Greg Hemmings (John England/The East)

The House That Hemmings Built

My first introduction to Greg Hemmings wasn’t a handshake at some conference for young professionals, or even seeing one of his documentaries. It was a photograph belonging to a friend, where he and Greg, and two or three other guys, were participating in some male bonding by posing on the edge of a river, naked as the day they were born, bits concealed in hand, and cheeky grins across their faces. The photo was just one in a series that belonged to something of a ritual while filming on the road. It was taken more than a decade ago, a folly of youth, and today Greg is CEO of Hemmings House Pictures, a film production company that operates on a global scale promoting the social values of change and responsibility, but at the heart of the operation is still Greg’s youthful sense of openness and adventure.

When I did finally meet Greg he was working at HIT! Media, a prototype for Hemmings House formed with Andrew Tidby and Glenn Ingersoll. As young aspiring story-tellers, my friends and I looked to them for inspiration and whatever knowledge we could glean, but most importantly, we knew that Tidby could be bribed with Star Wars action figures in exchange for the use of film equipment. At the time Greg was working on the now legendary Rubarbicon, the ‘mock-rocku-docu-drama thingy’ that followed Saint John jam band Grand Theft Bus around the world and back. For a long while, Greg was that guy you’d see at concerts, climbing on-top of scaffolding, or at the edge of the stage, always holding a camera.

Hemmings House (John England/The East)
Hemmings House (John England/The East)

These days Greg is more often seen shaking hands than holding equipment. He no longer wears the hat of chief cook and bottle washer, but has built a successful company with a talented staff that can be found working on any number of continents at any given time. He jokes that sometimes it looks as though he set out to create a business simply to indulge in world travel, “That’s the legend that we all don’t even plan on creating, but it happened. […] It’s funny, I came back from Africa two weeks ago for our Monday morning meeting. As a joke, I passive aggressively asked Steve [Foster] how come nobody asked me how my trip was. Nobody even acknowledged that I was in Africa yesterday. I realised that it really is normal for our company, for somebody to leave for two weeks and nobody will even know where they are.” They’ve worked on projects from Venezuela to Estonia, California and Japan. It’s not the glamorous, rock and roll, jet-set lifestyle you’d assume, but one project to another, nose to the grindstone. It can all get a bit hectic. Mark Hemmings, Greg’s brother, and their chief photographer, is most easily tracked through his Instagram, “I think he’s in Italy. I think next week he’s in South Africa, then he’s in China, then he’s in India. Mark for the next month is traveling to all the places we’ve ever wanted to go, but we don’t even know where he is. That’s just one part of the business; the photography side.” Despite the obvious appeal of travel, Hemmings House is proud of their Maritime roots, and the lifestyle that it affords them. Filmmaker and Editor, Lauchlan Ough lauds Atlantic Canada for allowing him to choose a career path afforded to him through the use of mass communication instead of the necessity of moving to larger film centres like Toronto, “The Atlantic Canadian market is a fun place, and it’s great, and we’ve played there a long time, but as creative individuals in the field that we work in, and because film is so collaborative, you’ve got all these different people coming together to make one thing in the end. It’s not like a painter who paints one painting and that’s it. Because we’re in Atlantic Canada it’s like this double edged sword: we’ve got a great base but you need to work with outside people. You just have to, you need to go to other places, you need to work with other people, and if you don’t you’re going to hit that ceiling. You need to go above that and explore more. That’s where travel has helped a lot too, because if we just made all of our films in Atlantic Canada it’d be very limiting creatively. There are lots of great stories here, but how do we take our skill set and go out to the world and share even more, while learning more about our craft?” Hemmings House is currently working on a series called The Millennial Dream that focuses on just that: the advantages young people can find working in places like New Brunswick, ”We’re hoping to make real significant change in New Brunswick to keep young people here by creating an environment where we can make an impact with business, with small business. That is the future of Hemming’s House, to make measureable change locally with global relevance. That’s our product. We’re not selling the videos and making cool TV shows, we’re going to be selling the product of change.”

Lauchlan Ough and Honor (John England/The East)
Lauchlan Ough and Honor (John England/The East)

“Our passions are our original content, and we want to make original content stories that change the world and make it a more positive place.”

Hemmings House are great ones for practicing what they preach, their message of change, and sustainability, that rings throughout their productions such as The Millennial Dream. They’ve also produced a documentary which was instrumental in the creation of Sistema NB, an organization based on a similar Venezuelan program that provides children with musical development programs throughout Southern New Brunswick, and a similarly themed documentary called Code Kids that has brought an Estonia and Finland based program to New Brunswick to teach children valuable tech skills, “I think at the end of the day we’re not trying to make movies for the sake of making a cool documentary or an interesting story. We’re always looking for what could our cultural shift, or a social change be if we make this story or not. I feel that’s what sets us apart from other production companies because we’re not saying yes to a project because it’s an interesting story, we’re saying yes because we know it’s an interesting story and we know it’ll have measurable impact.” It’s been their standard modus operandi, and it’s recently gained them their designation as one of the early adopters within the province as a B-Corporation.

Sometimes, projects can be just for fun, and The Hemmings House team has recently been working on a show called ‘The Real Houses Of‘, which will feature architecturally fascinating homes from Atlantic Canada, New Orleans, and California, and places in between. The show will be premiering Summer 2015, but you can keep up to date by following their Facebook page.