From Costume Designer to Director, Courtney Hoffman

(Courtney Hoffman at work)

While the budding filmmaking career of Courtney Hoffman has only just begun, she’s anything but green. This costumer designer turned filmmaker has a lush 10-year career as a successful costume designer, working with the likes of Tarantino and Gia Coppola and on films like The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Palo Alto, and Baby Driver – just to name a few.

In this new chapter of her story, Hoffman just had the commercial directorial debut of her first-ever global campaign for WHATSAPP and recently signed to RadicalMedia for US representation.

Her former costuming career is immortalized on screen as she portrays the Costume Designer in a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.

It was a poetic way to close that chapter of costume design in Hollywood because as Hoffman told Reel 360,Once Upon a Time in Hollywood I wanted to be a costume designer.”  As an LA Native, she said, “I always wanted to be in Hollywood and knew I could make it a few ZIP Codes over.” And she did.

Hoffman beamed like California sunshine as she expressed her first love of storytelling through costumes, “there is a deep connection between storytelling and clothing, and that’s what I did: tell stories with clothes. I  believe that whatever your medium on a set you are a storyteller in your own right.”

It was through her successes as a costume designer that her passion for the entirety of filmmaking flourished and she realized, “I had more to say in filmmaking. At a certain point, I had achieved all of my goals as a costume designer and I felt I had hit a  ceiling. I was looking for the next challenge. I knew that I had something to say as a filmmaker.”

It was through mentorships with Quentin Tarantino and Alma Har’el that she realized she had a unique way of seeing things as a filmmaker. Hoffman’s desire to tell stories from a perspective that hasn’t been seen and through her very visual approach to storytelling was outgrowing the wardrobe department.

When Courtney made the move to leave her prestigious career in Costume Design, she wrote and directed her debut short film The Good Time Girls.

This female revenge western short film starred Laura Dern and premiered to wide acclaim with the support of AFI women’s directors’ workshop and Refinery 29 Shatterbox Studios.  From the moment Hoffman expanded her storytelling medium from costumes to directing, it’s been all green lights ahead.

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With her work, Hoffman wants to give the stage to the people who haven’t had it: women. She is determined to, “tell all the women’s stories that haven’t been told and take chances on people that don’t always fit the bill- on a large scale.”

Courtney wants to capture “moments of hope, levity, connection, and the beauty real life has, despite the darkness.”  This beauty within the darkness was epitomized in her western short in which working girls in a brothel band together as they go to war against a pack of men who have done them wrong at every turn.

After seeing her short, Steven Spielberg met with and hired her to direct the assassin film Ruthless for Dreamworks Studios. Courtney then sold and wrote The Sisters of Scott County, her original 1970s Moonshine and Trucking movie, to JJ Abrams and Bad Robot, which she is set to direct this year. 

On the television front, Courtney is currently creating original shows for FX, Sony, and NBC Universal. 

With her very recent WHATSAPP’s campaign, which emphasizes the company’s new privacy features, Hoffman used cinematic, bold storytelling in her three-part commercial campaign. Hoffman wanted to “ make something that didn’t feel like a commercial but like a story, as  intimate as the app itself.” 

After a past of styling dozens of Superbowl spots and award-winning campaigns, Courtney has ample commercial experience taking the director’s chair.  

Hoffman feels passionate that RadicalMedia is the perfect place to do this. The filmmaker is “beyond excited to work with Radical Media because they stood by women years ago before it was part of the norm or an obligation. The level of female directors that they rep and broke and got working is something I want to be a part of.”

Courtney’s next chapter in Hollywood is sure to be a prolific one.

Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.