I’ve been using all of my social platforms to further my Grandfather’s inspiration for making sure this country continues to be a land of progress and opportunity for all people. So, I’ve been very active in one way or another, every single day. Always in honor of my Grandparents. Without their bravery, I wouldn’t be here.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Wolf.
Aaron Wolf is a director, actor and writer based in Los Angeles. An honors graduate from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, Aaron also worked with the improv comedy troupe The Groundlings. He is the co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
Ever since I was about six or seven years of age I’ve been spellbound by film and acting. I was always creating stories, doing community theater, and being driven by creativity. I have learning disabilities too, so creativity was a wonderful outlet for my imagination and creativity. I’m told I was drawn to The Hollywood Reporter and Variety along with comic books. My father was a big influence on my early interest in films. He was always loved talking to me about films he liked and taught me about older movies. He’s a very good writer, mainly corporate than for films, but regardless, it’s in my blood.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
I have been very lucky in that I have too many to count. I’ll tell you two of my first. When I was a little kid, my Dad was working as a speechwriter at The Walt Disney Company. He’d pick me up from school and I’d go back to his office. Instead of sitting in his office, I’d venture away from his more corporate setting, over to the backlot. I would sneak into all the soundstages and be this 10/11/12 year old, chatting it up with all the interesting people, like I was supposed to be there. This included anyone from directors to celebrities like Tim Allen, Dave Chapelle, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Tom Hanks once. To me, watching the set action happen was fascinating and I thought someday that’s what I’ll be doing.
The second that comes to mind was when I was 18. My friend and I snuck into the Vanity Fair after-party. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone but we made fake badges, pretended to be part of the crew putting on the party, went in the back, took off our outfits in the bathroom and, underneath was our used tuxedos we’d just purchased at some second-hand store. It was a room at a restaurant that was then called Morton’s. This lead to a crazy night where we were grinding on the dance floor with Julia Roberts and Helen Hunt, as Sting watched on sipping a drink while we high fived Cameron Crowe and Matt Damon. We briefly got caught when someone asked us at the bar what we did for work. We said we were writers for Conan O’Brien. He said, “So am I. Why don’t I know you?” Well, we just got hired, of course.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Again, I am lucky to have a lot of stories. Interesting people is a weird word. In our industry, “interesting people” usually means celebrities, and as I’ve said above, I’ve been interacting with them for most of my life, usually in a “not supposed to be doing this” fashion. As my career got going, I’ve gotten to work with everyone from Steve Martin to Snoop Dogg to Mila Kunis to Kevin Kline. But when I think of truly impactful people, it’s those that have been kind and mentored me. Howard Green, a publicist in the industry for years, has inspired me to love the industry. My father, who taught me how to write, among a zillion of other things. My mother, who showed me how to be a caring person. My producing partner in making a difference and achieving our goals, Tim Nuttall, who is good at all the things I stink at. Michael Gross, of Family Ties and Tremors fame, has been a kind mentor and friend to me for years as we have also collaborated. The same goes for Graham Greene and Peter Riegert. I find most people who do interesting things that I am interested in to be interesting. So, it’s a blur of who to pick. I am grateful for every interesting person I’ve had the honor and pleasure of getting to learn from.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now, I am excited by a number of projects in development at my company Howling Wolf Productions. We have a big feature film coming out in October called TAR about the La Brea Tar Pits and a true Native American legend about a world underneath the Tar Pits. I play the son in the film. My father is played by screen legend Timothy Bottoms, someone else I learned a ton from. I am also very proud of the social work I am doing. I do a lot of public speaking on issues of unity and community and coming together. I also have a show called The Together Show that is just taking off about bringing interesting people together to share their points of view and let the audience participate. And I have a podcast called Aaron and Rohit’s Hopeless Show where we bring hope to all things hopeless. And, man oh man, is there a lot these days.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
My grandfather escaped Nazi Germany and became a Rabbi, Rabbi Alfred Wolf, starting the interfaith movement and promoting intercultural and interfaith relations. He was a forward thinker. I was born into a family of inclusion. I really didn’t know any other way. It was our family table. My family is my inspiration. As are some of my mentors. And then I’d say I took it for granted for a while during school, college, distractions. And maybe a bit after college, I started to realize this was important to me. And that importance grew and further affected my work. I made a film about my reconnecting to my roots called Restoring Tomorrow, which had a big theatrical release and was about me connecting to my roots and discovering how we can make society better by coming together as one, in spite of our differences. I have also done work in the education field, to promote that having disabilities are not bad, but actually lead to other abilities. Hence, we are just different, just like everyone else.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
Besides everything I’ve been talking about, I’ve most definitely been marching. And I’ve been using all of my social platforms to further my Grandfather’s inspiration for making sure this country continues to be a land of progress and opportunity for all people. So, I’ve been very active in one way or another, every single day. Always in honor of my Grandparents. Without their bravery, I wouldn’t be here.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
I’ve never had a plan B. I started Howling Wolf Productions as a living dream in college. It was me and anything I’d get hired for. My cousin made my website. I designed my business cards. A friend drew my logo. And the list goes on. I guess because of a bit of dumb stubbornness, this is always what I knew I would do. And it’s been a part of me ever since, whether I do independent work or studio work. I remember on an early job I had, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer got mad at me because I was participating in a conversation with him and some other big wigs on a job I had. I guess protocol said I wasn’t supposed to be in that conversation. I never thought otherwise because I just look at people as people, no more, no less, just some have more money or a story I find more interesting. That was maybe my Aha! moment to just always be me and hope for the best and be ready to get into a bit of trouble along the way.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Big time. We have a non-profit called Education 4 All. I want everyone to get an equal opportunity in education, no matter how you learn. Also, go see TAR in October.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Not all people are good and honorable folks. And not all people do what they say. But every No can lead to a bigger and better Yes. That’s the simple version.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Do what’s in your heart. Do what you believe. Don’t be scared of being judged. I’ve been judged so, so much. I’ve been called every name in the book. And it does only propel you forward. Always believe in yourself. Nobody can take that away from you. And then lead by, not just words, but by actions. And people will follow.
We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would like the opportunity to join forces and share my veracity through learning challenges with the Secretary of Education and others who believe in progress, equality and, making a difference so everybody gets a fair chance. To me, life is not about what you have, it’s about what you do. Money doesn’t impress me. Positive actions do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The highest form of wisdom is kindness” is from The Talmud. This quote guided me through the making of my documentary, “Restoring Tomorrow.” I try to lead with kindness in everything I do personally and professionally.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am @theaaronwolf on all social media platforms. I look forward to hearing from anyone and everyone, be it positive or negative, and having a conversation to make the world a better place with the platforms we have. I started something called The Logic Party. It’s on social media, in its infancy stage. Not right. Not left. All logic. I hope we move to a more logical and humane society. That’s what it’s all about.
This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!