BHBrian Hooks has been entertaining crowds for almost 20 years as an accomplished actor, comedian, executive producer, and now writing and directing.  He has built his brand masterfully over the years, turning $1 bills into “hundo’s” in entertainment mediums that range from web series to comedy shows to feature film releases.  His latest movie, Laughing to the Bank, is the story of an almost famous actor striving to get to the next level of stardom. After being rejected by Hollywood, he sets out to raise the funds to create his own project. With a story line akin to Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle, with twists, turns and escapades on par with The Hangover, Hooks puts a comedic spin on a harsh reality that embodies the adversities and struggles thespians encounter in Hollywood… struggles that he has worked hard to avoid.

The  Bakersfield, CA native has also been revered in Hollywood circles as grinder.  Always staying busy, Hooks has grown more as an executive producer, proving that independent films can gross profit margins on par with big office releases.

With film credits that include Phat Beach (1996), Bulworth (1998), Beloved (1998), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), 3 Strikes (2000), Nothin’ 2 Lose (2000), The Luau (2001), The Chatroom (2002) and Malibooty (2003), Hooks has never been short on accomplishments.  Laughing to the Bank represents a return to his leading role status after appearing in numerous supporting roles over the last few years.

In a Day & a Dream exclusive, I spent some time chatting it up with Brian Hooks to learn more about the secret to his success. We get serious here, primarily with an emphasis on uncovering the science of the craft.

Brian, tell us more about your current method for putting together successful revenue-generating film projects while straying far from the “opprobrium” stigma.

For me, the key is to always think ahead, stay challenged, and stay humbled.  We released Laughing to the Bank independently – without outside financing from WB, Fox, or Sony, and this movie was financed independently from start to finish. In thinking ahead, we also decided to release this movie theatrically.  This project has been very successful (in that) I learned so much, and in taking that knowledge and applying the next step, from DVD to theatrical, I really wanted to add to my foundation as a leader in independent film development. And I have to say that the knowledge gained was immeasurable, and one that I am excited and proud to apart of.

Tell me Brian, how many films have you executive produced?

I’d say between 15 to 20… I never really counted. My motto is simple: I finish the work, then tackle whatever’s next.  In having independent freedom, filmmakers come to me with what I like… which truly is all apart of the journey.

And how did this vision begin?

It just happened organically. My buddies and I decided to go out and make a film. Our first film cost us $14,000 but grossed $800,ooo.  Back then we worked with Xenon, a mid-level distributor, back when the market wasn’t flooded.  VHS and DVDs were super expensive, there were more Blockbusters stores out… it was just a different time, but urban sales were shifted to license for television. This is something that I recognized and decided to leverage. We worked with a distributor that appreciated that we could build an incredible business, and as we delivered, they solicited us on a grander scale. It was at that time that I decided to take a step back, recognizing that I could change the game and dictate my path.

Tell me about your early experience in film, the pitfalls, and what you’ve learned along the way.

Man, I was in the “school of hard knocks” in supporting myself as an actor, but when studios would call I knew that I wanted to be the boss. And to do so, I knew that I had to educate myself.  I also grew to understand the pitfalls, and that proved beneficial.  It all happened over a short time, and very organically. One day I just said, “Wow this independent work is more prosperous,” and while some actors would say “Why make a film on your own and go to DVD?”  I knew that I had a brand and was controlling my own destiny.

Early on, I remember being apart of the production for Nothing 2 Lose. At a cost of $100,000, earning reports grew to over $2.5 million before the reporting stopped. This was over 10 years ago; and now, everybody is trying to make independent films. I’ve been doing it for awhile, so I knew that if I could sustain this, build it up, and not wait on Hollywood to call me for a job, I would eat.

So basically, you made ragu sauce before there was spaghetti.

Yeah man. Exactly. See, we couldn’t make a Jurassic Park or an Avatar movie, but we could make a movie with a budget, and that proved to be successful.  It created a niche for myself in the business to where now – present day – we are in a very independent time where FOX, NBC, CBS, TBS… there are a million channels on cable, and they all need content to run 24hrs a day. So now, the indie guy is in a great position to prosper, which puts me in a incredible position, and I have been blessed.

In such an independent time, new outlets and channels reach out to me because I know how to make a film on a budget. Whether small or large, there is a need to maximize it by working with a guy like me, that knows how to do it, and I can quarterback this.

I get it. You have, in effect, forged a new path for yourself in the film business. But beyond the standard ROI, what drives future profitability for you in this new frontier?

To answer this, let’s look at the traditional movie studios.  They make 2,4,5, 10 films a year. They don’t bank on making just one movie, but it takes just one successful movie to pay for them all. So in effect, making one movie is not a model of success. For me, I’m looking for someone to come behind me with an existing brand, money, or both, to take advantage of my creative freedom. New financing, one project at a time, will help me to create a $100m company very quickly. And this doesn’t mean that I don’t aspire to be on a major network with big production, but I strive to keep putting out good content.

The hilarious comedy Laughing to the Bank opened in theaters nationwide on August 23.

(check back in with us next week, as I delve into another interview with Brian Hooks. This time, we will bug out a little, talking more about his experience working with so many other luminaries in Hollywood, from Halle Berry, Vince Vaughn, Kevin Hart, Don Cheadle, Doug Ellis, Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Matthew McConaughey, Warren Beatty, Mike Myers, Eve, Belinda Williams, Mekhi Phifer, Kate Hudson, Monique, and others)