Nicole Brown: Curiosity and Zest for Learning Fuel Her Success in the Film Industry

As a film studio executive and producer, Nicole Brown (’91) draws on her love of storytelling and adventure to bring new projects to life. We talked with her about her UCLA Lab School experience and nurturing children’s enthusiasm for learning.

• • •

How did your family hear about UCLA Lab School (at the time, it was University Elementary School), and how did you end up here?

Nicole Brown: They were looking for a great educational experience that also reflected diversity. UES felt like the right place. They really wanted me to go to a school that was reflective of the community.

What was your overall experience as a student here?

NB: I loved it! It was where I learned to love learning. I had teachers who were passionate, had big personalities and a passion for the world, and the curriculum was so eclectic and playful but still effective.

Even today I remember learning about California history by building rancheros out of sugar cubes and going on a trip up to Northern California where we mined for gold. We immersed ourselves in the topics we learned. It was fun, and we wanted to go to school. I took that passion, that excitement, that was lit when I went to UES, and I brought it to middle school, to high school and to college.

I had a different perspective on what it meant to go to school every day. I thought it was super fun.

What are your most memorable moments from your time at UES?

NB: When we painted that mural. I remember playing in in the forest. We built things like bridges across the gulley with architecture students from UCLA. I don’t think I’ve ever built anything else in my life since then! I really did love the class [of students]. There were all types of kids from all different places from all over the city. I never felt different. I loved it.

Did UES help make you the person you are today, if so how?

NB: I think it fostered a passion for and a curiosity about new things and an openness about new things, and I think that stayed with me. I brought that energy to the rest of my education. I bring an energy [of curiosity and passion] to my work. If things don’t inspire curiosity, it’s not for me. I think that UES is part of that philosophy.

What is your current professional occupation, and how did your UES education influence your current work?  

NB: I am the Senior Vice President at TriStar Pictures. We’re a division of Sony Pictures, and we finance and distribute films around the world. Some of the films I’ve overseen were Money Monster, with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, the sequel to Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I think that, again, this curiosity and love of learning, love of people, love of stories and storytelling probably has its roots in my early education.

It’s about being curious. I chose not to pursue a job where I punch numbers. I’m lucky enough to have a very inspired kind of job where you have to want to read stories, watch movies, devour a lot of content. Maybe at a place that was more traditional I wouldn’t have gained the love of learning and curiosity about the world that I currently have.

I think it’s a special campus. I think it has an incredibly inspired curriculum.

What I think is the best gift is to give children is a passion and excitement for learning instead of grinding them with the details, or turning learning into this grey colorless experience. What’s more important is being wide-eyed, excited and wanting to jump out of bed and go to school. That zest for life, for knowledge, for school is the most important thing.