Brian Hohlfeld: A Hollywood Success Story Written in St. Louis

“So they asked me to come back after I had written the script and take a stab at those lyrics, which I did, and then [Simon] put them to music,” Hohlfeld said. “It’s a thrill. I couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s an honor to share credit with her.”

 

When young, aspiring filmmakers ask screenwriter and director Brian Hohlfeld whether they should move to Los Angeles, he says, “Don’t even think twice about it. You’re 22 years old. If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” His philosophy is this: if people don’t try it, they’ll never know. “It’s just like playing the lottery,” he said with a laugh. But despite the odds, the Hollywood lottery is one that has paid off for Hohlfeld.

After graduating with a theater arts degree from Saint Louis University, Hohlfeld worked in town briefly for Theater Project Company, where he started writing plays. “But I always knew I would have rather been in film,” he said. “So I wrote a couple of spec scripts and moved to L.A., sort of did the whole temp-work-trying-to-break-in thing for a year and a half or so.” Then, through a high school friend, director Ken Kwapis, Hohlfeld was offered a job rewriting a script for TriStar. “That project never got made,” Hohlfeld said, “but on the strength of that rewrite, I was hired by another producer to do another rewrite and then got an agent through that, and then just sort of kept working ever since.”

Even if you don’t know the name, you probably do know some of the films he has written, especially if you have children. On Feb. 11, Hohfield’s most recent project, Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, will open nationwide. Along with co-writing the script, he also shares credit with Carly Simon for two of the songs. “I can’t even use the word ‘collaboration,’” Hohlfeld joked, “because I’ve only spoken with her briefly, on a conference call with about five other people.”

Although Simon prefers not to collaborate, it all started when Hohlfeld included song lyrics in his script for Piglet’s Big Movie a few years ago. “Everybody took it for granted that it was from the book, and so she set it to music, thinking that A.A. Milne had written it,” Hohlfeld said. Even after it was discovered that Hohlfeld was the one who had penned the lyrics, the song was kept in the movie despite Simon’s protests.

Then, when the Heffalump film was being made, it became apparent that—despite Simon’s talent—without really knowing the characters, it was difficult for her to write character-based songs. “So they asked me to come back after I had written the script and take a stab at those lyrics, which I did, and then [Simon] put them to music,” Hohlfeld said. “It’s a thrill. I couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s an honor to share credit with her.”

And speaking of thrills, Piglet’s Big Movie was one of five finalists in the screenplay division of the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Awards, losing out to Mystic River. Hohlfeld said that it was probably Piglet’s tone that people responded to: while the script didn’t talk down to kids, it also didn’t depend on pop-culture jokes and parodies, like so many children’s films do.

Hohlfeld has also written romantic comedies and dramas, and said he estimates that, in total, he has been involved in writing about 50 films, which include the Pooh features, He Said, She Said, the spec scripts that he is still trying to sell, quite a few uncredited projects (such as The Mighty Ducks and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), and the small, independent films he has made on his own.

Hohlfeld said that the highlight of his career was a film that didn’t get made. It was a script he wrote the late ’80s about the AIDS epidemic, produced by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon (the folks who penned Stand by Me). “Once the script was finished, everyone just went nuts over it, and Ron Howard was interested in directing it,” Hohlfeld said.

At the time, Howard was in London scoring Willow, and so Universal flew Hohlfeld over to meet with him. Hohlfeld described the trip as an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. “On the plane over in the first-class section, Elizabeth Taylor was sitting across the aisle from me, and then I got to meet Ron Howard, and then we went to the scoring session and I met George Lucas, who happened to be there because he was producing [Willow], and then it was taking place in the Abbey Road Studios. It was just this wonderful five-day trip.”

Nowadays, Hohlfeld resides in St. Louis. It was about seven years ago when he realized that he only needed to be in Los Angeles about three weeks each year, since he could write anywhere. “Personally it’s just much easier to live here; it’s a better place to raise a family. I spent 14 or 15 years in L.A., and I never really thought of it as home. It’s just so strange and such a foreign world. I like the change of seasons, and I like being where I grew up.” The downside, he admitted, is that in Los Angeles you can see someone in a restaurant, and they say, ‘Why don’t you come to a meeting tomorrow?’ and the next thing you know you have a job. That, of course, doesn’t happen much in St. Louis.

Nevertheless, Hohlfeld couldn’t be busier. In addition to his work on the Disney films, he teaches at both Webster University and HH Studio, which he founded with Carrie Houk. He also writes and directs plays for the Imaginary Theatre Company, along with serving on the board of Cinema St. Louis—where he oversees the organization’s annual CinemaSpoke Screenplay Competition.

Filmwise, he is trying to get his script Lives of the Saints filmed on a larger scale than the original short version made several years ago. “It’s set in St. Louis, and the Arch actually plays kind of a dramatic function—not just as a prop or the backdrop, but it’s actually in the story. So it sort of begs to be shot here,” Hohlfeld said.

