David Hoffman

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For the 19th century rabbi, see David Zvi Hoffman. For the Illinois politician, see David H. Hoffman. For the non-profit President, see David M. Hoffman. For the journalist and author, see David E. Hoffman.
David Hoffman
David hoffman.jpg
Born New York, New York, US
Occupation Documentary film director, communications consultant

David Hoffman is one of America’s veteran documentary filmmakers. During his 50-year career, Hoffman has made five feature-length documentaries including King, Murray,[1] an experimental feature film about a Long Island salesman who goes to Las Vegas on a junket to gamble with other high rollers. King, Murray was the winner of the Critics Award at The Cannes Film Festival. Other feature films include: Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends, starring Scruggs with Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, and The Byrds; Sing Sing Thanksgiving, a concert feature film at Sing Sing Prison in New York with B.B. King, Joan Baez and others; and It’s All Good, a film chronicling the lives of two aggressive inline skating teams in New York City and Los Angeles.


Early life[edit]

David Hoffman was born in New York, New York and raised in Levittown, Long Island by parents H. Lawrence and Eve Hoffman. Hoffman's father was an illustrator and teacher at Cooper Union and his mother was a public speaker. Although his initial career path was as a professional musician, when offered the chance to play for the Minneapolis Symphony (today known as the Minnesota Orchestra), Hoffman decided to venture into storytelling as a filmmaker. At the time, the handheld 16 mm camera had just come into prominence in documentary filmmaking, largely as a result of the Maysles Brothers.[2] Hoffman picked up a used spring-wound Bolex 16mm movie camera and began to make movies in 1963. Because of his background, it was no coincidence that his first films were about musical themes, and at age 24 he was recognized by the United States Information Agency (USIA) as one of the ten best young filmmakers in America.


Hoffman’s next venture as a filmmaker was into television. He opened his own production company, and produced programs for Public Television (including The American Dream Machine series) as well as low budget features. It was during this time his feature film, King, Murray, won the top Semaine de la Critique award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.

In the mid 1970s, Hoffman moved into corporate communications and learned the craft from Herb Schmertz, the well-known head of public relations and advertising at Mobil.[3] From 1975 to 1981, Hoffman was part of a core team responsible for repositioning Mobil's public image. He produced many of the innovative projects that successfully attached Mobil’s corporate messages to public, social and artistic issues; these projects included Moon for the Misbegotten, The Magic Show and other television specials and series.

It was during this time that he learned the techniques developed by Schmertz including positioning and key messaging. This led to work involved with the use of the op-ed page in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the staging of special events like MOMA’s Summer Garden, the production of corporate books and catalogues, the development of television series like Ten Who Dared and PBS’ Upstairs Downstairs, as well as some of the most unusual television commercials ever produced. Hoffman's 1977 series of television commercials was actually reviewed in the New York Times. Beyond Mobil, Hoffman was responsible for the development of similar communications programs for UTC, Aetna, Motorola, TRW, Merck and others.

Hoffman made more than 100 primetime documentary television specials and series mostly for PBS, Turner, A&E and Discovery. Among his most notable are Ten Who Dared with Anthony Quinn, the landmark PBS series Making Sense Of The Sixties, and Turner Broadcasting’s Moon Shot, winner of the Peabody Award[4] for best TV series and nominated for two Emmys.[5] Most of Hoffman's documentary films have been independently sponsored and not produced by a television network.

Hoffman is a traditional documentary filmmaker who often writes, shoots, directs, edits, and even narrates his films. To support his status and role in American cinematography, Hoffman has received numerous awards from national and international film festivals and competitions.

Hoffman spent much of his career producing films in Camden, Maine. Today he lives and works in Bonny Doon, California. He lost almost everything he owned, including his house and long prized possessions, in a fire in 2008.[6]


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