In David Hoffman's long film career, he's made documentaries on everything from Amelia Earhardt to B.B. King, from double-dutch jump-roping to F-15 fighter pilots. Lately he's been fascinated with the early space program and our mania for all things Sputnik.

Why you should listen

Documentary filmmaker David Hoffman has been capturing reality for almost 4 decades, following his wide-ranging interests and turning them into films for PBS, The Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic. Highlights from his career include the groundbreaking experimental doc King, Murray, which blurred boundaries between truth and fiction as it tracks its subject through a debauched weekend in Las Vegas; A Day With Filmmaker Timmy Page, about a 12-year-old auteur; and his series of films on American indigenous music.

Lately, he has become fascinated with the Atomic-era Space Race, turning out a feature-length documentary about the Sputnik era. Sputnik Mania was scored by Thomas Dolby and has played at festivals and theaters around the country.

Hoffman suffered a devastating setback in early 2008 when, nine days before TED2008, his home, containing a vast archive from his long and fascinating career, burnt to the ground. His next project: to reframe his life and rebuild.

What others say

“I have often tried to understand how David does what he does. After observation, it becomes glaringly simple. He listens! I mean; he really listens, to people and situations.” — Alberto Aquino Alejandro, co-founder, Helio Solutions Inc.

David Hoffman’s TED talks

David Hoffman on the TED Blog

Browse an archive of science advice to Congress

July 25, 2008

Nonpartisan science advice in the US Congress? A newly opened online archive shows that it was possible — and stimulates a call to re-open the Office of Technology Assessment as an advisor to Congress. The OTA’s archive of 700+ scientific reports on topics ranging from addiction to terrorism to “personal rapid transit” spans the lifetime […]

Continue reading
Film

On losing everything: David Hoffman on TED.com

July 9, 2008

Nine days before TED2008, filmmaker David Hoffman lost almost everything he owned in a fire that destroyed his home, office, and 30 years of passionate collecting. He looks back at a life that’s been wiped clean in an instant — and looks forward. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 4:06.) Watch David Hoffman’s 2008 […]

Continue reading

Quotes from David Hoffman

For days after the launch, Sputnik was a wonderful curiosity. A man-made moon visible by ordinary citizens, it inspired awe and pride that humans had finally launched an object into space.
David Hoffman
TED2007 • 207K views Apr 2008
Informative, Fascinating
Sputnik quickly became one of the three great shocks to hit America — historians say the equal of Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
David Hoffman
TED2007 • 207K views Apr 2008
Informative, Fascinating