Hanft was born in Ventura, California. He started making films at the age of 11 growing up in California. His first works consisted of surf films and nature films followed later by Dalí-influenced titles. As a young man Hanft was accepted into the California Institute of the Arts from where he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree. There he learned from teachers like James Benning and visiting artists like Monte Hellman and Stan Brakhage. While at CalArts Steve won several grants including the Kodak Cinematography Award and the Princess Grace Film Grant. Hanft was able to shoot several films there, including his masters thesis Kill the Moonlight.
Hanft released a new feature length documentary about the original Jamaican dj's called the "Return of the Rub a Dub Style" on March 10, 2011, world wide on the Ernie B's reggae label. The film recently screened at Anthology Film Archive in New York City, and at the "Don't Knock the Rock Film Festival" in Los Angeles. The film has a trailer available on YouTube.
Hanft first rocketed to success in the mass media directing music videos, first with ("Loser,") for Beck's first major label release, "Mellow Gold" (Geffen), and then when Beavis and Butthead saw Hanft's "Dang", for Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, and claimed it was "the best video ever". "Where It's At", one of the many videos Hanft directed for Beck, won an MTV award in 1996. The video he directed for Primal Scream in 1997 was written by Irvine Welsh, the writer of "Trainspotting", and features super models Kate Moss and Devon Aoki thrashing around London in a muscle car.
Recently he produced and starred in the Cannes Film Festival Bronze Lion Award winning Ray Ban viral "Sunglass Catch" and directed several videos including ones for Ariel Pink, Phoenix, and the Grammy award winners the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Hanft signed to DGA in 1999, released his first union feature, "Southlander" in 2003, and has two more in the works.
- "Steve Hanft Interview". Mozart Breath. Music By Day. 20 November 2007.