of the upcoming August 1st grand opening of Cinema Greens Decorator Connection in Metro Atlanta to provide a convenient storefront for local set decorators and designers. He also announces how Cinema Greens has joined forces with the largest manufacturer of silk plants in the U.S., Cleveland-based Autograph Foliage’s, to help streamline the sales force working directly with the film, television and event industries.

Bryan A. McBrien serves as Chief Financial Officer and the in-house Art Director for Atlanta-based Cinema Greens. McBrien is a 20-year veteran of Local 44 as Greens Coordinator and the first and only Greensman to be inducted into the Art Directors Guild (Local 800) as a Production Designer in 2012. Before co-founding Cinema Greens, McBrien founded and operated California Silk & Plant, which operated in six states from 2008-2013. He received his formal education from Central Michigan University with a B.A.A in Broadcast & Film with minors in Biology & History.

McBrien’s work as a Greens Coordinator can be seen in over 50 feature films including War Dogs, Furious 7, Ant Man and Fate of the Furious, to name a few. His expertise includes: 3D modeling, custom fabrication and design layouts.

McBrien offered, “I began my career in Hollywood, California in 1997 just three months out of film school. I made a connection with Frank McEldowney who helped me land my first job working as a young Greensman on the feature film Contact.”

“My minors at the University were in history and biology. I remember taking a botany course and thinking I would never use it. Then low and behold I became a plant guy for the industry.”

A Greensman is a production personnel in the art department that works on a film obtaining and taking care of anything green on the set, including: plants, grass, tress, flowers and other landscaping materials such as gravel and sand. It is often considered one of the dirtiest and most physically demanding jobs on a production set’s construction. In addition to caring for the plants and landscape elements, greensmen also assist with camera, lighting and even special effects setups during filming.

McBrien shared, “I first came to Atlanta for a film in 2009, and then back again for several others for the years that followed. Right at the end of 2013, I joined Cinema Greens and moved to Atlanta. The tax credits were the main motivator, plus I was doing so much work here.”

“Jeff Brown, Carlos Martinez and I are the three owners of Cinema Greens and established our farm in Hampton to provide local support for Georgia’s growing film industry. Jeff is a 30-year veteran who also worked as Department Head for Universal Studios for many years. Jeff is our CEO and handles a lot of the fabrication efforts and sales. Carlos received his degree from the most prestigious Institute of Agriculture in Guatemala, and has an extensive background in the business and manages our nursery and greenhouse. Carlos handles operations and serves as the company COO. I am CFO and on the creative side of the house and serve as Art Director for productions.”

He added, “Being a business owner is so much more freeing than being on set. The first three years are hard, but I really enjoy the aspect of running a business. I still get involved in the installations and productions too. But, I am really enjoying this next chapter.”

McBrien explained, “A good example of our work in the entertainment industry is the Furious 7 feature film. We even traveled to Colorado with the second unit. We had to shoot on Pike’s Peak at 9500 ft in altitude. There is a sequence with a crazy bus coming down the highway. What they wanted to see were pine trees being shot down during the scene. Of course, we were on state park land, so we decided to ship in tons of pine trees from a private ranch to stage that scene for the movie. We were sold some of their scrap pine. We had cutting crews that cut them, drove them to the Pikes Peak national forest, and set them up on big metal plates along the road in order to withstand the 60 mph winds. We created five or six different sequences with over 500 pine trees. The effects guys rigged the trees with explosives so during the filming it looked like they were being blown up by a Gatlin gun. We work a lot with the effects guys. It really takes a lot of support on our end that most people would never realize.”

“We’ve found with the film industry, it is so fast paced. The decorators and buyers don’t always have a lot of time to put together a set. We have a 5,000 sq ft farmhouse in Hampton with our nursery and greenhouse that is available for filming and events, but found we are too far south. Decorators often don’t have the time to travel to us. So, we are setting up a new division here in the Metro Atlanta area to better serve the industry.”

McBrien shared, “We opened the doors to Cinema Greens Decorator Connection on August 1st. Our new store is located at 675 Metropolitan Parkway SW, Atlanta, Georgia, 30310. We are located right across the street from Central Atlanta Props & Sets (CAPS) owned by Bob Lucas. That way decorators and buyers can get the props they need from Bob and then head across the street for their greenery. We just had a large coconut tree delivered out front that is getting a lot of attention and will hopefully help people find us easy. We are featuring silks, pottery, and live plant samples so decorators can find what they need quickly and easily. We are starting to offer a transport service from the Metro shop as well; place your order by 2:30P.M., with an attached PO#, and your plants, pottery, moss’, vine, tree skins, holiday décor, etc will be ready for pick up the next morning. CG offers delivery to your soundstage or location 7 days a week.”

“Right now, we are trying to get the word out about our new location. We are coming in fast and really want to help make life easier for set decorators and buyers. When Jeff and I were greens coordinators, we had a lot more time to plan and organize, and set up props and plants. The industry is so fast and furious now, the decorators typically have five minutes to grab what they need. We hope our new storefront will provide that extra convenience for them, along with our delivery service.”

McBrien described, “We primarily do films and events; high-end weddings and parties are also in our forte. We can bring the plants they need to metro from the farm. We just did a huge event in Washington DC for the Mass Mutual Leadership Conference where Kelly Clarkston sang. We set up all of the greenery, giant coconuts, and custom built pine trees with urethane bark for the event. We assembled everything, had the event and tore down all within 48 hours. Just this last weekend we did some custom built silk trees for a birthday party at the Georgia History Center for WM Events and were thrilled to be connecting with the local event planners!”

“We have also recently forged a new partnership for local weddings with Ally Wilinski, the owner of Presentime Rentals. We have worked together with her as Sponsors for the Atlanta Film Festival and really enjoyed each others work ethic and creative vibe. Ally handles all furniture, drapery and flatware for the high-end weddings in Atlanta and now we’re trying to package our offerings for corporate events and weddings and do more in this area too.”

“We’ve been working in Atlanta for over three years now. The tax credit were really what brought us here. We would love to be able to see a tax credit offered for infrastructure businesses like ours. They aren’t offering anything to companies that are serving the industry yet like some other states. It would be great to see Atlanta follow along in this way.”

McBrien concluded, ”As far as Atlanta’s film and TV industry goes, we are here to make your life easier, we have worked in LA for over 30 years and understand the pace of today’s industry.  Decorators & Greensman just don’t have time to go find every tree, rock and flower they need, we are here to handle those things for you and make your life easy. We can deliver it, custom order it, custom fabricate it, and do what it takes to make it easier for you to do your jobs.”

To learn more about Bryan McBrien and Cinema Greens visit their company website at: www.cinemagreens.com.

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