But raising the necessary funds and finding a distributor can be difficult. “It’s a very long row to hoe and sometimes it just gets so frustrating,” he said. “You think: Why would I do this? Why do I want to do this? Nobody might ever end up seeing it. But then it becomes about the work, and about the kind of quality work you want to do.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Brian Hohlfeld: A Hollywood Success Story Written in St. Louis

When young, aspiring filmmakers ask screenwriter and director Brian Hohlfeld whether they should move to Los Angeles, he says, “Don’t even think twice about it. You’re 22 years old. If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” His philosophy is this: if people don’t try it, they’ll never know. “It’s just like playing the lottery,” he said with a laugh. But despite the odds, the Hollywood lottery is one that has paid off for Hohlfeld.

After graduating with a theater arts degree from Saint Louis University, Hohlfeld worked in town briefly for Theater Project Company, where he started writing plays. “But I always knew I would have rather been in film,” he said. “So I wrote a couple of spec scripts and moved to L.A., sort of did the whole temp-work-trying-to-break-in thing for a year and a half or so.” Then, through a high school friend, director Ken Kwapis, Hohlfeld was offered a job rewriting a script for TriStar. “That project never got made,” Hohlfeld said, “but on the strength of that rewrite, I was hired by another producer to do another rewrite and then got an agent through that, and then just sort of kept working ever since.”

Even if you don’t know the name, you probably do know some of the films he has written, especially if you have children. On Feb. 11, Hohfield’s most recent project, Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, will open nationwide. Along with co-writing the script, he also shares credit with Carly Simon for two of the songs. “I can’t even use the word ‘collaboration,’” Hohlfeld joked, “because I’ve only spoken with her briefly, on a conference call with about five other people.”

Although Simon prefers not to collaborate, it all started when Hohlfeld included song lyrics in his script for Piglet’s Big Movie a few years ago. “Everybody took it for granted that it was from the book, and so she set it to music, thinking that A.A. Milne had written it,” Hohlfeld said. Even after it was discovered that Hohlfeld was the one who had penned the lyrics, the song was kept in the movie despite Simon’s protests.

Then, when the Heffalump film was being made, it became apparent that—despite Simon’s talent—without really knowing the characters, it was difficult for her to write character-based songs. “So they asked me to come back after I had written the script and take a stab at those lyrics, which I did, and then [Simon] put them to music,” Hohlfeld said. “It’s a thrill. I couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s an honor to share credit with her.”

And speaking of thrills, Piglet’s Big Movie was one of five finalists in the screenplay division of the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Awards, losing out to Mystic River. Hohlfeld said that it was probably Piglet’s tone that people responded to: while the script didn’t talk down to kids, it also didn’t depend on pop-culture jokes and parodies, like so many children’s films do.

Hohlfeld has also written romantic comedies and dramas, and said he estimates that, in total, he has been involved in writing about 50 films, which include the Pooh features, He Said, She Said, the spec scripts that he is still trying to sell, quite a few uncredited projects (such as The Mighty Ducks and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), and the small, independent films he has made on his own.

Hohlfeld said that the highlight of his career was a film that didn’t get made. It was a script he wrote the late ’80s about the AIDS epidemic, produced by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon (the folks who penned Stand by Me). “Once the script was finished, everyone just went nuts over it, and Ron Howard was interested in directing it,” Hohlfeld said.

At the time, Howard was in London scoring Willow, and so Universal flew Hohlfeld over to meet with him. Hohlfeld described the trip as an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. “On the plane over in the first-class section, Elizabeth Taylor was sitting across the aisle from me, and then I got to meet Ron Howard, and then we went to the scoring session and I met George Lucas, who happened to be there because he was producing [Willow], and then it was taking place in the Abbey Road Studios. It was just this wonderful five-day trip.”

Nowadays, Hohlfeld resides in St. Louis. It was about seven years ago when he realized that he only needed to be in Los Angeles about three weeks each year, since he could write anywhere. “Personally it’s just much easier to live here; it’s a better place to raise a family. I spent 14 or 15 years in L.A., and I never really thought of it as home. It’s just so strange and such a foreign world. I like the change of seasons, and I like being where I grew up.” The downside, he admitted, is that in Los Angeles you can see someone in a restaurant, and they say, ‘Why don’t you come to a meeting tomorrow?’ and the next thing you know you have a job. That, of course, doesn’t happen much in St. Louis.

Nevertheless, Hohlfeld couldn’t be busier. In addition to his work on the Disney films, he teaches at both Webster University and HH Studio, which he founded with Carrie Houk. He also writes and directs plays for the Imaginary Theatre Company, along with serving on the board of Cinema St. Louis—where he oversees the organization’s annual CinemaSpoke Screenplay Competition.

Filmwise, he is trying to get his script Lives of the Saints filmed on a larger scale than the original short version made several years ago. “It’s set in St. Louis, and the Arch actually plays kind of a dramatic function—not just as a prop or the backdrop, but it’s actually in the story. So it sort of begs to be shot here,” Hohlfeld said.

