Hollywood stars

Unique Effort Pairs Fresno Students With Hollywood Stars – GV Wire

Alina Iriarte wants to be a singer-actress. Yosef Aklilu is not yet sure about his future career, but cinema is one of his interests.

They might not be famous now, but these two Fresno teenagers could soon see their names in the credits of a Hollywood movie.

Alina Iriarte

Alina, 17, who graduated last month from Sunnyside High School, and Yosef, 16, who just completed sophomore year at Edison High, were among about two dozen Fresno Unified students who participated this spring to a two-month cinematic mentorship. program, Left of Bang. Mentoring sessions, usually about an hour and a half long, took place almost every other Saturday.

The program is the brainchild of Brian Hooks, a Hollywood actor, writer, director and producer, who introduced students to how movies are made as well as some of his friends and associates in the business, including actors Anthony Anderson, Vivica Fox, Craig Robinson, JB Smoove and Kel Mitchell, makeup artist Araxi Lindsey and Disney director Ralph Farquhar.

Learn the basics

For Alina, who is currently taking classes at Fresno City College and hopes to attend film school in Los Angeles, the mentorship program came before her graduation and gave her valuable insight into preparing for a career. of actor.

For example, Alina learned that movie scenes are shot out of order, depending on location and staff availability, “which really interests me because I would like to be an actress.”

Students learned things like “call sheets” (schedules that tell cast and crew when they need to be on set), “locking a script” (when scenes are locked in place and numbered ), advice on scriptwriting and how to market scripts to producers or directors, and film production costs and the need to stay on budget, she said.

Yosef Aklilou

Yosef isn’t yet sure if his future is in the film industry – “I’ve just developed an interest in accounting, so I still have no idea what I want to do” – but he has been eagerly absorbing the PowerPoints and conversations with Hooks and others about succeeding in the film industry, including the importance of being prepared and developing relationships.

If he doesn’t choose accounting or another field, Yosef might opt ​​for film editing. In seventh grade, he helped produce a video for Fresno Unified.

“I really enjoyed the editing work, even though it took time, I enjoyed doing it and seeing the end result because I knew that every element of the edit was leading to something great. So I love That’s why I joined… so I can kind of go out there and see if that’s what I want to do in the future.

More than cinema

Brian Hooks

Hooks said he thought about a mentorship-type program for several years before moving forward. He wanted to focus on the inner city students and show them that they had other options than joining a gang.

“The Bang in Our Name represents that moment of action in a child’s life where they decide to pick up a gun, commit a violent act, anything that puts them on the wrong side of the law. And what what we want to do is intercept them before then and keep them “out” and give them the skills, knowledge and expertise that gives them hope and leads them to a very fulfilling life.

Hooks had thought he might become a high school teacher when he went off to college at CSU Northridge. But after he auditioned for roles and landed his first major acting role as one of the leads in the 1996 comedy “Phat Beach,” his career took off and he spent the next two decades in roles before the camera and also behind it. .

But something seemed to be missing, and the motto of his Rotary Club of Santa Monica – “Service Above Self” – along with listening to his own mentors led him to realize he wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. , just as he had planned to do as a high school math teacher.

“I always tell the story of this kid I met at the Fox Hills mall when I was just trying to get in and out. And he approached me super excited. And I was like, ‘OK, you have to know me for some of my movies or TV.’ And he did. But that’s not why he approached me. He went on to say, “Oh, you changed my life.” I am who I am because of what you told me.

“And I’m like, OK, this kid is confusing me with Kevin Hart or somebody, he clearly doesn’t know who I am because I’ve never met him before. But he went on to say: ‘No, you visited my class 10 years ago. Your sister is Miss Hooks. And I was like, OK, he doesn’t think I’m Kevin Hart. He knows exactly who I am because Miss Hooks, as he calls her, is my sister. And I visited his class and many classes over the years. And he kept telling me what he was doing. He was working two jobs, saving up to start his own business. He had a new daughter and he said he always remembered what I told him that day in that class. And it changed his life. »

During their alternate Saturday sessions, Hooks revealed some news to the students – he raised funding for a film about a man (played by Hooks) who completes community service for unpaid parking tickets while driving students with special needs and advising them across the country.

Hooks said he wished he could remember what he said that affected the youngster so deeply, because “maybe I could tell other kids about it”.

But what’s more important, he says, is knowing the impact that even a brief classroom visit can have on young people.

“That’s the beauty of it. It was a moment I couldn’t remember, but a moment he never forgot. And that’s the power of mentorship mixed with stardom. We have the ability to change lives simply by offering a few words of encouragement.

Connections are essential

Person Darrin

Fresno Unified students can thank the City of Bakersfield for their Left of Bang mentorship opportunity. It is the hometown of Hooks and Darrin Person, who runs the district mentorship office. Hooks jokes that Person has always come second to him – in track competitions.

Person, always on the lookout for potential mentorship candidates, was intrigued when he heard about Left of Bang, called Hooks, and the two colluded to develop a program.

Hooks said he didn’t want to wait until the pandemic was over to start – he had heard of too many students struggling with isolation, depression, and knew there was no time to to lose. He started by visiting schools, but decided to work on a more formal program that could connect with students virtually.

Person was happy to have another option for students to consider because he believes mentorship programs are important not only for students who are at risk of dropping out, but also for students like Alina and Yosef who are excelling in their studies.

“Just because you’re doing well academically doesn’t mean you don’t need extra support,” he said. “I’m glad that mentoring is also playing the role of bridging those gaps.”

Make a movie

During their alternate Saturday sessions, Hooks revealed some news to the students – he raised funding for a film about a man (played by Hooks) who completes community service for unpaid parking tickets while driving students with special needs and advising them across the country.

Here’s the exciting part: students will have the opportunity to audition for roles or work behind the scenes. They will even help create the title of the film.

“It’s just amazing, because it’s pretty cool to be able to have this opportunity at school,” Alina said. It’s so hard to get something like that. I truly appreciate it.

“Hopefully I can work on something real and impact their industry and maybe do my best and whether it’s on camera or behind the camera, just have a part and play that,” Yosef said. . . “And I think Mr. Hooks also brought up seeing your name in those credits that come up after the movie, that would be a great thing as well, so whatever I can to work on that movie – I think I could hearing. But if I don’t understand, maybe I would like to work behind the camera as well. So just being able to work on an actual project and the movie is just huge.

Nobody says his first reaction upon learning about the film was to jokingly ask, “Can I get a part?”

He is happy that Alina, Yosef and the other Fresno Unified students can have this chance.

“My reaction was, wow, what an opportunity. And I’m glad we’re doing this because it’s something I’ve always wanted them to be exposed to.

Make the difference

For Hooks, film is a way to combine his creative side with his need for social impact and to make a difference in the lives of young people. He gave the public the opportunity to participate and launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign last spring to raise $50,000 for the project which earned $50,501 from 139 backers.

He expects Left of Bang to continue to grow, giving young people across California and even around the world a safe place to be creative, learn about the film industry, and have fun.

“I want…to be this huge playground where they can come with this positive energy around nice, fun, kind people and learn things that move them forward, and meet some of these people and see how normal, natural and human they are, and connect with them. But at the end of the day, just this huge online playground where kids can come and be safe, and it’s going to be a place to exhale some of the craziness they have to deal with in the world.