Make choices that make you happy. As simple as this seems, we often go through life making choices to please someone else (whether it’s our parents, our partners, our friends, etc.). This leads to an unhappy, unfulfilled life. Don’t chase the career that you feel makes the most money, chase the career that makes you most happy. Don’t commit to the partner that your friends and family feel is best for you, commit to the partner that YOU feel is best for you. Plan your life around people, places, and things that make you happy.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Brian Hooks.
Born and raised in Bakersfield, California, Brian Hooks is a highly prolific actor, producer, writer, director, and stand-up comedian. In addition to starring in feature films such as the smash hit “Fool’s Gold”, and premiering as a series regular on UPN’s “EVE,” Hooks has also enjoyed remarkable success as a leading star, producer, and director in numerous highly profitable independent films.
While attending Cal State University Northridge, Hooks majored in mathematics with the intent of becoming a high school teacher, though the idea of film piqued his interest. While still in university, he began submitting himself for various roles and soon landed his first major role as the central character in the urban classic “Phat Beach,” written and directed by Doug Ellin, the creator of HBO’s “Entourage.” From there, his career in film took off.
In light of the convincing success of his many previous film, television, and comedy endeavors, Brian considers his biggest achievement to date the philanthropic arm of his production company, B. Hooks Production, called Left of Bang Entertainment . In 2018, Hooks came to the realization that his life had a deeper purpose, and he had a burning desire to give back at the highest level. Citing his favorite quote from Steve Jobs, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Hooks embarked on a mission to bring about change in the film industry and help inner-city youth. Knowing that inner-city youth are typically not exposed to outlets of community other than gangs and the violence associated with it, Left of Bang Entertainment is giving a unique alternative option to these youth.
The Left of Bang Entertainment mission is to create a safe space for young men and women by providing inner-city youth with the opportunity to take part in the filmmaking process. The nonprofit allows youth to be on set, work side by side with celebrity talent and crew, and observe and participate in all that goes into bringing a film to life.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
There have been several hilarious stories over the years. But the one that sticks out most is when I met Oprah Winfrey. I was cast to play Young Danny Glover in “Beloved.” I arrived in Philadelphia, excited because of the all-star cast and the late Jonathan Demme as director. I arrived at the hair & makeup trailer on set to prep for the next day’s shoot (seeing as it was a period piece). I walked into the makeup trailer and there she was, Oprah. I wasn’t ready… lol. She was kind and said “Hello, welcome.” I said hello back, trying to be as cool as possible. As I crossed to sit in the makeup chair, Oprah was exiting to set and I noticed her feet. I was devastated. Her feet looked horrible! I was stunned! And I couldn’t understand why someone with that much money would be walking around on feet like that. It didn’t match who she was. There had to be something that could be done and why hadn’t she done it? I was stressed about it. I went back to my hotel that evening highly concerned. The next day when I arrived on set, I saw her in the trailer getting prepped. It was then that I noticed they were actually aging her feet and applying special FX makeup to make them look worn. I had never felt more relieved in my life! As I mentioned, it was a period piece and back in that time there was a lot of walking, no socks, uncomfortable shoes, if any at all, etc. So it turned out that Oprah has beautiful feet, and all was right in the world again :). But when I think back about how stressed, concerned, and confused I was, it always makes me laugh.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
There are quite a few people who inspire me. I love people who push the envelope, who discover new ground, who are willing to dream and create in an area that doesn’t necessarily exist at the time. That’s what inspires me. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Besos, they pushed the boundaries and thought outside the box. African-American inventors from the past move me even more. It’s one thing to dream, create new space, and push boundaries, but it’s a whole different situation to do so with the pressures of being African-American. Individuals such as Lonnie Johnson who created the Super Soaker, and Garrett Morgan who created the traffic light are a true inspirations. And then you have Madame CJ Walker, who was not only African-American, but a woman in a time when it was truly unpopular to be so. Yet still, she managed to pushed the envelope and achieve far beyond the norm.
