INTERVIEW: Brian Hooks

Hi Brian, welcome to Vents Magazine! Now that we’re halfway into the New Year, how has 2021 been treating you so far?

Thank you for having me! I must admit 2021 thus far has been great. Everyone in the family is healthy. My film Adam + Eve is coming along great and set to be released later this year. And my Left of Bang Entertainment program is continuing to grow and entertain youth during these challenging times. 2021, so far, so good. Amen to that!

Congratulations and major kudos for the recent wrap on your new independent film Adam + Eve! For the unfortunate few not in the know, can you tell us what Adam + Eve is about who you play in the movie?

Thank you! Adam + Eve is a drama. A love story. It’s different from how the audience is used to seeing me, but very fun and entertaining nonetheless. The story is about two people who meet and fall in love. However, they both have questionable pasts. No sooner they figure out that they’re soul mates, their’ skeletons start to creep up, preventing them from moving forward and living happily ever after. My character is an ex-marine suffering from a mild case of PTSD, as he tries to stay balanced and stay loved.

You also produced, wrote, and directed Adam + Eve, which means you wore a lot of hats for this production! Was there ever any overwhelm on your part as you attempted to corral a lot of different moving pieces?

Yes, I wore many hats! Let’s not forget wardrobe stylist, etc., lol. It was exhausting. The weight of COVID and the details that came along with that made it even more challenging. There were overwhelming moments, but I’ve learned that some things you can’t control. When those things happen, all you can do is make the necessary adjustments and move forward the best you can. I also had a minimal but amazing crew who wore multiple hats throughout the production as well. They were a great help in making the production a success.

You had an amazing cast to work with for the movie: Teck Holmes, Kareem J. Grimes, Duane Finley, Trae Ireland, and yourself, or but a few of the talented thespians plying their magic in Adam + Eve. What was it like for you as a director to work with these heavyweight talents?

It was great. These guys obviously did me a huge favor in being part of the production. They’re all vets who came ready to work and took what was on the script to the next level. However, we had a few new up-and-coming stars in the cast as well, and you will be blown away by their performance. I could not be happier with my cast.

Adam + Eve says so many things about human relationships; did the story ever skirt close to autobiography for you? Are these situations and characters that you intimately know?

There’s always a piece of me in anything I write. I may produce something that’s not connected to me in any way, but if I’ve written it, then there are definitely pieces of me in it.  I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical in any way, but my voice is present in the characters and situations in the film.

You shot Adam + Eve during the height of COVID. Can you talk with us about what types of challenges you faced in getting the movie made, considering the crazy world circumstances we’re all living through right now?

What allowed me to shoot the film in these COVID circumstances was my independent background. I’ve been making indie films for a couple of decades now, so I have the ability to make a film single-handedly from start to finish. Because of this, I wasn’t at the mercy of studios to decide when and where I could pick back up and start shooting.

I decided it was time to adjust and move forward. I could do that by scaling down the crew dramatically and increasing the number of days we shot. This flexibility allowed us to move slowly and safely, obeying all the COVID laws and rules, rapid tests, etc. It was a huge challenge, but we were able to navigate and have a successful production with no issues safely.

You’re a long-hauler in the film industry, going all the way back to 1996’s Phat Beach. Can you speak on the changes you’ve seen in the industry over the years, and has there been change ultimately for the better?

Yes, it has been a long time coming, lol. I’m blessed to be here still and active. It’s a completely different industry from top to bottom, in my opinion. I think the change is all surrounding social media and digital distribution. It’s a new era, and everyone has been forced to adapt and adjust.

It’s a very independent time now. I believe that’s directly related to there being so many different forms of distribution outlets. Content is always needed. Studios could never fill the need for all the different distribution platforms on their own, so the independent content creator is in demand. Creating independent content has been my foundation, so obviously, I embrace the change, and it’s been great for me.

Speaking of that first acting credit I have for you, any fond memories of your freshman acting gig?

Wow… that was the best time ever! Phat Beach! I was so green, so excited, but so prepared to step into that role! Coming from a small town like Bakersfield, California, and now starring in a feature film, it was a dream. I remember every moment of that production like it was yesterday. It was a blessing.

