Film Courage: I’m wondering if can talk about short films for a moment? And you talk about how you made your first short film and when you look back at it now there are things that you’re really proud about? And some can you also touch on some of the misconceptions filmmakers have about short films and I know this is your opinion, it’s not law but you had some opinions about it and we’d love to hear it?
Chris von Hoffmann, writer/director of DRIFTER, MONSTER PARTY, WHITE TRASH and more: Yeah, I understand that a lot of people are very anti-short films. I hear these people saying No one cares about short films. And I mean, there’s an Academy Award for short films. Obviously some people care about them but I get what they’re saying that feature films (that makes sense). I was making shorts for years and none of them were going anywhere and then boom! I make a feature and then it gets a lot of exposure and all that stuff.
So I understand that but I wouldn’t have been able to approach the feature that I did if it wasn’t for all those shorts that I was making.
“I am shocked when people make one 5-minute short that goes viral and they get a $20,000,000 movie. I just don’t really understand that at all. I think you really need to earn your stripes a little bit.”
I think short films (for me) I started to realize over the years that they’re not at all about getting representation through those or getting a big movie out of those. There was a time that that happened. I am shocked when people make one five minute short that goes viral and they get a twenty million dollar movie. I just don’t really understand that at all. I think you really need to earn your stripes a little bit.
But I think shorts are much more about sculpting your aesthetic and learning to tell a story and working with actors, working with truncated schedules, and just understanding how movies are made before you jump into a feature.
Making a feature versus making a short, it really is night and day. I mean it’s such a completely different experience. Like you need to get those warm-up periods and maybe make shorts that are like 5 minutes, 10 minutes, then maybe a 20 minute short, getting a little closer to stretching out a story a little bit more.
Everyone has their theories on things and I don’t want to knock anything down but when people say I don’t care about shorts, I just graduated film school. I just want to make a feature right now. I hear that a lot from people. Or people just want to make one short and then jump into a feature and I remember Rian Johnson said something (of the newest STAR WARS movie) and he was saying Make like 30 short films if you can. Make as many mistakes as possible because that’s probably the biggest thing. Because making movies is always sort of like success training. Experiment, mess up a lot, and always go for the most ambitious projects. Always try to approach something that is hard. And I think a lot of people get so cautious about them, I think they are so afraid of failure. I think they are so terrified of making a movie that’s a little too dense or a little too challenging for them to approach in a short schedule or with no money.
Because if you make something that is super ambitious and maybe you do totally fail, but I would rather make something that’s ambitious and it challenged me so much and it trained me for the next movies. And perhaps maybe fail at it than make something that’s just two people talking to each other and is just some easy movie just because it’s more economically realistic. I don’t think that’s going to train you. I think they can train you on somewhat of a level. But I think if you can do something really ambitious on a very tight budget like someone like Robert Rodriguez or John Carpenter or Edgar Wright even. I mean those are guys that I look up to. I understand that Robert Rodriguez and John Carpenter score their own music and do a lot of their own stuff. But their mentality about always going for the more ambitious project and just creating a bunch because John Carpenter made so many short films like DARK STAR and then Rodriguez made so many short films before he made EL MARIACHI and I just think that short films are very important to do because I think if you completely neglect them, I almost sort of, I think it’s somewhat disrespectful to moviemaking because what makes you think you’re so good to jump into a feature right away?
Scorsese made so many shorts even before WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR.
So I’m a very much pro short films and make as many as possible and just really screw up as much as possible, make as many mistakes as possible. Because one day you might make a movie where everything just clicks. But you’re not going to be able to make that movie until you make those previous movies that you’ve learned from all those mistakes and just don’t overthink things, just keep creating. Keep making stuff.
Questions for the Viewers: Do you have the same view of short films?
CONNECT WITH CHRIS VON HOFFMANN
About Chris von Hoffmann:
After a short stint at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and acting in several off-off-Broadway plays, Chris von Hoffmann moved to LA and turned to writing/producing/directing.
Chris von Hoffmann has made several short films including Fuel Junkie, White Trash and Vodka 7. White Trash had its World Premiere at the Chinese Theatre for the 17th Annual Dances With Films film festival and won Best Guerilla short for the 10th Annual Action on Film film festival. Vodka 7 won Best Cinematography at the WILDsound film festival in Toronto and screened at Tribeca Cinemas for the 9th Annual Big Apple film festival while Fuel Junkie had its premiere at Sony Picture Studios. In 2015 he directed his debut feature film Drifter which secured worldwide distribution and was released in 2017.
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