Ashley Hoff is an ambitious storyteller, producer, and creative leader, most recently known for her work as an Executive Producer on the upcoming Paramount+ documentary series, 11 Minutes, which is the first documentary of record surrounding Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting.
In this anatomy of a scene interview, we spoke with Ashley about one of the most meaningful scenes she worked on in 11 Minutes.
PH: Which scene was the most meaningful or important to work on in 11 Minutes?
Ashley Hoff: The documentary is intense as it is telling the story of an intense event. Near the end of the fourth episode, we take time to be in the “now” with our interviewees. We hear stories of their personal resilience, the connections made, and the Route 91 family that will be a part of their life forever. It’s a time to see what the active work of healing looks like and to note that surviving this event wasn’t just making it through 11 minutes, but it was making it through second one and every second to follow for the rest of their life. Surviving an event like this – it’s forever work and I’m glad we got to share that. In addition to honoring the survivor journey, we also take a moment to honor those lost – from this event and every mass shooting to follow our nation’s largest mass shooting - in a very powerful way.
PH: Tell us a bit more about the scene and how it functions/informs the rest of the narrative.
Ashley Hoff: The scene involves many of our interviewees in their now, talking about how this has affected and continues to affect their life. The piece’s goal is to share the light that was in the darkness that night and this emotional moment shows you the impact of that light.
PH: As a survivor, how did you work to connect with your interviewees in a sensitive way, while also ensuring you captured meaningful and authentic conversations?
Ashley Hoff: Using the old airplane adage – I worked hard prior to starting this project to “put my own mask on first” by really continuing my own personal mental health care. I credit weekly therapy, an incredible retreat with the Onsite Foundation, my personal support system, as well as my survivor support system for holding me up throughout. As a person and a producer, I’ve always been sensitive and open to showing emotion. This was no different. I believe that by sharing my own story and being emotional vulnerable – it allowed the interviewees to feel safe doing the same. What we went through is not normal and it would be abnormal to pretend otherwise.
PH: Were there any unique or special filmmaking techniques you used in this production?
Ashley Hoff: The incredible stories of survivors, first responders, LVMPD, FBI, medical professionals and more are illuminated by an incredible amount of archival footage including over 200 hours of cell phone/personal video and 700+ hours of body camera footage from October 1, 2017. This allows the viewer to be in the shoes of our characters and personally immersed in the story they are hearing.
PH: Were there any technical challenges you had to overcome?
Ashley Hoff: Our greatest challenge was filming this in the middle of a global pandemic which definitely brought on some new and unique challenges. Grateful to production and our Covid team for keeping us on track protocol-wise as well as our crew for showing up and working tirelessly to make sure we had safe sets while we were working to tell these important stories.
PH: What was the dialogue like between you and 11 Minutes’ director, Jeff Zimbalist, regarding this scene?
Ashley Hoff: Over the past couple of years, I’ve been blessed to learn from and work with Jeff Zimbalist. He is a passionate, determined creator and his story vision is unparalleled. As both a producer and survivor, I am grateful that our communication was constant and that he was not only doing everything he could to tell a compelling story, but we were working together to make sure we did so with integrity and respect to all those touched by this event. He is a true collaborator – valuing the thoughts and input from everyone from our team and network partners to our interviewees and the Route 91 Survivor community. I’m so proud of the piece we all created together and beyond grateful to Jeff for his creative gifts.
PH: What do you hope viewers take away from this project?
Ashley Hoff: There are many profound messages but ultimately, I hope people take away the true importance of kindness. When anyone asks me what needs to change to make mass shooting headlines stop – I respond with the following. “There is much that needs to change, but ultimately what every person can do RIGHT NOW is - be a KINDER person. If you see someone hurting, see how you can help. If someone is upset, ask what’s wrong. If you can help, make someone’s day brighter – do it.” I believe that people who feel loved and seen do not commit mass acts of violence. It feels important to talk about the night of October 1, 2017. A night that when everything went awry – no one looked around and said, “Where are you from? What do you do? What do you believe? What’s your cultural background?” They simply – in the blink of an eye – became humans not just helping other humans but risking their life to do so. And that feels like an important story and example to share.