Using that English degree

“Things from your past can find their way in to your future career,” said Philip Hoffman, Canadian experimental filmmaker. He spoke to a group of approximately 30 members of the Wilfrid Laurier University community on Oct. 20 as part of the English and film department’s centennial speaker series “What You Can Do With a Laurier Degree.”

Hoffman, whose interest in photography dates to his childhood, told the audience that he originally came to Laurier as a business student in the late 1970s. However, coming across a film screening on campus one evening, he said “it was dreamlike, one of those things a film can do, just take you away.” It turned out that the film, Ulysses, was an experimental film, which sparked inspiration in him.

After his second year at Laurier, gaining more exposure to film and literature, Hoffman decided where his passions lay. “I wanted to make films,” he said.

Moving on to college where he could learn the art of film, Hoffman began experimenting on his own. Having developed the skill set that truly interested him, Hoffman realized that having a university degree was still a necessary accomplishment in his life and decided to return to Laurier.

Recollecting a creative writing class he took, Hoffman expressed, “[it] taught me how to write visually.”

Admittedly, his bachelor of arts degree in literature has not had a direct influence on his career in film. “I’m not sure if this talk is about alumni talking about their experiences,” Hoffman said, going on to add that it was opportunities working in a darkroom that inspired him.

Hoffman did attribute the good fortune of meeting and working with filmmaker Peter Greenaway through the university which helped set off his career. “His films made me see how documentary is a construction,” he said.

After working alongside Greenaway on his 1986 film A Zed & Two Noughts, Hoffman was able to create his own ?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film).

Giving advice to the students in the audience, Hoffman said in choosing a career, “do something you already know, something that you like, connect it to something that you love.”

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