John Brown

Screenwriter and film critic


John Brown, screenwriter and critic: born Burntisland, Fife 26 July 1944; married 1966 Joan Low (one son, one daughter); died Glasgow 29 January 2006.

John Brown was a splendid enthusiast for film, a fine writer, an astute critic and a great talker. He often said how lucky he was. Remarkably, he even said it when his illness was well advanced (he died of a brain tumour). It was his good fortune, he said, that he had been allowed to do exactly what he wanted to do in life. He wanted above all to get into the film business, to write screenplays, and he did.

Born in Burntisland in Fife, he went to school in Kirkcaldy and thence to St Andrews University where he graduated in English Literature. A teacher-training course at Moray House College of Education was followed by spells at the chalk-face in Edinburgh and Cumbernauld but, if this was a rather conventional progress, there was nothing ordinary about Brown and his great passion for movies, particularly if they were big and from Hollywood. His favourite film was Once Upon a Time in America.

His exit from the classroom came in 1970 when he successfully applied for a job at the Scottish Film Council (now Scottish Screen) and found himself at the forefront of film and media education. He said he was amazed to find himself being paid for what he had always assumed was his hobby, but it was largely due to his leadership that Scotland gained an international reputation for original and outstanding work in media education at school and tertiary level.

Brown was a key member of a young team led by Ronald B. Macluskie which also included Tom Clarke, later an MP and first films minister in the Blair government of 1997. Their achievements included setting up several of the most successful regional film theatres in the UK, establishing the Scottish Film Archive, the creation of the Scottish Film Production Fund, supporting the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and a wide range of educational initiatives. Brown's enthusiasm was very contagious; he loved to talk endlessly about films but never boringly and always with great knowledge, insight and good sense. His writings on Scottish cinema in Sight and Sound were consistently well balanced and never merely polemical.

His ultimate ambition, however, was to become a full-time screenwriter and in 1989 he took the risky step of abandoning the security of film administration to go freelance. By that time, he had already had success as a television writer with the series The One Game for Central Television (1988), which won the Jury Prize at the San Francisco Film and Television Festival, and The Justice Game for BBC (1989). A second series, The Justice Game - the Lady from Rome (1990), followed, and there were episodes of Morse, Taggart, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Circles of Deceit, In Suspicious Circumstances and Bergerac in the ensuing years. Recently, he had been writing for Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet series.

Unusually for a British screenwriter, he was in demand in continental Europe. Fatale Mutterliebe ("Maternal Instinct", 1995) was written for German television and in 1997 his two-part film for Danish television En fri mand ("A Free Man") won Best Screenplay at the Monte Carlo International Television Festival; he was to achieve a nomination for that award again in 1999 with another script for Danish television, Majoren ("The Major").

However, despite his considerable success in writing for television, it was on the big screen that he really wanted his work to be seen. As with so many in his trade, he wrote numerous film treatments which were never made into movies. It was therefore both wonderful and poignant that only a few weeks before his death he was able to see an advanced cut of a feature film he had scripted, The Flying Scotsman, the story of the cyclist Graeme Obree, which is to be released later this year.

John Brown was an extremely able individual and a loyal colleague and friend. As well as having provided some of the most intelligent detective screenwriting for television in the last 26 years, he was a genuine contributor to the advancement of film in Scotland.

David Bruce

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones