The Impact Netflix Can Have On A Filmmaker’s Life by Chris von Hoffmann
Film Courage: So with all the trials and tribulations with DRIFTER and your goal to make a film before age 30, the film eventually ended up on Netflix?
Chris von Hoffmann, horror writer/director: It was a pretty quick turnaround which was quite shocking. The whole first quarter of 2017 of last year was pretty hectic because I was in the thickness of prepping MONSTER PARTY, meeting with all these actors for that and then DRIFTER was screening at UCLA and it finally had its theatrical run at this little arthouse theater in Hollywood. And then it went to iTunes and Amazon and all that afterwards and then once we were filming MONSTER PARTY, it went to Netflix in May of last year. So no one had any more excuses to not watch the movie.
Then everyone started to watch it. It helped so much that it went to Netflix and then when it goes to Netflix, you start to learn about the darkness of the Internet, trolls and everyone has an opinion and everyone loves to comment. At a certain point they all start saying the same thing and there is no point responding to anyone of them. I just don’t respond to anyone if they’re obnoxious with comments, it’s like you just didn’t get the movie. But it definitely helped a lot and then there were people who totally loved it and totally got what the movie was. I got some very nice messages from people and some not-so-nice messages from people.
But if you’re going to make movies you’ve got to be thick-skinned, you’ve just got to embrace it but it was a very interesting time. I just wasn’t expecting the movie to get as much exposure as it did. I thought it was going to get a small distribution and just move on. But then when The Hollywood Reporter is writing about it and IndieWire is writing about it and then it’s getting released all over the world I’m like “Well…there you are!” And every decision you made is all up there to watch. But I don’t regret anything. At the time that was exactly the movie I wanted to make. I just wanted to push the soundtrack, push all that stuff, must maximize the aesthetic where you’ve got to pull back for later movies.
“As long as they react, I don’t care if they love it or hate it, I just want them to react to it and have an opinion about it whether it’s good or not.”
With MONSTER PARTY it’s a similar kind of genre (hybrid storytelling), it’s still a very different movie at the same time. All the mistakes that I learned on that movie (that people had no problem telling me about), I feel like I learned a lot from. I always read a handful of bad reviews, you just want to know what bothers people, what doesn’t work for people and just fix that stuff. Because with MONSTER PARTY we spent a year on the script. I wanted to make sure that it was an improvement, if anything else, I just wanted to make sure it was an improvement and I feel like it is.
Film Courage: It’s interesting because I was watching an interview with Margaret Atwood, it was a BBC documentary or something. And she was talking about her first book (it blew out the numbers that they had first projected) and someone gave her the advice of (and he just looked at her) “Now they can shoot at you.” Especially plus too [her critics asked], “Where does this darkness come from? You must have gone through these things?” [Her response] “No, this is just what I write about. You don’t have to have experienced them to go to that level of darkness.” So she talked about this as well [harsh criticism]. Did you think that DRIFTER was going to get to that level when you were making it or you needed to fulfill a goal for yourself?
Chris: I needed to fulfill a goal and I had no idea it was going to get the kind of exposure it got. It was great in the long run. I mean it did everything I needed it to do. I had no regrets about any of it. If there is just one regret, I wish we spent more time on the screenplay, that I wasn’t so unbelievably…I’m a very antsy kind of person. But now I’ve grown so much as a filmmaker after that and I changed a lot of how I want to approach things. And I’ve grown to actually love writing now and I want to spend a lot of time on the screenplay.
With DRIFTER I think I was just at the point…I was concerned with visual construction and composition and aesthetic and style because that movie is all about style. It’s all about the mood and atmosphere and the music. There is really nothing much more to it. That’s very much what it’s about. It’s like a music video or something. And at that time, that was the kind of movie I wanted to make. And now I am much more interested in proper character development, proper narrative. Because DRIFTER was a very particular kind of movie. Even my shorts are nothing like that movie at all. It was like let me just get this ultimate, nostalgic movie out of my system and just purge myself, chock full of all this stuff I’ve always wanted to do. The things that I’ve loved growing up, all these obscurities and push everything to the max from beginning to end and just see where it lands…Watch the video interview on Youtube here.