But raising the necessary funds and finding a distributor can be difficult. “It’s a very long row to hoe and sometimes it just gets so frustrating,” he said. “You think: Why would I do this? Why do I want to do this? Nobody might ever end up seeing it. But then it becomes about the work, and about the kind of quality work you want to do.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Brian Hohlfeld: A Hollywood Success Story Written in St. Louis

When young, aspiring filmmakers ask screenwriter and director Brian Hohlfeld whether they should move to Los Angeles, he says, “Don’t even think twice about it. You’re 22 years old. If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” His philosophy is this: if people don’t try it, they’ll never know. “It’s just like playing the lottery,” he said with a laugh. But despite the odds, the Hollywood lottery is one that has paid off for Hohlfeld.

After graduating with a theater arts degree from Saint Louis University, Hohlfeld worked in town briefly for Theater Project Company, where he started writing plays. “But I always knew I would have rather been in film,” he said. “So I wrote a couple of spec scripts and moved to L.A., sort of did the whole temp-work-trying-to-break-in thing for a year and a half or so.” Then, through a high school friend, director Ken Kwapis, Hohlfeld was offered a job rewriting a script for TriStar. “That project never got made,” Hohlfeld said, “but on the strength of that rewrite, I was hired by another producer to do another rewrite and then got an agent through that, and then just sort of kept working ever since.”

Even if you don’t know the name, you probably do know some of the films he has written, especially if you have children. On Feb. 11, Hohfield’s most recent project, Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, will open nationwide. Along with co-writing the script, he also shares credit with Carly Simon for two of the songs. “I can’t even use the word ‘collaboration,’” Hohlfeld joked, “because I’ve only spoken with her briefly, on a conference call with about five other people.”

Although Simon prefers not to collaborate, it all started when Hohlfeld included song lyrics in his script for Piglet’s Big Movie a few years ago. “Everybody took it for granted that it was from the book, and so she set it to music, thinking that A.A. Milne had written it,” Hohlfeld said. Even after it was discovered that Hohlfeld was the one who had penned the lyrics, the song was kept in the movie despite Simon’s protests.

Then, when the Heffalump film was being made, it became apparent that—despite Simon’s talent—without really knowing the characters, it was difficult for her to write character-based songs. “So they asked me to come back after I had written the script and take a stab at those lyrics, which I did, and then [Simon] put them to music,” Hohlfeld said. “It’s a thrill. I couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s an honor to share credit with her.”

And speaking of thrills, Piglet’s Big Movie was one of five finalists in the screenplay division of the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Awards, losing out to Mystic River. Hohlfeld said that it was probably Piglet’s tone that people responded to: while the script didn’t talk down to kids, it also didn’t depend on pop-culture jokes and parodies, like so many children’s films do.

Hohlfeld has also written romantic comedies and dramas, and said he estimates that, in total, he has been involved in writing about 50 films, which include the Pooh features, He Said, She Said, the spec scripts that he is still trying to sell, quite a few uncredited projects (such as The Mighty Ducks and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), and the small, independent films he has made on his own.

Hohlfeld said that the highlight of his career was a film that didn’t get made. It was a script he wrote the late ’80s about the AIDS epidemic, produced by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon (the folks who penned Stand by Me). “Once the script was finished, everyone just went nuts over it, and Ron Howard was interested in directing it,” Hohlfeld said.

At the time, Howard was in London scoring Willow, and so Universal flew Hohlfeld over to meet with him. Hohlfeld described the trip as an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. “On the plane over in the first-class section, Elizabeth Taylor was sitting across the aisle from me, and then I got to meet Ron Howard, and then we went to the scoring session and I met George Lucas, who happened to be there because he was producing [Willow], and then it was taking place in the Abbey Road Studios. It was just this wonderful five-day trip.”

Nowadays, Hohlfeld resides in St. Louis. It was about seven years ago when he realized that he only needed to be in Los Angeles about three weeks each year, since he could write anywhere. “Personally it’s just much easier to live here; it’s a better place to raise a family. I spent 14 or 15 years in L.A., and I never really thought of it as home. It’s just so strange and such a foreign world. I like the change of seasons, and I like being where I grew up.” The downside, he admitted, is that in Los Angeles you can see someone in a restaurant, and they say, ‘Why don’t you come to a meeting tomorrow?’ and the next thing you know you have a job. That, of course, doesn’t happen much in St. Louis.

Nevertheless, Hohlfeld couldn’t be busier. In addition to his work on the Disney films, he teaches at both Webster University and HH Studio, which he founded with Carrie Houk. He also writes and directs plays for the Imaginary Theatre Company, along with serving on the board of Cinema St. Louis—where he oversees the organization’s annual CinemaSpoke Screenplay Competition.

Filmwise, he is trying to get his script Lives of the Saints filmed on a larger scale than the original short version made several years ago. “It’s set in St. Louis, and the Arch actually plays kind of a dramatic function—not just as a prop or the backdrop, but it’s actually in the story. So it sort of begs to be shot here,” Hohlfeld said.

But raising the necessary funds and finding a distributor can be difficult. “It’s a very long row to hoe and sometimes it just gets so frustrating,” he said. “You think: Why would I do this? Why do I want to do this? Nobody might ever end up seeing it. But then it becomes about the work, and about the kind of quality work you want to do.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply