Geno Brooks, a filmmaker from Chicago, has been inching his way into Hollywood since 2009 with a variety of web-series. On Feb. 14, he and his Artistic Standard collective debuted his newest venture, Jones, an original love story about transitioning through a breakup.
For those who don’t know who you are, tell us a little bit of your background. When did you get into filmmaking? What inspired you?
I would like to believe I’ve been a filmmaker since the age of 7. [I was] 7 years old was when I got my first camera from my grandfather. Which was the very last gift he ever gave me before he passed. That camera was an old-school Super 8 that used film. It took me some time and patience to learn how to use it but once I got going there was no looking back. I’d like to say, “Hey, I’ve been making films ever since” but that wouldn’t be totally true. But, it feels good to be able to pinpoint when I fell in love with art and it started with that camera given to me by my late grandfather. Film would return and find me once I graduated from grad school, while I was working in the adult mental health field years later. And thank God that it did. I decided to write, direct, co-star, and executive produce my first digital series. This was around 2009-2010.
What was your first professional product?
My first professional product was my first digital series, The Therapist. It was my first professional project back in 2010-11. I was in-between jobs and passions when I decided to give it a try. I worked overnights. So, to stay up I would write scripts and read Martin Scorsese’s book Ten Scenes and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. I learned how to make films reading those. From Scorsese, I gathered how to build characters, how to properly frame, and light my actors. From Lee, I would learn how to be creative with my budget and to take on Spike’s “by any means necessary” mantra.
You’ve had a variety of web series. What are some of your favorites?
It’s hard to answer that question. The Therapist is my baby; it being the first-born, it’s hard to pick against it. Black Boots really showed how much I had improved as a storyteller. It showed where I was as a writer, director, and cinematographer. But I gotta say, Jones is my favorite. Only because it is a new thing that has tremendous potential of being the best all-around.
You use a lot of the same people in your work. You all are like family off the camera. Is it hard to exclude certain people and do you try to include them on the next project?
It goes back to the Spike Lee school of filmmaking. He would use the same actors in different project,s giving them each different roles or responsibilities. It’s important to build a family-like environment with every project. All of my projects are cousins to each other, so why not have family involved? It makes me proud that you’re able to pick that up from us because we all love and support each other. To see all of the success of my actors makes me extremely proud. I’d like to add that I’ve given my actors opportunities to learn behind-the-camera skills on projects like: assistant director, casting, producers, writers, etc. Why not pour into those who believe in you enough to guide their talents and trust your process as a director?
Tell us about “Jones.” What is it about and what inspired it?
I was watching Love Jones and asked myself, “What would Nina and Darius Lovehall be doing in 2018?” So “Jones” is an homage to one of my favorite films and filmmakers, Theodore Witcher. But I had to make it my own if I was going to do it. Once I found my story, we started building and what we landed on was, “Let’s tell a love story about two people who love each but realize they aren’t right for each other two years into their relationship.” So, when we drop into the first episode we’re in the midst of the breakup. The rest of the first season is about the dash. “Jones” tackles that sensitive time between the breakup and the possibility of getting back together. I’ve never seen that story told before.
So where does “Jones” go that series like “Black Boots”, “Mind of a Single Male” and “Logan” don’t?
I’ve never told a pure love story and “Jones” is my attempt at that. So, it lands comfortably between those projects because it is unique to my catalog. The problem with beginning filmmakers is they often go directly to love stories about cheating and drama. And that always bothered me; we have more stories to tell and should be able to figure it out. At least tell a compelling story about something else and disguise your love story underneath it. So, now that I’ve told other stories I feel comfortable making a compelling love story. One that will push the thoughts of normalcy and societal constraints of sexual expression. It will hopefully provide different paint brushes to paint our stories.
How can people watch “Jones” and some of your older work?
You can watch “Jones” on our YouTube channel and our Artistic Standard TV VHX channel. We will release the first two full episodes of “Jones” to YouTube. Then the remaining full episodes 3-9 will be only be available on our VHX platform and YouTube will have our shortie episodes. You can easily find all of my older work on our VHX platform, www.artisticstandardtv.vhx.tv.
And what else is coming up from you? Can you share any details on your next move?
I’m writing my feature film debut, fielding some directing jobs. I’m currently working with the Oscar-nominated writer of “Mudbound,” Virgil Williams, at Universal Studios as he develops his new series and pens the script for Journal for Jordan. Denzel Washington has signed on to direct. So, to be a part of that team has been eye-opening for me as a young filmmaker. For ASTV, we’re expanding our brand with several new shows: “Fluid,” “Off The Track,” “LIT,” and a “Black Boots” spin-off. A couple of our classics, “Mind of a Single Male” and “The Therapist,” are coming back, as well. As we pursue new ventures and partnerships for distribution, we will continue to cater to our core audience with new merchandise and product.
If you had a dream film to create or recreate with no restrictions, what would it be and why?
An original film would be a coming-of-age story about four kids growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the projects. My story. My city’s version of Menace to Society or Boyz in The Hood. I’d love to redo Trading Places just because I’d love to put a modern-day spin on it, maybe have someone like Kevin Hart and Zack Galifianakis replace Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. That would be funny.
Thank you for your time. How can people stay connected to you and Artistic Standard?
No problem. Thank you guys for such great content and covering our stories and giving up-and-comers a voice. Stay connected via our YouTube.com/theArtisticStandardTV, our Instagram and Facebook @ArtisticStandardTV and follow me @GenoBrooksTV – The next stage of my career will be a fun one.