Cullen Hoback

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Cullen Hoback
Alma materWhitman College
OccupationFilmmaker, Director and Producer
Years active2003-present
Known forMonster Camp (2007)
Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)

Cullen Hoback is an American filmmaker, film producer and director. He is also an occasional columnist and speaker. His three documentary films include Monster Camp (2007), Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013) and What Lies Upstream (2018). His documentary style has been described as non-fiction horror with a comedic tone.[1] He appears on-camera as a central character in Terms and Conditions May Apply[2] and What Lies Upstream.[3]

Following the release of Terms and Conditions May Apply, Hoback has written op-eds for many journals including The Guardian,[4] presented as faculty at The American Bar Association Anti-Trust Conference,[5] and has appeared as a privacy expert on networks and shows including MSNBC, CNN, NPR, Huffington Post, Stossel, The Young Turks and The War Room.[6]

Hoback has been overtly critical of the relationship between corporations and the government, and how they’ve been complicit in the surveillance system.[7] On 25 December 2013, Cullen Hoback and Ondi Timoner released a lengthy conversation about how the surveillance situation has evolved since her film, We Live in Public. In an interview with The Guardian earlier that month in December 2013, Hoback commented that whistleblower Edward Snowden should be granted immunity by the US government.[8]


Hoback directed his first notable film, Monster Camp, in 2007. The film considers various aspects of escapism involved in live-action role playing.[9]

The film premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in 2007 and won the Audience Award for the best documentary.[10] The film also screened at the Seattle International Film Festival and more than 50 other festivals, ultimately receiving a limited theatrical release.[11][12]

In January 2013, prior to the Edward Snowden revelations, Hoback released the documentary film Terms and Conditions May Apply, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival before going onto various film festivals including Seattle International, Hot Docs and Festival Do Rio. He received a jury prize for best documentary feature at both the Newport Beach Film Festival and Sonoma International Film Festival.[13] Following the theatrical release of the film it received a largely positive critical reception at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.[14] His film was included as an Academy Award possibility for Best Documentary by The Hollywood Reporter’s Feinberg Forecast during their award coverage.[15]

Hoback appears as the central character in Terms and Conditions May Apply, and confronts Mark Zuckerberg near his home in Palo Alto.[2] In the film, he also uncovers that Google had covered up their original privacy policy.[16]

After the release of the film, Hoback co-hosted a unique Q&A about Terms and Conditions May Apply on Reddit, with Edward Snowden’s legal counsel at the time, Ben Wizner, which reached Reddit's front page.[17]

Hoback also held a screening of Terms and Conditions May Apply in Washington DC under the State Capitol to a number of high-powered officials and policy-makers.[4] The film screening was hosted by Congressman Justin Amash.[8] Afterwards, Hoback moderated a discussion with whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Russell Tice, and whistleblower attorney Jesselyn Radack. In partnership with Demand Progress, 20,000 signatures were collected and delivered to lawmakers demanding they get educated on digital privacy.[4][7]

Hoback has written several op-eds for The Guardian, one of which focused on how people need to reclaim control of their digital identities.[4] In October 2014, Hoback was a featured speaker at the annual TED event in Jacksonville. His presentation demonstrated an evolved view on privacy after having spoken to hundreds of audiences on the topic, and was titled, We Don't Have a Privacy Problem.[18]

In 2018, Hoback theatrically released What Lies Upstream, a feature documentary focused on scientific regulatory agency corruption,[19] examining the lack of meaningful oversight for the water we drink, cook with and bathe in.[20] The film uncovers new information related to the Flint Water Crisis and the Elk River Chemical Spill, questioning whether these are outliers or signifiers of a nationwide scandal.[21] In the film, Hoback discovers just how easy it's been for companies and the government to sidestep public health issues through the lax enforcement of environmental regulations, corporate secrecy regarding under-tested chemicals, and powerful lobbying that stymies lawmakers from holding companies accountable.[22] Hoback's What Lies Upstream and Terms and Conditions May Apply both explore the alliance between corporate and government interests and its effect on unsuspecting citizens.[23]

What Lies Upstream was the opening night film at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival,[24] screened at AFI Docs,[25] and received a Special Jury Prize for Investigative Filmmaking at The Seattle International Film Festival.[26] The film was picked up by PBS' Independent Lens[27] and has been met with a positive critical reception.[28]

Future works[edit]

Hoback is currently in production[29] on a follow-up to Terms and Conditions May Apply.


Year Film Role
2003 Gaining Miles Director
2007 Monster Camp Producer & Director
2013 Terms and Conditions May Apply Producer & Director
2018 What Lies Upstream Producer & Director

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Brown, Phil (August 2, 2013). "Terms and Conditions May Apply: Doc and non-fiction horror flick rolled into one". The Globe & Mail.
  2. ^ a b Harris, Brandon (July 11, 2013). "Cullen Hoback on Terms and Conditions May Apply". Film maker Magazine.
  3. ^ "'What Lies Upstream': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  4. ^ a b c d Hoback, Cullen (September 19, 2013). "Our data is our digital identity - and we need to reclaim control". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Faculty (2014) 63rd Antitrust Spring Meeting". American Bar Association.
  6. ^ "They Know What You Do". Fox Business.
  7. ^ a b "Q&A: 'Terms and Conditions May Apply' director Cullen Hoback on the death of privacy". TNW.
  8. ^ a b Kiss, Jemima. "Cullen Hoback calls for US to grant Edward Snowden immunity – video" (Video Interview). The Guardian.
  9. ^ Harvey, Dennis (April 3, 2007). "Review: 'Monster Camp: The Story Of Nero Seattle'". Variety.
  10. ^ "Cinequest 17 Wraps" (PDF). 2007-03-12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-05-28. (Press release)
  11. ^ "Monster Camp". 2007 Seattle International Film Festival. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
  12. ^ "Official website". Monster Camp Movie.
  13. ^ Harris, Brandon. "Cullen Hoback on Terms and Conditions May Apply". Film-Maker Magazine.
  14. ^ "Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  15. ^ "Feinberg Forecast Oscar Landscape". The Hollywood Reporter.
  16. ^ Newton, Casey. "New film goes in search of Google's first privacy policy" (January 22, 2013). CNET.
  17. ^ "Q&A transcript of Hoback and other producers on Reddit". Reddit.
  18. ^ "Cullen Hoback - TED Proile". TED Jacksonville.
  19. ^ Abele, Robert. "Documentary advocates to know more about 'What Lies Upstream' in our drinking water". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  20. ^ "'What Lies Upstream': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  21. ^ "Film Review: What Lies Upstream | Film Journal International". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  22. ^ Abele, Robert. "Documentary advocates to know more about 'What Lies Upstream' in our drinking water". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  23. ^ "'What Lies Upstream': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  24. ^ Murthi, Vikram (2016-12-14). "'What Lies Upstream' Selected To Be Slamdance Festival Opening Night Film". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  25. ^ Institute, American Film. "AFI DOCS Film Guide". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  26. ^ Knapp, JD (2017-06-11). "Seattle International Film Festival: 'Sami Blood,' 'At the End of the Tunnel' Come Out on Top". Variety. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  27. ^ "What Lies Upstream | Our Films | Independent Lens | PBS". Independent Lens. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  28. ^ What Lies Upstream, retrieved 2018-03-27
  29. ^ "Terms & Conditions on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-03-27.