Wake The Town
Stuck in Motion
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Directors: Courtney Hoffman


Chelsea Pictures director on seeing commercials like 30 second films and her experience in costume design

The Directors: Courtney Hoffman

Courtney wrote and directed her debut short Western film The Good Time Girls starring Laura Dern to wide acclaim. Most recently she has directed commercials and music videos, including the first ever WhatsApp global campaign and a NYT selected music video for Grammy Nominated artist Margo Price.

In television, Courtney is currently creating two shows: Kentucky Blaze, a mother-daughter pot comedy inspired by Miley and Tish Cyrus for Peacock and Drama Majors, a mental health mystery inspired by her NYU Tish college friends for Sony. Her female driven 70s trucker and moonshine action comedy, The Sisters of Scott County, is in development with Bad Robot and currently casting. Leaving a prestigious career in Costume Design, she worked on over forty films and television shows, working with many prolific creators from Terrence Malick, Alan Ball, Steven Soderbergh and Tim Burton to name a few. Her last films as a Costume Designer include Baby Driver, The Hateful Eight, and Captain Fantastic. She also worked on dozens of award winning commercials as a stylist; her last spot was P&G's "Thank you Mom" directed by Alma Har'el. Most recently her former career is immortalized on screen as she portrays the Costume Designer in a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood.

Name: Courtney Hoffman

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Repped by/in: Chelsea/US

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Courtney> I approach commercials like 30 second films that give you an opportunity to tell a complete story. I am most excited by the opportunity to create elevated visuals, a sense of wonder or whimsy and the integration of memorable humor. My goal is to create images that stay with the viewer long after they’ve been seen. When campaigns are built with that ethos, it’s a match made in heaven. 

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Courtney> After working in costume design for over 15 years, visually portraying my ideas is my specialty. Sometimes there’s an image in your head that hasn’t existed before now, but thanks to AI technology I can get closer to my compete vision on the page. I strive to convey my stylistic approach in everything from the font choices to the tone and palette. My goal is to tell the complete story within the treatment in a way that is easily translatable, even prior to meeting. 

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Courtney> I am a fastidious researcher for everything I do and the same goes for any brand I am representing or creating alongside. I want to know the ins and outs of a companies goals and how I can help achieve them within the spots. I also think it’s important to make specific creative choices, while not alienating anyone, so understanding the target audience and taste is integral to that  

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Courtney> I rely heavily on my department heads to help execute and elevate my ideas. Without that trust, I can’t withhold the creative promise I have made to a brand. 

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Courtney> I love the idea of utilizing my design background to do a giant historical/period commercial campaign, like Alma Har’el’s Stella Artois or a Western spot. I styled so many and made my mark in directing with my short “The Good Time Girls" with Laura Dern. I have been waiting for the call to combine my passion for history and eye for fresh advertising. 

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Courtney> One misconception about me is that as a former stylist I don’t understand the language of lighting and camera. I worked alongside the best cinematographers on features, from Emmanual Lubezki, Bob Richardson, Bill Pope and Autumn Durald, who is my longtime collaborator. I asked questions and paid close attention to learn the language of the more technical departments and their craft is endlessly engaging to me. 

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Courtney> Shooting my WhatsApp spots in London during the height of pandemic was a wild experience, especially for finding locations. The morning of our technical scout we lost one of our biggest set pieces and having to improvise in front of the entire crew the first moment I was meeting most of them was an exciting challenge. 

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Courtney> It’s important to make everyone feel heard, guiding and not forcing your opinions on them. After so many years in a creative field, I don’t look at adjusting my vision as a sacrifice, but an opportunity to keep pushing for the best solution. Most of the time I feel confident the best ideas rise to the top.

LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Courtney> I wouldn’t be directing commercials without Alma Har’el, she was very open with her process and her belief in me as a filmmaker, championing me. I always want to be surrounded by great women and future story tellers on set; their enthusiasm mirrors my own and I love sharing the process with the next generation. My assistant on WhatsApp just directed her first campaign and I couldn’t be more excited for her.

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Courtney> I love being around people and nothing will ever replace an in person meeting for me, but when time is tight I appreciate the new ways we’ve gone virtual to communicate. 

LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

Courtney> I am starting to look at 9x16 or 4x4 as an opportunity for new lensing and framing. I was lucky on my WhatsApp spots to create completely different stories for the social campaign and utilized the shapes to enhance the style. Instead of looking at alternative formats as a limitation, how can they be an opportunity. 

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?

Courtney> As mentioned earlier, i think AI Image creation and alterations help create better decks. I love using these tools to hone in on the exact image in my head and help others better interpret your vision!

view more - The Directors
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Chelsea Pictures, Wed, 15 Mar 2023 11:33:00 GMT