Hoff Shoots for Fame
By Ann Needle
Caution: This piece may best be read while viewing social media. Because 18-year-old Matt Hoff has a film resume that calls for viewing rather than reading, browsing his work at Youtube.com (simply type “Matt Hoff” in the search bar) is the best way to appreciate what he has accomplished in a very short time. And a recent victory assures that list will likely get a lot longer.
On October 5, Matt’s short film, “Vacation”, will be screened in Times Square at the All-American High School Film Festival. The almost-silent film tells the fictional story of homeless, young siblings, and what they do after finding a winning lottery ticket.
The Film Festival, started by renown filmmaker Andrew Jenks, only accepted about 8% of the approximately 1,000 films entered for competition. For an idea of the Festival’s prestige, consider the judging panel, which includes such names as actors Dylan McDermott and Kristen Stewart.
“Yes, I’m pretty excited,” said the understated Matt. Equally, if not more, excited, are his parents, Debbie and Greg. “I know I’m bragging, but what he’s done is amazing,” said Debbie.
“What he’s done” includes not only 15 films and videos posted on Youtube alone, but opening some big doors for himself in the film industry. As a freshman at New York City’s School of Visual Arts for only a few short weeks, Matt already won a competition this month to interview actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a branch of MTV, and landed a paid internship at a local cable access comedy show.
As for his Festival entry film “Vacation,” Greg Hoff explained that Matt actually finished the film last year, as a senior at NRHS. He then submitted it to Boston’s 2013 48 Hour Film Festival, winning its Audience Choice Award. Another film he entered in the 2012 Festival, “Miss You, Mom”, was selected as a Notable Film.
Other highlights from Matt’s resume include articles written by the media on two of his films, along with a count of nearly 2,000 subscribers to his Youtube collection, and more than 62,000 recorded “views” of Matt’s online videos.
What’s His Deal?
Matt’s description of the filming process for “Vacation” tells a lot about how he got where he is. The aptly named 48 Hour Film Festival requires entrants to grind out a film, to given specifications, within two days, from story concept through writing and shooting. “Normally, it would take weeks or months,” he said. “I think I slept four hours.”
A tough task master, Matt took no prisoners. His 11-year-old sister Rachel, who co-starred as the little sister in the film, said that the shooting and re-working meant she missed her family birthday party. An experienced actress in community theater, Rachel still marveled at the amount of working and re-working her brother went through, adding up to what she termed “a lot of sitting around” while waiting for Matt to put the finishing touches on other scenes.
This may help explain why Hoff brother Andrew, an NRHS junior, insisted he was staying far away from the family show business wagon. Still, it was family that Matt said got him hooked on film.
“When I was in seventh grade, my grandfather got me a camera that allowed me to upload onto Youtube. Repeatedly. All the time,” Matt drily commented. “And I found a whole community of people doing these videos. And together we all work to get better. There are always people there waiting to comment on your work.”
By high school, Matt said he already was thinking, “What will get me a job with this? So
I thought of short films.” After making his first short film in ninth grade, Matt said he continued to make films for himself and, when called for, NRHS. When the school launched its Random Acts of Kindness campaign shortly after the Newtown tragedy last year, Matt shot the promotional video, encouraging students to do spontaneous, kind deeds in memory of the Connecticut victims.
Greg remarked, “I’ve been amazed at how many kids in Stow and in school — and teachers — who have been willing to be in these productions.” Indeed, along with Rachel Hoff in “Vacation”, there are Matt’s fellow NRHS graduates: Ethan Benjamin as the brother, and Jack Dischler as a homeless person.
As for his success, Matt chalked that up to hours of often tedious work, watching countless films and experimenting with his camera. “I’m pretty much self-taught, in that it’s trial and error. A lot of trial and error.”
Debbie agreed, noting, “He used to spend so much time at home, watching films and working on his own. It’s a real passion for him.”
Hours of self-education obviously have made Matt aware of what a quality product looks like. Greg recalled attending a film festival with the family last year, and Matt being the sole family member to rave about a certain entry. “Everyone else thought it was terrible. It won,” he said.
Meanwhile, Matt said his move to NYC and the Film Institute appears to be paying off, hopefully leading to a career as a director. “I’m totally loving it. I’m surrounded by people who are artists. Everyone is working very hard.” There also are the connections to be found at the school and in NYC, with Matt explaining he heard about his paid internship through a friend at the school whose father works with the comedy club. Matt commented, “I’m just surrounded by some of the best people in the industry.”
Show business is always a career gamble, but Debbie maintained Matt will somehow establish himself. She smiled, “He may not get rich, but I’m 100% sure he’ll be successful.”