The Life and Times of Brian Patrick Flynn
Words by Ginny Ellsworth
Photos by Robert Peterson
This is not an act, folks. That fireball of energy you see on TV is the everyday Brian Patrick Flynn. Decades ago, you never would have expected to find Brian in front of the camera. The current producer of HGTV’s Dream Home Giveaway got his start in home and garden shows before home and garden shows were cool.
Let’s just go ahead and debunk the myth that you only have to be good looking, handy, and have a bubbling personality to make it on TV as a home makeover star. Brian’s career is a result of skill, tact, and sheer determination.
His obsession with cinema began in his teens, when he set out to learn as much about producing as he could. He studied scriptwriting, cinematography, budget management and everything in between. In hindsight, he can also see patterns that hinted at his future as a designer—tagging along with his real estate agent father to open houses, rearranging his room, and joining his mom on shopping trips for home furnishings.
After earning a degree in radio, television, and film, Brian was hired as a news producer. In a world of late nights and weekends full of hard news, he found that producing the occasional home and garden story didn’t feel like work—whether it be a story on architecture, unique design, or remodeling on a budget.
When the economy took a downturn and the news industry started making cuts, Brian shifted his focus to interior design. Back then, home and garden wasn’t yet a television genre. In fact, Trading Spaces was the only design show on television. Nevertheless, Brian put together a demo reel of the home and garden content he had produced and went knocking on doors of production companies.
Call it luck or meant-to-be, but behind the first door he knocked on a production company had just signed a contract to produce a new home renovation show. Still lacking a key role, they hired Brian to fill a position that was partially producer and partially an interior design assistant.
At 26 years old, Brian moved back home. “[My parents] were supportive because they saw that I was at the bottom of the barrel but working tirelessly to get the exact job I wanted,” he says. Brian honed his writing, directing, and budget management skills—while also learning fabrics, furniture placement, and terminology, all of which made him a hot commodity. He took a gig working on a landscaping show in Atlanta, where he got an education on everything from building codes to plants and outdoor use of furniture.
Brian’s career took off and the opportunity to move to L.A. soon presented itself (a film fanatic’s dream come true). However, his struggle with General Anxiety Disorder compelled him to stay in Atlanta, where he could avoid high-stress traffic by navigating the back roads.
The timing was perfect. The Atlanta-based cable channel TBS was looking for a young producer for its new show, Movie and a Makeover. Although he thrived behind the scenes scouting houses, writing scripts, and making plans, a common frustration for Brian was finding the right talent. “I’d find designers who produced beautiful work but became a different person on camera.” So, he pitched himself! “I made my own audition tape and sent it to my executive producer. I told him I could save us a bunch of time and money by doing it myself.” The answer was an astounding “absolutely!”
Thinking back to his days as a production assistant, Brian remembers talking about dream jobs with the other assistants. He had two: either to be the art director of MTV’s The Real World or the designer of HGTV’s Dream Home Giveaway.
“It’s not necessarily luck. It’s how prepared you are when the right opportunity presents itself,” he says of the dream job he now holds. Brian’s versatile portfolio reflects his hard work over the years.
Out of all of his projects, Brian’s favorite was one he tackled just last year in Knoxville for HGTV’s Urban Oasis. “It’s a sleepy little town with a good amount to offer,” he says of Knoxville. In the historic neighborhood of Fourth and Gill, he took a craftsman-style house, packed with good architecture, and changed it up with surprising color schemes and features. “Pushing the envelope and trying something new is what interior design is about,” Brian says of the little house that ended up with midnight-blue exterior and a bubble-gum pink front door.
Brian takes on residential projects while producing for television too. As any great designer does, he gears his designs toward his clients’ preferences, but he describes his own aesthetic as soft masculine.
“My work is a mix of masculine prints and very comfortable furniture,” he says. “Choosing furniture with feminine curves and blending masculine and feminine colors, you end up having a room that’s a little soft and a little rugged.”
Full of surprises, and not just in design, Brian pulls his inspiration from nature in the most unexpected places. His favorite vacation spots? Either of the Earth’s poles! You won’t find this adventurer sitting down for long. “Right now, nothing hurts, so it’s a good time to travel. I want to see as much of the world as I can while I can still physically enjoy the experience,” Brian says. He recounts visiting the Galápagos Islands last year with his husband, Hollis, saying, “I wanted to see the crazy animals that only exist at the equator.”
Brian blends experiences together. His adventurous trips provide some of the greatest inspiration for his work. “For one, it gives me a new appreciation for how colors play in nature,” he says, reflecting on the colors and patterns from his many destinations. Often, he is able to use nature-inspired design elements from places homeowners might never get to experience themselves.
Travel and design are not the only experiences Brian blends together. His production company, Flynnside Out, combines design expertise and professional production. “There’s a patience that comes with having to design for the lens. You can’t be personally attached to anything,” he says of the Flynnside Out philosophy, “My whole team shows up and does what’s best for the project. We let the lens be the boss.”
Everyone on his team is versed in design and all elements of production—from scriptwriting to budgets—reflective of the experiences in his younger years that fostered so much success.
“Being in the South, I’ve been able to have this great career in which I’ve been able to marry two industries that are very New York and L.A.,” he says of his decade-plus experience of creating beautiful houses and sets.
At a young age, Brian’s parents—who, remember, put a roof over his head when the going got tough—encouraged him to find something he loves and make a career out of it. He recounts the old saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Looking at his journey, you can’t say there wasn’t work involved, but Brian embraced every step of the way, thinking outside of the box to give himself an edge, following his heart, and pouring his all into his work.
From the mouth of one of America’s original TV personalities, Walter Cronkite, it was said, “I can’t imagine a person being a success, who doesn’t give this life everything he’s got,” and that is certainly true of Brian Patrick Flynn.