Jake Hoffman talks addiction, rock n’ roll, and calling Dustin “dad”
When his fellow first graders were learning maths and guarding against cooties outbreaks, Jake Hoffman was studying the sets of his father’s Academy Award winning films. But with the recent premiere of his first feature length film Asthma, it’s clear...
Photography Brayden Olson
Having made his acting debut as a pancake eating extra in Rain Man (the film that nabbed his father one of his two Oscars) at the ripe age of seven, Jake Hoffman could already boast acting credits in a classic film before most kids were even allowed to watch The Goonies. Although Jake followed up the role with appearances in I Heart Huckabees, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Arrested Development, his true talents have always been behind the camera as a writer, director, and producer. After working on a series of short films after graduating from NYU, Jake's first full length feature Asthma recently premiered at the Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Starring Aussie newcomer Benedict Samuel and Krysten Ritter (as well as supporting roles from Rosanna Arquette, Iggy Pop, Nick Nolte, the late Rene Ricard, and a dreadlocked Goran Visnjic) Asthma follows a Rolls Royce-jacking heroin addict and his tattoo artist leading lady's bumpy journey of self discovery.
What or who inspired you to tell this story?
Asthma is a coming of age story about a character who is trying to grow up and also trying his best not to grow up. The two events that propelled me into adulthood, or at least into finally accepting adulthood, were losing a friend to drugs and getting my heart broken. The story is completely fictitious but these elements are definitely at the heart of why I wanted to tell this story.
The film effectively tells the tale of New York's dying indie scene. Having studied at NYU, what changes have you seen the city go through since your college days?
The more personal elements of the movie are really the film's focus, while the cultural aspects, including but not limited to only music, serve as both a backdrop and parallel for some of the challenges that the characters encounter. Rock 'n' Roll is a big part of the main character's life — not just the music, but the feeling and style of it. One of the main themes I wanted to explore is the concept of happiness growing from a sad seed, and I felt Rock 'n' Roll was an appropriate microcosm, it's fun and rebellious but actually derived from the blues.
Music is also an important element of this film, both narratively and in that it boasts a pretty killer soundtrack. What are a few of your favourite albums or the albums you'd bring to a desert island?
Thank you for the compliment! And also, thank you to Scott Vener — my friend and Music Supervisor. I love The Kills. Alison Mosshart is one of the greatest living rock performers. I didn't really know her music until I saw her in concert and then promptly bought all of their albums. The Kills, The Strokes, Deerhunter, and Tame Impala are all some of my favourite bands and ones we included in the soundtrack. I also really love Rap, but that didn't fit the vibe of the movie! On a desert island I might have to go with The Kinks — is the greatest hits album cheating?
You've appeared in a few of your dad's films over the years, the first being Rain Man when you were just seven. What's your favorite memory from working on these projects?
When I was a kid I appeared as an extra a couple of times, just visiting sets and having fun. At the time the internet didn't even exist yet, so I never could have imagined that those random fun childhood moments would follow me and be put on a professional resume — they really don't belong there! My favourite memory about them was getting sugar cereal at craft services.
What's the most valuable lesson you learned from your dad?
How to shave!
What was the most important thing this film taught you?
A few of my favourite moments in the film weren't planned. As important as all the prep is, I think it's equally important to allow yourself to be surprised and open minded to what's happening naturally on the day.
To borrow from your own screenplay, "do you think we're born a certain way, or does life shape us into who we are?"
It's definitely a combination, but I was really interested in how this relates to addiction.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Brayden Olson