January 31, 2023
Alum Filmmaker Nick Brooks is also a Successful YA Novelist
By Desa Philadelphia
Nick Brooks ’20 is a “Creator.” That’s probably the easiest way to describe his storytelling prowess, which is prolific and spans genres and formats. Brooks graduate from the MFA Film & Television Production program in 2020, but he recently made news when the YA thriller he wrote during the pandemic was bought by Henry Holt publishing for seven figures. Titled Promise Boys, the book centers three young Black boys, who investigate the murder of the principal of their charter school in order to clear suspicions about their own involvement. Set in Washington D.C., Brooks’ hometown, it dropped on January 31st.
Brooks was about to graduate from the School of Cinematic Arts when the pandemic hit. When his filmmaking plans screeched to a halt, he turned to another creative outlet. “The only thing I was left to do was just write. So, I just wrote every day non-stop.” He had already written 100 pages when an SCA connection put him in touch with a book agent who helped steer his proposal. Henry Holt publishing put up its too-big-to-turn-down offer for Promise Boys when it became apparent there would be a bidding war.
Brooks started out his creative journey in music. “I thought I was going to get signed by Kanye at 18,” he laughs now, although he still keeps his rap skills sharp, including working as the lyricist for the film The Cypher, an SCA film that was admitted to the Tribeca Film Festival and acquired by HBO Max. With his rap career floundering, Brooks enrolled at Howard University and eventually became a teacher. This isn’t Brooks’ first successful book for minors. As a Teach for America fellow he realized there weren’t enough stories in his classroom that centered Black children and created The Adventures of Yani, a story and curriculum focused on social emotional development that has been adapted by several schools. He had another YA novel published last year, Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont, a fantasy tale about a boy and his friends who meet and help an alien stuck on earth.
Brooks’ filmmaking has also centered young adults. He independently shot the short Hoop Dreamin’ (2016) about a boy in love with basketball, and use it to gain entry to SCA with a George Lucas scholarship. Bee (2020) is about a young Black girl who struggles to fit in at an affluent school. He is currently developing a feature for Mandalay Pictures titled We Were Born Kings, about a kid whose father is recently released from prison and their efforts to rebuild a relationship.
Brooks also recently sold a pitch for a trilogy he will be writing next, but still says he’s much more of a filmmaker than an author. The truth is, he’s the definition of a multi-hyphenate. “I want to do it all, to be honest,” he admits. “I definitely will continue to write novels and write and direct TV and film and be a producer. I’ll probably get back into music. I’m a creative mind and I love that. But I’m also very much an entrepreneur.”
Let’s just call him The Creator.
Check out Nick Brooks’ interview about the lessons in Promise Boys with NPR’s Weekend Edition.