Since Jack Hoppe was 6 years old, he knew he wanted to write and direct films. Hoppe said seeing 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings” movie with his mom and brother sparked his inspiration to become a film director and writer.
“I distinctly remember at the end when the Aragorn cut the orc’s head off, the whole theater erupted in applause,” Hoppe said. “I was blown away by the fact that a film could create that kind of reaction. I had no idea you were allowed to clap in a movie theater. Later on in my youth, while watching the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ I remember thinking to myself ‘I can’t wait to do that.’ It was never ‘I want to’ or ‘I’m interested,’ it was always something I felt I was intended to do.”
Hoppe, a 2018 University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate through the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, received his bachelor’s degree in Film and New Media and is now living out his dream. His films are hard to put into one genre, but they often fall under the umbrella of horror, thriller and dramas.
The Nebraska native comes from an artistic family. Fred Hoppe, Jack’s father, brings figures to life through sculpting. Owner of Fred Hoppe Sculpture Studio, Fred is well-known for creating the Brook Berringer and Tom Osborne monument as well as encapsulating an iconic tackle with “Husker Legacy,” both of which reside in front of Memorial Stadium.
Jack also dabbles in sculpting. The 24-year-old took after his father and started his own company, Heartland Artland. He showcases and sells his bronze sculptures, murals, special effects and graphic designs on his website. The money he earns helps him invest in his films.
“I was working on my thesis film and couldn’t afford to shoot it, so I wanted to come up with a way to finance it that gave some incentive to the financiers,” Jack said.
When Jack started making films, he used his money, but knew it wouldn’t last long. He decided to send mailers offering prints of his paintings, and when customers responded with orders, he came up with Heartland Artland. While finance remains an obstacle for Jack, he said he hopes to move into bigger feature filmmaking soon.
Though he worked on 30 films in college with his classmates, Jack has only made five short films himself — “Trading Faces,” “Breakdown,” “Stewart,” “Bamboozle” and “Coming Home.”
“The cost of making a feature-length film is extremely expensive, so shorts have been a way for me to practice writing, directing and interacting with other crew members,” Jack said. “Shorts allow filmmakers to make mistakes and learn from them without huge financial or career-damaging repercussions.”
Working on a film means many hands on deck, and Jon Bass, a UNL alum and freelance cinematographer in Los Angeles, has been Jack’s cinematographer since spring 2017.
“I think my favorite film that we made together was ‘Bamboozle,’” Bass said. “We had a lot of prep time and got to work with some of our favorite crew members. The film provided the most challenges to overcome as a team effort. It’s the whole crew that makes a film enjoyable to make.”
Bass said Jack has been an inspiration for him since they met at the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.
“Jack makes movies that Jack wants to make — plain and simple,” Bass said. “He has this attitude of ‘I don’t care what other people think or say, I want to do this.’ That level of confidence is something that I like to be around and work with.”
Jack has filmed all of his shorts in Lincoln. According to Jack, the support from his local community, family and friends make it easy to stick around.
“I’ve been laughed at many times for saying I want to shoot films in Nebraska, but there are so many resources and locations here that have never been used,” Jack said. “And the community support is unbelievable. People always take an interest and want to help out when you are doing movies here.”
Since showcasing his films in his hometown of Columbus, Jack plans to continue promoting his work by presenting his films to distributors at festivals.
“All you need is one great film to be noticed,” Jack said. “I will be having a showing in Omaha in April and I’m currently focusing on showing my newest film, ‘Coming Home,’ in festivals across the country. I’ve only begun submitting it to festivals but I believe it will do well.”
Jack said he values the art of filmmaking because of the stories he can create and that a director must be open and seek criticism.
“Making a film is like planning a perfect road trip,” Jack said. “Know where you’re going, but don’t be afraid to make a few impulsive stops or take some alternate routes along the way.”