Origin stories: Adam Brooks, Award-winning artist and filmmaker

‘Meditation and losing your ego’

A still of Adam Brooks’ lead performance in 2011’s Father’s Day, a film he also co-wrote and co-directed. (Supplied photo)

Born in Winnipeg and originally from the Riverview area, Adam Brooks doesn’t feel there is anything unusual about his start in life.

“I loved to draw, was obsessed with comic books and toys. Pretty typical stuff,” he says. The semi-animated documentary Cliff: a Portrait of an Artist, featuring visual artist Cliff Eyland, garnered Brooks acclaim. He was named best Manitoba director at the 2022 Gimli International Film Festival. The doc was also nominated for the Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary.

Brooks has a vast online vault of artistic accomplishments. As an example, his Instagram account is an eye-catching display of sketches, drawings and paintings.

Drawing and oil painting propelled him into the artistic world before he turned to film as a creative outlet.

His paintings’ subject matter ranges wildly, and his works have been exhibited at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the defunct Gallery, previously located in the Exchange District.

Brooks is a founding member, actor, co-writer and co-director of the filmmaking collective Astron-6. Its films have played internationally, most eminently at Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014.

Brooks explains the Astron-6 collaboration process.

“We’re friends, and we just take turns doing whatever job we each want, whether that’s acting, writing, directing. We also give each other lots of honest feedback, which can be valuable or devastating,” Brooks says.

The five-person collective has a bent for horror and comedy. “Super-stupidity makes me laugh. Death and pain scare me the most,” he says. “I think horror is usually about creating tension, and comedy is usually about breaking tension, or maybe it’s the other way around?”

This year has been one of recognition for Brooks. In September, he received the 2022 Manitoba Film Hothouse Award for Creative Development. The annual award is given to established filmmakers who have made a significant mark on the industry, both internationally as well as in the province.

The Hothouse Film Award comes with a cash prize. “I wanted to spend it all on lottery tickets, but apparently you have to spend it on a film, so I’ll probably do that,” Brooks says, jokingly.

Although he’s engaged in multiple creative projects, Brooks takes time to include and collaborate with his sons, who are both under six.

“My son Ike co-starred in an improvised series of videos called Pandemic Bear about a well-meaning talking bear who wants to help people get through the pandemic,” he says.

In Cliff, Eyland has months to live and speaks of living fearlessly. Brooks is intrigued by Eyland’s fearlessness around impending death. So, did Brooks discover the secret to living fearlessly?

“I was hoping for an easy answer, but it’s not easy if you’re full of fear,” Brooks says. “What (Eyland) actually said was, ‘Maybe you’re happy first and things follow from that.’”

“I think meditation and losing your ego are good first steps to living fearlessly,” Brooks says.

Published in Volume 77, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 17, 2022)

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