Award-winning writer, movie creative exec to give reading at La Sierra

Jeff Hoffman, poet, playwright, and screenwriter

Nov. 14, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker

A lauded poet, playwright and screenwriter whose talents help guide feature film development, will give a reading at La Sierra University from his first, award-winning book.

Jeff Hoffman, a creative executive for Phoenix Pictures, Inc. in Los Angles, published his first book of poems in 2011, titled “Journal of American Foreign Policy.” The work won the 2010 New Issues Poetry Prize from the New Issues Poetry & Prose publishing house at Western Michigan University. It was also a finalist for a California book award in 2012. Hoffman will give a reading from “Journal of American Foreign Policy” on Thurs., Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at La Sierra University’s Matheson Hall. He will hold a book signing following his presentation.

Hoffman’s book consists of 26 poems, most of which were written over the course of a year, although some date back to 2001. The book title was conceived first, and the poems fell into place. “I thought of the title one day, almost out of the blue, and I immediately saw it as a way to frame and structure many of the poems that I had already written,” Hoffman said. “I’ve always been drawn to writing about the intersection of public event and private experience and I wanted my first book to explore this area.”

Poems from Hoffman’s book have appeared in “The New Republic,” “Shenandoah,” “Ploughshares,” “Indiana Review,” “Harvard Divinity Bulletin,” “AGNI,” and other journals. The have also been nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize and for “Best New Poets,” an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers.

Hoffman began writing plays and screenplays in New York City after earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of New Hampshire. His plays have received many awards and have been published by Samuel French, Inc. and Vintage Books/Random House. They have been produced at playhouses throughout the United States, including the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York City and the Santa Monica Playhouse.

“My first small bit of success as a screenwriter came when a screenplay that I wrote was selected as a winner of a small film festival called the Telluride Indiefest,” Hoffman said. Additional success followed. In 2002, he was one of seven fellows selected from more than 3,000 applicants for a Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship, a program then sponsored by Paramount Pictures. “The program set us up with both a studio mentor at Paramount and a screenwriting mentor, in my case, Nick Kazan. That was my first real introduction to the film industry,” he said.

Hoffman started out as an intern at Phoenix Pictures in October 2011, and was hired two months later as a creative executive. Formed in 1995, the company’s highly acclaimed productions have included “The Thin Red Line,” “The People Vs. Larry Flynt,” “Urban Legend,” “Zodiac,” “Shutter Island,” and many others. Hoffman manages the story department and works on films that are currently in development. He has shepherded a number of film scripts through the development process, including a film Phoenix is producing with Shanghai Film Group, written by Oscar winner Ronald Harwood, to be directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson.

Hoffman’s credits include a recent assignment to re-write the feature film “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” under development at Phoenix. He is currently working on a re-write of an independently financed feature, a crime drama set in New Orleans.

Hoffman earned a Master of Fine Arts in writing at the University of Texas where he was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. Between 2004 and 2006, he was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.

Hoffman grew up in western Pennsylvania and is a resident of Pasadena. His father was a scientist and his mother a nurse and activist. “I do think I’ve always wanted to be a writer in some fashion. I don’t come from a family of writers,” said Hoffman. “I had some success early with poetry at the University of New Hampshire where I got a chance to take a class with Charles Simic [Pulitzer Prize winner, U.S. Poet Laureate], who encouraged me to continue.”

Hoffman’s personal reading interests are varied. “In poetry, I love [Wystan Hugh] Auden and Simic and [William] Shakespeare, among many others,” he said. “I currently read, frankly, a lot of screenplays for my job as a development exec.”

La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway in Riverside. Admission to the reading event is free. For further information call 951-785-2241.

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