Director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia , There Will Be Blood , Phantom Thread ) made his first films when he was just eight years old with his first real production, The Dirk Diggler Story (1988) produced whilst still in high school. The mockumentary short, funded using money he earned cleaning bird cages at a pet store, showcases an already confident filmmaking voice. The Dirk Diggler Story follows the spiralling descent of a porn star, taking inspiration from the real life narrative of adult actor John Holmes. This story was expanded in Anderson’s later feature film Boogie Nights (1997), with some scenes repeated verbatim.
After abandoning film school, Anderson, now twenty-three, wrote and directed Cigarettes & Coffee (1993) using his own gambling winnings to reach the necessary funding. Set, like the majority of Anderson’s later films, in the San Fernando Valley where he grew up, the short explores several storylines through their connection to one $20 bill. Anderson’s narrative and technical style is clear; poignant dialogue, serendipitous storyline crossovers, frequent use of backlighting, as well as the slow, constantly moving tracking shots. The short film won acclaim at the Sundance Festival Shorts Program, enabling Anderson to develop Cigarettes & Coffee into his first feature length film Hard Eight (1996).