Philip Józef Brubaker was born to Polish and German-American parents in the Washington D.C. metro area in 1980. He developed an interest in movies at an early age thanks to home video rentals and frequent trips to arthouse cinemas. Brubaker filmed and edited comedic shorts, experimental films and documentaries as a teenager and was accepted to the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts after high school.
While there, he studied screenwriting, editing and directing and solidified his interest in making films. During this period, Brubaker also participated in the N.C. Writer’s Workshop in 2002 and created a short documentary about the local tradition of field hollerin’ that was accepted to several international film festivals. His 2009 documentary Brushes With Life: Art, Artists and Mental Illness won multiple awards within the film industry, screened at festivals and aired state-wide on public television.
In 2010, Brubaker participated in the Rogue Film School seminar with Werner Herzog and then felt emboldened to pursue a different direction in his art practice. That same year, a new master’s degree was offered at Duke University that combined experimental and documentary art forms in one graduate program. Brubaker enrolled in the inaugural class of the MFA Program in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke in 2011.
While a student, Brubaker participated in a residency as the experimental filmmaker at an oceanographic program in Rhode Island. Brubaker earned his MFA degree in 2013, and the direction of his filmmaking turned askew of traditional narrative or documentary in favor of a more essay-like approach. In 2016, he began a professional partnership with Fandor, a movie streaming service that publishes videographic essays on film criticism. For five years running, Brubaker’s work has been chosen annually by his peers as Best of the Year in the Sight & Sound Magazine Critic’s Poll for Video Essays. Sight & Sound Magazine is considered one of the most significant publications on cinema in the world and has been an early herald of the importance of videographic essay as a singular art form.
Now one of the world’s most well known video essayists, Brubaker won an award from the Adelio Ferrero Film Festival for his video essay, Stranger/Things in 2019. That same month, Brushes With Life: Art, Artists and Mental Illness received an award from the Mental Filmness Festival in Chicago. The year 2021 marks the third year in a row that Brubaker’s video essays have screened at the FILMADRID Festival in Madrid, Spain.
Brubaker will give an online lecture about the art of the video essay at a Madrid-based university in October 2021. Recently, he has worked for the San Francisco International Film Festival as a pre-screener, published several articles of film criticism and resumed his partnership making video essays for Fandor. Brubaker is currently in post-production on his first feature-length essay film, to be completed this autumn.