Aimee Hoffman is a Canadian filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Starting with a passion for music production, Aimee found herself drawn to the multidimensionality and collaboration of filmmaking. She started making short documentaries while living in San Francisco. Some of her early shorts gained local attention and led her into commercial video production work, both directing and creative directing films and campaigns for brands such as Nike, Everlane, and Girlfriend Collective.
Aimee recently completed her first narrative short film, Micky, which is about a homeless teen trying to make her way in San Francisco.
Aimee plans to continue expanding her worth, both documentary and narrative, focusing on the peripheries of society, personal struggle and strength, and the female gaze.
Where are you from, and how did you end up in LA?
I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, a small and very cold city in the central prairies of Canada. I grew up dreaming of other places and people, constantly imagining stories of others’ lives. I came from a working class family and didn’t have anyone around me who had a career in the creative field, which led me to feel pressure to take business in school (school in Canada is about 10% of the cost of school in the U.S.). I found some aspects of the program interesting, but I always found myself spending free time creating and dreaming of being in art school. Long story short, I took my first job out of college in Tokyo, working for an economic think tank (I know, weird), but I really enjoyed the research and storytelling of writing papers. I also found myself isolated a lot while I was there, which drove me to learn how to produce music in my bedroom. This opened Pandora’s box when I realized I could take a lot of this technology into my own hands and make something. I ended up meeting someone and moving to San Francisco. I decided to ditch the business stuff and dive into music and filmmaking. I met a lot of incredible people in San Francisco, but felt a lot of my collaborators and opportunities we’re in LA, so I made the jump about a year ago.
What is your favorite part of having a career in video production?
I love every part of the process and that I am constantly learning. My favorite part is definitely being on set. Especially with documentaries, you get to know so many different people. Filmmaking has taken me to a lot of places and I’ve made a lot of incredible friends. I’m obsessed with film and storytelling, so being able to constantly be exploring it in different ways is really exciting. A lot of brands have taken the leap into more authentic storytelling, so it’s been interesting to be a part of this intersection and how it benefits artists.
Female composers are extremely uncommon in the film industry. How did you get your start? How have you achieved success in that field?
Honestly, I started composing for film because it required zero money! Having taught myself to use music production software, it seemed pretty automatic to just do my own scores. I also really love the process. It’s incredible how much music can change a film. I’ve gotten into doing commercial scoring mostly from people I know that are familiar with my music and films. I would love to do more, but my focus has really been on directing and creative directing.
Is there a specific score (commercial or film) of which you’re most proud?
The score I’m be most proud of is my short narrative film, which isn’t out yet, but here is a sneak peak of one of the scenes that features a piece I composed.
Are you inspired by any other female composers?
I was pretty excited to see Hildur Guðnadóttir win this year for The Joker!
How would you define your directing style?
I would say that my directing style is spontaneous and collaborative. I am meticulous as that’s a prerequisite for being a director, but I do love when things just happen as they do. There is so much you can’t control, so I like to be open and flow with what transpires because the resulting story will be beautiful regardless. I like sets that feel very open and collaborative, as I want everyone’s opinion and perspectives to be heard.
Tell us about your Human Heroes campaign for Everlane. What was it like to work on all parts of the process, from concepting, directing, editing, and scoring?
I had been working with Everlane on some of their photo campaigns, and when someone at the company told me about the upcoming work they were doing with Gloria Steinem, I saw an opportunity to pitch her an idea. I pitched to create a film of her work with Everlane with an interview and also add an extending series that highlighted local women making change in the Bay Area. We found the subjects through connections we all had so it was an awesome experience to work with friends. It was really an honor to work with Gloria in the intimacy of her home. She truly is a beautiful force. I had chills the whole interview. Taking everything on myself was definitely a lot, but the process was super educational and I was fortunate that they trusted me with it. Having done much more collaboration on further projects, I value having more people involved.
Check out the other films from Everlane’s Human Heroes campaign, like this one that features activist Shakirah Simley.
Tell us about your Dream Crazier campaign for Nike. What was your involvement in that project? What do you feel you contributed? How did you shape the creative? Do you have a favorite/favorites you want to showcase?