You’ve sat in the director’s chair five times now, the first time being for 2007’s Dead Tone. What are the chief differences between director Brian Hooks circa 2007 versus your directing style now?

I think I’ve just matured. I have a greater IQ of film from start to finish now. With Dead Tone aka 7eventy5ive, I knew how to do my job as a director. Today I understand and know how to do everyone’s job on the crew pretty much. I’m aware and knowledgeable of the details involved in the production of a film from start to finish now. My film IQ is much higher today.

You have an organization that I want to spend some time on today because I think it’s absolutely brilliant…What can you tell readers about Left of Bang Entertainment and what it means to you?

It means everything to me. It’s the greatest thing I’ve done and been a part of to date. The program reaches out to inner-city youth and allows them to be a part of the coveted Hollywood magic.

Left Of Bang Entertainment. The BANG in our name stands for that action moment in a kid’s life where they decide to pick up a gun, commit a violent act, join a gang, anything that puts them on the wrong side of the law. We want to intercept these youth before that bang moment to keep them Left Of Bang.

We want to arm these youth with the tools and knowledge needed to give them hope. So often, these youth are born into situations where they’re forced to choose between bad and worse, and we want to be that other option for them. One of the top reasons kids join gangs is to look for a sense of family and belonging. This is a natural human instinct that every human being needs to thrive and stay alive. These kids are going to seek this out, even if it’s with a gang. We want to provide that sense of family for them through our filmmaking family. We want to provide them with the mentorship needed to help them achieve their dreams and live happily and fulfilled lives.

After all, given a chance to choose between shooting a gun and shooting movies, these youth will choose shooting movies EVERY time. And that’s the option we’re affording them.

I’ve also started an online film school to support these youth. I teach them the basics of filmmaking and invite celebrity guests to give them words of support and encouragement. I’ve been blessed to have Anthony Anderson, Vivica Fox, JB Smoove, Craig Robinson, and Tabitha Brown come through, to name a few. The response from the youth has been amazing.

I recently wrapped a Kickstarter campaign for them to fund their first film project. We were able to reach our goal of $50K and then some. Kickstarter’s success will aid in helping them to produce their first film from start to finish with me. I’m very excited about this! The program is everything to me.

What has the response been from inside the industry to Left of Bang Entertainment?

The response has been amazing! Everyone applauds my efforts, and then they offer their support. I think the common understanding among the industry and beyond is that children are our future. I’m looking to partner with a studio soon to help make a more significant impact on these youth’s lives.

What’s coming up for you in the future in movies? Any hints you can drop for us?

Well, I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes things the past few years. I am now back to shooting a minimum of 2 films a year. So I’ll be making my next film in a couple of months. It’s a comedy that will be very hilarious.

I’m doing a sitcom starring myself with Bentley Evans. I will also be back on the road doing stand-up leading up to my first ever comedy special. And I will incorporate my Left Of Bang youth in every project. No longer will I make films and TV solely for the sake of entertainment. Everything I do must have a positive social impact attached to it.

Who inspires you – alive or dead – in acting? Who inspires your directing?

Who inspires me in acting? There are a few. But I will say Denzel because he has such a powerful impact on screen in everything he does. I will also say, Jamie Foxx. The reason being is because he has had a limitless career. From Ray to Booty Call to sitcoms, he’s been able to do it all, and he does it well. I love that, and I look to have a wide range of very different roles like that when it’s all said and done.

On the directing side, it is Judd Apatow. Period. I love the tone of his films. As crazy as they may be, they’re always grounded in reality, I feel, and I love that. He’s been a great inspiration for me.

Do you ever envision a time when you’ll focus exclusively on just directing?

I do because my creativity is limitless, and it’s not based solely on me. So there will always be stories I want to tell that I’m not the best fit for. So I think I will organically move into directing more and acting less as time goes on.

Final – SILLY! – Question: What’s the one thing that is always in your refrigerator?

Root Beer! Lol! I don’t drink alcohol, but I always keep a root beer on deck in the fridge.

About Ryan Vandergriff

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