These stories remind me that there’s no idea that’s too great, too far-fetched, or too difficult. If I can dream it, then I can achieve it.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Individuals, society and the government can and should acknowledge, educate and have empathy for those who aren’t on a level playing field. One of the things that shocked me in my rotarian meeting was when the ex Chief of Police mentioned that they can predict with 100% certainty whether or not a child will go to prison by the age of three. This is based on the geographical area that they’re born in, the number of gang territories they walk through to get to and from school, and whether or not their parents have been in jail or involved in gangs.
I think having awareness of the imbalance of what some people are born into, is the first step. The second, is helping to educate and spread this knowledge. If you are a company or individual, you have a voice. Whether it’s five people or 5,000 people, it’s important to share through your channels of communication — your audience, your family — just
sharing the message, and sharing that this program exists, helps to push this program forward. Financially supporting this cause, or any cause you’re passionate about helps. Nothing is too small. If a million people gave 1 dollar, it would clearly make a huge impact.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t plan your way to success. Meaning, success is achieved by action. We sometimes spend so much time trying to perfect our ideations rather than making them a reality. Don’t get trapped in the planning state. Until you take action, it’s impossible to arrive at achieving your goals.
- There will be failures along the way to achieving your goal. Anyone with a dream and a plan to achieve it will be met with multiple failures along the journey. No one is exempt from making mistakes, falling short, and having things fall apart. This is all part of the journey. Without these failures and lessons, your goals can’t be reached. And if you are able to reach your goals without any failures, then your goals may be too small. I don’t even like to call these challenging moments ‘failures’ anymore, but rather foundation blocks, because these moments provide the lessons for us to build a solid foundation in achieving our goals.
- If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t good. I believe all humans possess an instinct that’s extremely powerful. Sometimes things just don’t feel good, something doesn’t seem right, or a person makes you feel uncomfortable. These are legitimate feelings. I can’t count how many times in my life I have ignored my instinct and it has cost me valuable time or money. Don’t ever ignore your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, distance yourself or walk away.
- Make choices that make you happy. As simple as this seems, we often go through life making choices to please someone else (whether it’s our parents, our partners, our friends, etc.). This leads to an unhappy, unfulfilled life. Don’t chase the career that you feel makes the most money, chase the career that makes you most happy. Don’t commit to the partner that your friends and family feel is best for you, commit to the partner that YOU feel is best for you. Plan your life around people, places, and things that make you happy.
- Tomorrow is not promised. Live in the now. So often we think that we have an infinite amount of time to do and experience the things we want to. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Don’t spend time being angry at family and friends. Resolve it and move forward. Don’t wait until tomorrow to tell the special people in your life how much you love them. Tomorrow might be too late. Don’t put off visiting places you want to see, trying activities you’ve been wanting to experience, etc. Your life is happening now. This is not a dress rehearsal. It’s showtime!
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?
I don’t know if there’s one thing I can tell them to really drive home the point, but there is a great learning activity that I’ve done with my youth in the past. I would give them money. I tell them it’s theirs to keep, and they can do whatever they want with it. All that is required is that they purchase one thing for someone else. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, it could be a $5 gift card from Starbucks. I then tell them, “when we meet the following week, tell me what you gave and how it made you feel.”
What you’ll find is that no matter who you are, no matter how old or young, no matter how you grow up, the act of giving sets off a life and energy inside of you that feels amazing and there’s no other feeling that matches it.
The energy you get from giving without expecting anything in return, comes back to you tenfold. This is also why I’m committed to service over self.
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 love to collaborate with Oprah Winfrey and Lebron James. Their stories of overcoming great adversities under unlikely odds is amazing. They have clearly never forgotten that there are still people out there struggling to overcome the same odds they had to, which is evident in the kindness and generosity they’ve displayed over the years. Oprah has consistently used her platform to give back and empower others. Lebron has done the same. He has a great affinity for empowering youth and affording them a great foundation to build on. The story of his “I Promise” school is amazing. It really sums up who he is, and supports his team’s slogan “More than an athlete.”
The opportunity to extend my youth filmmaking program to Lebron’s “I Promise” students, or work alongside Oprah helping to keep kids on the path to happiness and success would be a dream come true.
How can our readers follow you online?
Everyone can follow and connect with me on Twitter @b_hooks, @thebrianhooks on IG and FB, as well as @leftofbangentertainment on all social media platforms. I’d love to connect with you all!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!