He is the man behind Graduation Afternoon Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Alex von Hofmann: I’m a storyteller first. I studied multimedia design and minored in filmmaking back in my university days. I support my family by working a full time day job as a multimedia designer, and I support my creative impulses by writing screen plays and directing films in my spare time. Of course I would love to be a paid filmmaker, that is the dream, and I am working my way toward that goal.
I live in Perth Western Australia, with my wife and two young daughters. It’s a quiet, very remote city, but I’ve learnt on thing here – you can make films anywhere.
SKSM: When did you make Graduation afternoon? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Alex von Hofmann: I wrote Graduation a long while back, in 2011 I think. It took a long time to get the money and the cast and crew together, but we finally shot and completed the film in 2013.
We were very lucky to get funding from the local film funding body here in West Australia, Screen West. They provided $70,000 Aussie to make the film, which seems like a lot. We soon found out that the money can go quickly when you are hiring professionals and paying higher rates, as you should when you have the money.
We shot the film over four and a half days. Post production happened over about 6 months.
SKSM: How come you picked Graduation afternoon to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Alex von Hofmann: I had read Stephen King’s collection – Just after Sunset – and there were a couple stories that stuck out. This one appealed to me because it begins with the utterly mundane – a teenage girl and her worries about her boyfriend’s family, her future career, class issues – and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changes and none of those worries matter anymore. It shines a light on how much value place on things that are simply constructs. It’s a topic I’m very interested in and really wanted to explore in film. I also knew it was going to be a huge challenge to make into a film, and that attracted me. It was a kind of experiment.
SKSM: Are you Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Alex von Hofmann: I love Stephen King’s novels. I have read most of his work – from On Writing to The Dark Tower Series. It’s hard to choose. Of the Dark Tower book I like Wizard and Glass the most.
As far as adaptations go, I have a couple favs. My al time favorite movie is Kubrick’s The Shining. I know that’s a little controversial, but I absolutely love that film. Beyond that you can’t go past Shawshank Redemption and I also really enjoyed The Mist.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wikd guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Alex von Hofmann: I had heard about the dollar baby program somewhere, I can’t remember now. I had been wanting to get the rights to one for a while. Actually what prompted me to check out the dollar baby site was that I really wanted to make Gingerbread Girl, from the same short story collection. That was my first choice. I mean, straight away, you can see that as a thrilling short film. But it wasn’t available. I guessed that King had reserved it for another purpose. But I had a couple others up my sleeve that were available.
The process of applying is really simple. The whole program is almost too good to be true. It’s such a great idea and I think King is doing a great thing for young filmmakers with the opportunity.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Alex von Hofmann: We put off the shoot till November, which is almost summer for us, because we didn’t want to run into bad weather. Mid way through the shoot a storm rolls through. A whole day we were meant to be outside in the sunshine got moved inside and we shot every last bit of ‘inside’ footage we had. On shorts you can’t afford delays. The next day we start shooting outside and there is a giant excavator, tearing down the side a cliff face across the road. So we couldn’t win. Luckily our post sound guy was amazing. He worked his magic and took care of all the beeping machinery and grinding rocks.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Alex von Hofmann: We haven’t had specific festivals in mind. We just want to get the film out in front of people. Entering festivals can be an expensive exercise, so you have to think about where your niche is. Graduation Afternoon premiered at the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Alex von Hofmann: I wouldn’t want to be disparaging of the program at all, I think it’s brilliant, but I do wish that we could put our films up for people to see. Particularly after the festival runs are over, it is a shame to have to keep them off the internet. I really hope that they consider giving the filmmaker’s the option to make them public at some point. I think there is a cultural benefit to making these little pieces of art public.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reference have you received on your film?
Alex von Hofmann: A little bit of both. This film is divisive. It ends very abruptly, and in a way robs the audience of a satisfying ending – a Hollywood ending, you might say. Instead it challenges the viewer to decide for themselves what happens next, how the story ends. And some people have loved this about the film.
This film was always a risky endeavor to take on, as a storyteller. But we shot for it. I believe that this is what making shorts films is all about – don’t take the safe route. Experiment, push yourself, try telling the hard story, make mistakes. In fact make as many mistakes as you can – get as many out of the way as you can before you dive into a feature film.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Alex von Hofmann: Unfortunately no, the program isn’t really set up that way. It’s very streamlined. You make the application, send in your dollar and you get the rights. Then you just deliver the finished film to the office when you are done. So I have no idea if King has seen the film or not. I like to think that he watches some of them. And maybe this one was in that pile.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick – at least – one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Alex von Hofmann: I have already made another dollar baby – based on the short story Harvey’s Dream. I completed that film in August 2014. And we will be premiering at Palm Springs International Shortfest in June 2015, which is very exciting.
I’m not sure about adapting anything longer into a feature. I have mulled it over, but Im not sure yet which novel I’d go for. The Regulators would be fun, it’s right out there, or maybe Duma Key.
SKSM: What are you working at nowadays?
Alex von Hofmann: I’m working on a couple spec feature projects. They are both horror films. One is a big and outrageous horror action film. The other is a contained and claustrophobic paranormal horror.
I am also editing my next short film. It’s an original script that I wrote, called Tide. I’m working with Kate Separovich again, the same producer that I made Graduation Afternoon with. This short is about an ambitious young lawyer who gets himself into a lot of trouble with a local criminal organization and finds himself floating, with nothing but the clothes on his back, in the deep wild ocean off the coast of Western Australia. We follow his struggles to survive the blazing hot sun, hypothermia, sharks and visions of his estranged family as his situation goes from bad to worse.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Alex von Hofmann: I just hope to be able to keep making films, and to keep finding an audience with them. There is a real joy in developing a vision, seeing it become a finished film, and then being able to sit in an audience as they take it in. If all goes well I will be at it for a long time. And thank you for taking an interest in this short film and the time to talk to me about it.