Noir vibes: Get to know ‘Flinch’ filmmaker Cameron Van Hoy
Cameron Van Hoy has done it all. He started off as a child actor on films like Pups and hit shows like Hey Arnold! before expanding his reach behind the camera. He moved to Los Angeles after attending the High School for the Performing Arts, and has gone on to have a successful career as a writer, producer, and filmmaker.
Van Hoy’s directorial debut, Flinch, will premiere January 21 on TVOD. The film is a passion project for Van Hoy, inspired by his relationship with his mother and his love for the stylish neo-noirs of the 1990s. Flinch is produced by Ardor Pictures and is an absolute must for fans of throwback crime and complex family dynamics.
Film Daily had the privilege to chat with Cameron Van Hoy about his filmmaking idols, his creative process, and his willingness to learn from mistakes.
Tell us about your filmmaking history. How did you start your journey?
I always had a love for film and theater growing up. Instead of sports I did plays. My favorite toy was my video camera. As a teen I worked professionally as an actor before moving to New York where I studied drama at the High School For the Performing Arts.
I continued making my films in high school before moving back to LA to pursue a career in the movie. I started writing and producing my own films. I licensed them to major distributors like Netflix and Universal. After the success of my last film Tragedy Girls I decided to direct my first feature film. That is Flinch, coming out January 21st.
You had a strong career as a child actor. When did you decide you wanted to move behind the camera?
I always loved being behind the camera. I had a video camera at a very young age. Before that I had an extensive puppet collection. I was always writing scripts and putting on shows for my family, neighbors, classmates etc. After high school I made the decision that I wanted to spend my life making films.
You recently made your directorial debut with the crime drama Flinch. What was the inspiration behind the story?
I love crime films, it’s my favorite genre. Yet I wanted to make something personal to me. This is why I designed the central character and his mother to be so unique, dysfunctional, and still so lovable. I was raised by a single mother, in many ways this film is about that bond between mother and son when the father is not in the house.
The mother-son dynamic is the crux of the film. How much of this dynamic came from your relationship with your own mother?
So much. My mother is an Italian lady from Brooklyn, New York. She is tough but she is in your corner if you are a part of her family. Her ability to sacrifice herself for those she loves is awe inspiring. Her loyalty to those she loves is rock solid. I respect that type of loyalty, when someone would kill for the people they love.
You worked on the script for Flinch for several years. Did the script change as you gained more writing and filmmaking experience?
Yes it did. Scripts are like acting in that every time you work on it it changes. It’s always a rehearsal, forever changing until it’s finally captured on film (or digital).
Flinch is reminiscent of thrillers from the 1980s & 90s. Did you pull influence from any films in particular?
I pulled more influence from the era. I miss the storytelling of that time. I also pulled a lot from synthwave vaporwave and outrun as a genre. It’s music that feels old but new. It’s nostalgic yet futuristic, a longing for the past while embracing the future.
Flinch has a stylish color scheme throughout. How do the colors serve to underscore the emotions of the characters?
Well I worked with Kai Saul the director of photography on this and I trusted him a lot, he’s one of the few creative geniuses I know. We communicated in depth about the characters, who they are, what they are going through. Kai helped me to find the right colors for the story we were trying to tell.
There were macro approaches to color as we were making a neo noir with a throw back to the early 90’s, and wanted to serve that vibe visually. But there were more micro / literal choices like Doyle’s red cross. The red crucifix that not only burns in his room but in his soul. This symbol should speak for itself as to what Doyle is going through.
I also knew I wanted to shoot most of the movie at night to help set the noir vibe, play with shadow more and to expand production value. My budget was small but I wanted this to feel big, shooting at night gives you more control over light, that helps.
How has producing films like Tooken and Tragedy Girls shaped your directing style?
I got to make mistakes and learn from them without being the director. I learned valuable lessons on those movies about story structure, managing a crew, making your day, shooting to edit, negotiating contracts so I can maintain some form of creative control.
You’ve directed several shorts over the years. What’s the biggest difference between directing a short and a feature film?
Shorts are a sprint, the shorts I directed are light jogs. Features are marathons. You need health and endurance and relentless persistence.
What great directors are you inspired by?
My favorite director is Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather 1 & 2 is the bible. Apocalypse Now is the Vedas. His films are my religion. But I could go on about the directors that I look up to, it’s a decent list.
How does your acting experience come into play when you’re directing other actors?
I speak their language. I understand what actors go through, they have to make so many choices, I feel tuned into that process. Plus I love actors, I love the playfulness of acting, my best friends are all actors, it’s what I grew up around.
Do you think you’ll continue to act or do you foresee a time when you work exclusively behind the camera?
I have not pursued acting in a long time. Every day I wake up and I work on filmmaking. That’s my only focus.
You’ve worked as a producer, director, and writer. Which position do you enjoy the most?
Is it difficult to juggle all three positions simultaneously, as you did with Flinch?
No, it’s fun.
Is there an aspect of filmmaking you want to attempt that you haven’t yet?
I’d like to attempt winning an Academy Award.
What has been your biggest failure?
Too many to count, but the biggest failure is probably any time I’ve ever doubted myself or operated out of fear.
What about your biggest success?
My biggest success is the relationships I’ve formed and honored with those I love and respect.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I wrote the best script of my life last year. I’ll be working on that next.
What is your advice for aspiring writers and directors?
Write from your heart, direct from your gut, make mistakes, keep trying, keep learning.
What is your favorite film of all time?
I don’t have one. There are too many that mean too much to me.