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From Costume Designer to Feature Director: Courtney Hoffman Is Amblin’s Pick to Direct Action Flick Ruthless

Talk of increasing the number of women who direct in Hollywood tends to focus on getting “new” women into the industry, and while that’s a worthwhile goal, studios and producers shouldn’t forget that there are mid-career women already working in the industry who would be capable directors. Which is why the story of how Courtney Hoffman got her feature film directing debut is so awesome.

Hoffman has been the costume designer on films like Baby Driver, The Hateful Eight, and Captain Fantastic. However, she was also enrolled in the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, where she was able to create an amazing short film called The Good Time Girls, a feminist Western. According to Deadline Hollywood:

“It takes place in the Old West, and stars Laura Dern as the leader of a brothel populated by damaged women who, it turns out, hold grudges. She shot it on 35mm, and made it as part of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and Refinery 29’s Shatterbox Anthology. Alia Shawkat and Garret Dillahunt also star. Hoffman has additional collaborations planned with Dern, and is developing The Good Time Girls into a feature.”

You can check out the film here:

I cannot wait until this is developed into a feature!

Then again, we’ll have to wait a bit, because on the strength of this short, as well as a confident, fully-realized pitch, Hoffman has just landed her first feature directing gig, helming Ruthless for Amblin Entertainment.

Written by John Swetnam, Ruthless tells the story of a legendary, retired assassin who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and returns to her old line of work to complete one final job in order to secure her daughter’s future. When it was purchased as a spec for big money back in February, it was considered a spiritual cousin to the John Wick movies.

After a couple of other directors dropped out for various reasons, producer Matti Leshem of Weimaraner Republic Pictures says that Hoffman made a persuasive case for the gig.

Leshem goes on to say, “I saw the short and immediately felt like I’d seen something I hadn’t before, with a clear perspective, and beautifully and confidently shot. When the studio asked if we should consider her, we all said, absolutely. We met with her and heard her pitch for how to make the film. In 25 years of listening to pitches from filmmakers, I cannot remember being that excited by a complete view of the film she intends to make. She has worked on all those big films, and it was clear she understands the collaborative nature, and that she has all the necessary confidence to direct a big movie.”

This kind of talent, ambition, and drive is hugely inspiring, and I can’t wait to see the results of Hoffman’s work on Ruthless, and the (hopefully) inevitable work to come!

(image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.