Brand was born in New York City on December 16, 1949. He grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens and attended City College in New York before making his way to Los Angeles in 1974. His first job in the film industry was as driver and production assistant to the legendary Orson Welles. Brand wrote his first feature film, the psychological thriller Backfire with frequent collaborator Rebecca Reynolds. From there, he expanded his skills in directing and acting. He collaborated with indie film producer Roger Corman on movies including The Drifter, Masque of the Red Death and Overexposed.
He continued his indie streak with award-winning films such as Paranoia and Christina. He also had a hand in studio productions such as Hard Luck starring Wesley Snipes as