How to Succeed and Stay Afloat in the Film Industry with Actor John Hawkes
John Hawkes is one of those actors who slides under most people’s radar, even though he somehow manages to be in just about everything. I first became aware of his acting prowess with his eerie portrayal of a cult leader in Sean Durkin’s haunting character study, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Since then, I’ve noticed him in about a gazillion different films (that’s the actual number), and I’ve come to greatly appreciate him as one of a few fantastic character actors working today. He’s even been nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the meth-addled antagonist in the indie hit, Winter’s Bone. Hawkes recently wrote a short piece for MovieMaker Magazine about his seven tips for surviving in the film industry, and needless to say, the seasoned veteran has some fantastic advice for up and coming filmmakers.
So without any further ado, here are a few of my favorites from Hawkes’ list:
2. All arts connect and inform each other. See theater, dance, music, and visual art; read great books. Be thrilled and inspired beyond your niche.
4. Make a vital life outside of the business. Travel, struggle, get a hobby, study, volunteer—gain perspective. This may indirectly benefit your work, as well. Hitchhiking thousands of miles, though I no longer recommend it, greatly enriched my understanding of people and story.
5. This business will knock you down. When it does, try to get up, dust yourself off, and take another step forward. And try to rejoice in the idea that you’ve found work that you love to do. Most don’t.
For me, numbers two and four are absolutely vital if you’re one of those people who considers what they’re doing to be art. As artists, our work is greatly informed by our past experiences and the emotions attached to those experiences. As such, the more experiences we allow ourselves to have and the wider variety of experiences that we venture into, the more informed our art will be. The same goes for participating in other arts. Filmmaking is inherently a combination of many different arts (theater, music, photography, painting, literature, etc), and the better we understand these other art forms, the better we can understand the power of film as an artistic medium.
Number five also hits close to home. Like many, I had a romanticized view of filmmaking before I really started getting into it. Then, like a freight train, the reality of filmmaking hit me. It’s an insanely complicated process that takes a small army of incredibly talented and hard-working people, a ton of money, and some serious organizational prowess in order to do it correctly. Needless to say, the dramatic difference between my idealized version of filmmaking and the reality was nearly enough to make me reconsider career choices. Cut to a few years later, and here I am doing what I love, even if I’m not making much money. Yes, there are days (or all-nighters out in the cold Colorado winter) where I actively wonder why the hell I’m doing this. The answer is simple: because film is the greatest art form known to man, and it’s totally worth the temporary suffering for the chance to create something wonderful.
What do you guys think of Hawkes’ advice? Do any of you veteran guys out there have advice for the filmmakers of tomorrow? Let us know in the comments.
- How to Shoot a Feature Film for $9,000 and Other Filmmaking Tips from Actor/Director Edward Burns
- 7 Tips to Help You Succeed as a Freelance Filmmaker
- Ted Hope on the Change-Challenged Independent Film Industry and Where It's Going