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Producer and Director Brett Morris talks "Big Brother Canada"

As a producer, Brett Morris sees himself as a problem solver; he is in charge of the creative process from beginning to end, and makes sure to execute a vision to its fullest potential. As a director, he sees himself as a leader, acting as a coach to his team while delivering the highest quality of work. As a person, he is a storyteller; he aims to connect with people through his work, and aims to entertain. Undoubtedly, Morris is a filmmaking force to be reckoned with, and is one of Canada’s best producers and directors.

With a career many can only dream of, Morris has made quite a name for himself both in Canada and abroad. His work is seen by millions on a routine basis, whether that be online like with his work as Digital Producer for Hockey Wives, or on the small-screen, having worked on hit shows like So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Top Chef Canada, and The Real Housewives of Toronto. The highlight of Morris’ career, however, came from working on the popular series Big Brother Canada.

Morris was only 25 when he first began working on Big Brother Canada, and at a young age he was leading a large team, producing an hour-long primetime show every week. The format for Big Brother Canada remains largely unchanged from the U.S. edition, making them the only two version of the series thus far to follow this format. House guests are sequestered in the Big Brother House without contact with the outside world. Morris is an Episode Producer and Director for the series, which has gone on to be nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards as a producer in the category: Best Reality / Competition Program or Series in 2016 and 2017, and Golden Screen Award, based on the highest rated show in the category. Such recognition for Morris is a great honor, but for him, it was all about how the fans responded to the show he helped build.

“The best part of the show is definitely our fans and the audience. At any given time, thousands of fans across the country would be tuning into our live streams, tweeting non-stop about the going’s on, and then would blast you on social media with positive and negative comments once the show aired. It’s so rare to have such a huge following for any show, and we do it all for the fans. Each week when a particular episode I produced would air, I loved reading the live stream of tweets that would add commentary by the superfans, second by second,” he said.

Morris was responsible for solely producing over 30 hours of television over the course of three years in the role of Episode Producer. He led a team of over ten editors and five producers in crafting each episode. Over one million viewers tuned in each week. He also directed long form competitions, which relied heavily on brand integration, a device the production budget heavily relied on.

Because the show films 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there is never a break to be had. On an average week, Morris would arrive to work at 9 a.m. and stay until 2 or 3 a.m. This didn’t faze him in the slightest. Together, with Story Editor Daniel Klimitz, the two would sift through hundreds of stories that were pitched to them by the story producers. As there were constantly a variety of stories going on in the house, Morris would decide which were the best ones to show the audience, and how to do it in the 44 minutes of airtime. No matter what, he insisted on staying true to the story. If a scene was funny or dramatic, if it didn’t fit in with the overall story, it would not make the final cut.

Big Brother Canada is like no other show that exists, or will exist, ever. And I don’t say that lightly. During the three months of filming, you essentially have to say goodbye to your family because the show becomes the only love in your life,” said Morris.

Taking on the role of Episode Producer seriously, Morris wanted Big Brother Canada to be more than a typical reality show. He always makes sure it has “heart”, something he says Canadians do a bit differently than their American counterparts.

“What makes our country so unique is how we embrace and celebrate so many different cultures,” he said.

In doing this, Morris tries to tell the stories by revealing multi-dimensional characters. This can be exemplified in the show’s last season, where the loud-mouthed firecracker Ika Wong wasn’t just a catch phrased angry character, she was a single mother of two and an immigrant from Jamaica. Being able to tell her story organically in one of the final shows of the season was a true highlight for Morris. He aims to showcase the competitors as people with heart, something that the audience always appreciates.

“Working with Brett is always an amazing experience. During our time on Big Brother Canada, Brett was a mentor to me and helped me perfect my skills as a producer. He always has great ideas and is able to execute them expertly. Brett is an amazing leader and collaborator. He is able to command the attention of producers and editors in a calm manner that makes everyone want to do the best work they possibly can. He pushes everyone to consistently raise the bar. He is an exceptional storyteller and is one of the best television producers in the country,” said Daniel Klimitz.

Morris knew the moment Big Brother Canada was announced that he wanted to be a part of it. Prior to the show, he had only worked for Insight Productions when they were producing Canada’s Got Talent. After interviewing with the Executive Producers Erin Brock and Sue Brophey, he was hired as a “Snooper Producer.” The job was to “snoop” in on the house, and see what drama was happening that the cameras weren’t following. However, about a month before principal photography began, Morris was promoted to the role of Senior Story Producer. Each year after that he was promoted to higher and higher positions until they gave him an episode of his own to produce, and now, he is one of their Episode Producers.

Such a story of working his way up is what Morris plans to keep doing in the film and television industry around the world. No matter how much success he achieves, he aims to keep aiming higher, and there is little doubt he will achieve whatever he sets his mind to.

“My plans for the future are always focused on growth. If you’re not growing or pushing yourself to learn something new, or explore a new avenue, life isn’t fulfilling. My goal is to keep ‘levelling’ up in life. Working with people smarter than you is the best way to learn and grow. My plans are to keep doing things in the industry I haven’t done, and try to work for really smart people. That’s when the work you do is the most fulfilling,” he concluded.

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