This campaign was life changing actually. A friend of mine in San Francisco had just started an agency, The New Company, and was developing strategy for an upcoming campaign. He called me up to see if I wanted to help and I of course said yes. My role was to shape a lot of how these films were made, the look, feel, narrative, identify the creative partners (i.e. female directors), and then be on set to work with the directors and support their vision while working within the creative. I also had a big hand in the editing alongside our editor and team. The goal was to tell authentic stories of young female athletes breaking barriers across America. I really connected with the subjects of the stories and still talk with them. It was a truly impactful process. These are some of my favorites:
In addition to your docu-narrative branded content work, you also have a great eye for fashion. Tell us about your experience working in fashion video production.
I’ve done some fashion oriented work for Nike, directing some short videos and creative directing photography, but would I love to do more. I made this piece for Girlfriend Collective alongside another female director/creative producer. We pitched the concept to them, but she ended up getting sick so I had to take it on by myself, which was intimidating at first, but I kept at it. I asked another director to be on set with me to help direct, since I was juggling creative direction, production, and directing. I did the editing and sourced the music as well. So that was very educational! I especially loved focusing on movement and body in this piece. It felt more ethereal and I would love to do more work like it.
What is it like being a female in the video production and composing worlds? Do you have any funny or horror stories to tell?
I’ve had a fairly positive experience overall, but at the same time as I do more, I feel the issues at a much deeper level. When it comes to advertising especially, there is a lot of mansplaining and frustrating points of view from the male higher ups. I think with time I’ve gained more confidence to give my opinions and speak up. There is still a feeling of having to maneuver traditional gender roles, but there is also a powerful movement happening, at the helm of someone like Alma Har’el, that I’m excited to be a part of.
Do you think it’s important to help other women in the film industry? How do you do this?
Yes! Absolutely. Firstly, always try to crew up with women. Without having the opportunity to work on things, how can you ever get your foot in the door? Secondly, I have a pretty lucky role as a creative director as I am often choosing crew for advertising content, so I’m always putting women forward, and also trying to find women who may not have a stacked portfolio, but have the spirit, and a piece for someone like Nike could be really great for them.
What do you think makes a video production impactful?
Heart and guts. You have to really believe in something and be willing to put everything into it. You can sense it in the work. Also collaboration and not being afraid to get feedback. Getting opinions from people you respect and working with people you respect advances the work and your own progression.
What kinds of video production agencies do you like working with?
What I value in working with video production agencies is the openness to put ideas forward and be heard. I think agencies need to be open to collaboration and need to be staffed with creators themselves. I find that when you have an agency that has people who have made films, are photographers, etc., they get it and they are willing to work with you rather than tell you what to do.
Who are some of your dream clients?
I would love to do more fashion work, and to have more leeway to get a little crazier and weirder. Ultimately I would love to do more work for myself and let whatever crazy ideas I have in my head out into the world.
What video production project are you most proud of?
I am pretty proud of this recent Nike piece I directed in Brazil! There were a lot of things I hadn’t done before, like working with translators and also doing a branded piece internationally, working with all local crew. I coached myself every morning so I could step onto set with full confidence. It was an incredible experience and I met so many beautiful people through the process. I am also proud of my first narrative short, Micky. To write and direct something was a new experience and I learned a lot. I also cast my younger sister as the lead, and I brought on my mother, who is a producer in Canada, helped produce it. It was a special experience.
Where do you see the commercial video production industry moving?
It feels like brands are always pushing to be more and more authentic. Branded documentaries are growing, and brands are starting to back big productions and entering festivals. More brands are also developing their own editorial platforms as a new way to push their content. Brands are entering big into video production, which means more money and opportunities for filmmakers.
Do you have any advice for other women filmmakers?
I think for any filmmaker, you have to be brave. You have to ignore the doubting voices and know you deserve to be there. You have to make as much work as possible in order to learn and find your voice. Be constantly learning, read everything, watch everything, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire, connections are key. And don’t be afraid people won’t like your work. Do it for you and the right people will appreciate you for it.
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