Unboxing Bryan

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Bryan Farhy is sitting on the rooftop of the Headquarters production facility in Santa Monica, where he's busy setting up BrandTV, Headquarters' new production spinoff. The cloud-covered sun is strong enough to make Farhy squint through his huge black Gucci specs. His hair is stylishly longish and mussed, and his wrinkled lilac oxford shirt, red plaid clam diggers and bone-colored Prada slip-ons cloak him in pajama like comfort. "I look like Walt Disney threw up on me," he groans. The outfit does read a bit like a clown gone fashion runway, but it's telling of Farhy's MO. "I like to make people uncomfortable." That explains the outfit as well as Farhy's take on working in the ad world - he shudders to think that anyone could put a finger on what he does.

"This business constantly tries to put you in a box," he beefs. Some might call Farhy a producer; he joins Headquarters, after all, as BrandTV executive producer, after having jumpstarted the commercials division of Basecamp Entertainment, the production company founded by the Marcianos of Guess jeans fame. Prior to that, the Princeton, N.J., native and UCLA marketing grad worked in New York at the repping firm Fink/Farhy Associates. His past gigs link him to European directors like Leo Ricagni, the Snorri Brothers, Pep Bosch and Ivan Zacharias. At BrandTV, he's overseeing the fledgling commercials careers of London-based Wayne Holloway and the newly added Icelandic DJ-turned-director Arni Thor Jonsson.

Farhy likens the Headquarters offshoot to a petri dish that will thrive off the "oxygen and energy" of the mothership. He's also thankful to be in close quarters with two of his longtime mentors, Headquarters founders/partners Alex Blum and Tom Mooney. Farhy looks to Blum for his intelligence and analytical focus, and he admires Mooney for the passion that has enabled him to establish honest and often humorously blunt relationships with agencies. " `Give us work!' Tom will say to agencies, but he gets away with it, because everybody loves his pure passion for the business," Farhy notes. "I don't know anyone else like that. I just hope that someday, when I'm his age and wearing adult diapers - oops! - under my fancy Paul Smith suits, that I have the passion he has for this business." Mooney and Blum have given Farhy complete creative control of the new division, which surely stands to benefit from the close attention Farhy is known to lavish on his directors. "I'm not an executive producer who shows up at lunch break, has a bite to eat, and says, `Thanks a lot. See you at the wrap party,' " he explains.

But Farhy's not just a producer; he also plays one. Adwatchers may remember Wayne Holloway for his direction on the insanely funny "The Road to Sydney" Adidas Olympics campaign, from Amsterdam agency 180, featuring British comedian Lee Evans as a pseudo all-around athlete. The 12 two-minute mockumentary-style spots follow the near spastic Evans from track to mats to pool to court as he flubs every event he tries, much to the horror of the international athletes who are coaching him. The bungling Evans is (mis)led by an equally comic producer, who goes about asking inane questions and making unhelpful suggestions, while pretending he's running the show. This comedic foil, known as Bryan, was played by Farhy himself, who appeared as a favor to Larry Frey, one of the 180 founders and CD on the project. Frey had remembered Farhy for his spot-on performance in the industry cult film The Rep, directed by Bill Scarlet, in which Farhy, as the mother of all wretched reps, did nothing but bullshit his way through phone call after phone call, on the cell in elevators and toilet stalls. Farhy figured that the Adidas gig would be a good opportunity to check out Holloway's potential.

"I told Larry, `Listen, I'll do this, but you can't tell Wayne this is not what I really do, that I have a production company, because if he sucks . . ." It didn't take long for Farhy to be convinced that Holloway didn't suck at all. "Wayne did something very, very clever," Farhy recalls. "He didn't tell a lot of the athletes what we were doing, which I thought was brilliant, because otherwise they'd try to act. That's the death of it when you're working with real people. As soon as they feel like they have to perform, it's fucked. It's quite a talent to be able to get people who aren't used to being on camera every day to relax and be themselves."

Despite Farhy's own easygoing film manner, he admits that acting is not effortless for him. "People look at the spots and say, `That's just you being you,' but let me turn the camera on you and you be you - and with actors having to do 50 takes and having to rewrite while you go. It's hard being in front of the camera, really hard. Doing the Adidas thing was the hardest thing I've ever done." He's sheepish about being called an actor or comedian, despite his killer comedic timing and his careful celeb-style concealment of his age. Besides The Rep, Farhy has appeared in an Erich Joiner-directed Fox Major League Baseball spot as a pilot/baseball fanatic who wreaks havoc on a flight when he demands that ballplayer Eric Young ride in the cockpit with him. He also had a bit part as a car salesman in Leo Ricagni's indie film 29 Palms. But his main gig, he insists, is well behind the camera. Nevertheless, for the sake of creativity, he's averse to being characterized as "just" a producer. He's also a former competitive cyclist, a chess buff and a pretty decent drummer. "I think habit is an enemy of the creative process," Farhy posits. "I love it when people ask me if I'm an actor or an executive producer. It's like I know exactly who that person is and how they think. They don't get it.

"The point is, we should do other things," he continues. "Acting has allowed me to see so many different sides of the process. I've become so much more well-rounded as a producer and so much more effective in being able to look at a board and talk to directors about casting, and in being able to speak to talent and motivate them, tell them what they need to get through a 16-hour day and 103 takes. We should have fun. We're in a creative business that should allow us to do that."

Farhy pauses and recalls how he scared himself once mulling over a maxim he'd heard: "A man becomes what he does." "I'm not sure I want to be a 30-second commercial," he laughs.

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