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An Interview with C.L. Hoffa, Director of American Johns

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2015

Films directed by C.L. Hoffa on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie American Johns - in a few words, what is it about?


American Johns is a short film about an escort named Melissa and what happens one day with one of her 'johns'. Then a Detective starts investigating and things get a little strange.


How did you happen to come across Christopher L. Golon's [Christopher L. Golon interview - click here] source novella in the first place, and how close did you remain to the material? And what was your collaboration with Christopher like?


Having known Christopher for many years, I worked with him in many different capacities (editor, cinematographer, producer, and more) and he told me about this short novella he had written after film school. I asked him to read it and I took a liking to it. I was true to the source material although some of the narrative was rearranged in the editing process. My collaboration with Christopher is always a good one. We have known each other for so long that we know what the other is thinking and working with him is an easy process.


American Johns is devoid of any and all dialogue - why and when did you decide on that approach, and what were the main challenges making your movie that way?


During the script stage I decided to make it all visual with some voice-over but I ditched the voice-over before we started shooting. I thought the images would speak for themselves and there would be a certain charm in treating it like an old silent movie where all they had were images and music.


As for the challenges, they didn't come so much in not having dialogue but more so in what I was shooting with. Originally the entire project was going to be shot on a cellphone (as an experiment) and for the first few hours, it was. Then there was a problem with the phone's memory card which caused me to have to shoot on Mini DV HD. I had the camera on standby just in case and it turned out that I needed it.


Not having any dialogue or on-screen sound, your musical score takes a bigger role than in most movies, naturally - so do talk about the music in your movie and your collaboration with your composer Gabe Saucedo for a bit?


The music for the movie is great, it really helps. Without it the movie wouldn't be as powerful. I sent the script to Gabe and told him that I saw this movie having a Giorgio Moroder-esque type of sound and he would make samples and send them to me. He hit the nail on the head right from the start and I would work with him again. He was approachable and very easy to work with.


What can you tell us about your overall approach to your story at hand?


I approached the story trying to utilize what I had learned from Hitchcock. He was a filmmaker who could convey a lot without dialogue and that was the goal with this project. I tried to have the story unfold simply. I did have some information superimposed on the screen but that was just taking the place of what dialogue would've given the viewer. Using Hitchcock's Rope and Marnie as inspiration really helped.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Due to having a limited amount of time available to me while in Los Angeles, I decided to try an unusual casting approach prior to getting there. With the exception of the lead, Natalia-Christabelle Serrano, I went and cast people based on their prior work without meeting them, so Christopher Loring, Rey Marz, and Brittni McGriff were cast in that fashion. I had known Nathan Yoder through Christopher. Natalia I met with my second day in LA with filming to begin two days later. She herself had only been in Los Angeles a few days having driven there from Florida.


I knew this was going to be a very fast shoot - and it was. It was a two day shoot and both days went late. My actors were all fearless and did what was asked. They knew the script, asked questions, and were ready to jump right in. Each person brought a lot to their roles and I have no complaints.


I thought my two leads Natalia and Christopher were both great. She exuded a certain charm and dangerous sexuality while he brought an aura of menace to his role.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The shoot was a very smooth one, possibly the smoothest I've ever been a part of. Having been on the set of Christopher Golon's Knock 'Em Dead, Kid [Christopher L. Golon interview - click here], this was a cakewalk. It was very a relaxed and creative environment. My talent was on point and there didn't seem to be any underlying issues.


The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?


Although I'm striving for festivals (and entering them as we speak), the movie will soon be available on Vimeo. It's there now but it can only be seen with a password. Keep an eye on Vimeo and within the next couple of months it'll be there for all to see.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?


You were one of the first to see the movie, along with the cast, and so far everyone has liked the experimental nature of it. They like the way the visuals tell the story and how you have to pay attention to really get it.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I'm working on two new screenplays. One is about a house with a troubled past (think The Evictors) and the other is a fun script about two beach girls who meet Dracula. And yes, I'm aiming for that one to be as ridiculous as it sounds.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Originally I was interested in radio broadcasting but I really got into filmmaking while in college at Central CT State University. The Wild Bunch and Seconds really pushed me toward film. And between some college courses in film and reading a lot about it, I am primarily self taught.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to American Johns?


I made a short film called By the Time I get to Arizona based on the Public Enemy song of the same name. It wasn't very good but between that and working with Christopher Golon, I felt I was ready to tackle a longer short film.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I'm trying to be a visual stylist and not one who is a slave to the spoken word. Make the visuals create feeling and inspire or move the audience and go from there.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Alfred Hitchcock, Brian DePalma, Paul Schrader, Michael Mann, and Michelangelo Antonioni are at the top of my list. Hitchcock and Antonioni are big time visual storytellers. Schrader and DePalma have both created so many classics and Mann's Thief and Heat are crime classics.


Your favourite movies?


Psycho, Marnie, Frenzy, Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Scarface, American Gigolo, Heat, Blow Up, Jaws, The Godfather Part II, Year of the Dragon, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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All of these horror film remakes are garbage, pure rubbish. The originals are products of their time but the studios cannot comprehend that. The remake of Maniac that came out a few years ago with Elijah Wood is one of the worst films I've ever seen as is The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


The movie will soon be on Vimeo and I currently don't have a Facebook page. But make sure to check back on Vimeo and comment if you can.


Thanks for the interview!


Thanks for having me, much appreciated!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



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directed by
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written by
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