Essential Advice From Hollywood Legend Tom Skerritt: ‘Do The Work’

tom skerritt advice quotes
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

In the era of Kickstarter, Broad City, and Dear White People, independent filmmakers are increasingly able to find their foothold not through traditional means, but through crowdsourcing and the production of web shorts and videos. These forms of film are no longer on the fringe — they’re becoming a major channel to success — and no one is a bigger supporter than actor, writer, director, and film educator Tom Skerritt.

A Seattle resident and the founder of The Film School, Tom is a big supporter of young people writing and creating their own productions from whichever city they live in and in whatever spare time they have.

You don’t need to be in New York or Hollywood to become a filmmaker, he says. But, during a Q&A conducted by CreativeLive’s Head of Film Education, Rob Milazzo, Tom explained that what you do need to be willing to do is work.

“I know what I’m talking about…I’ve been there,” Tom explained, admitting that he’d been “a fortunate guy” and that he’d met a lot of really incredible people. And, he said, the timing is perfect for young people looking to get in on the ground floor of web and digital media.

“With binge-watching…We’re going to run out of content. Nobody’s going to be able to make enough content,” he explained. “Those who want to be a filmmaker…you’ve got to really believe that you can. That’s the consideration that you need to put in there. Damn Hollywood.”

And while crowdfunding has definitely worked for many young filmmakers, says Tom, simply being around isn’t enough to get money for your work — nor should it be a good enough reason for you to give your money to projects that might still need a little bit of honing. Just because the funding’s there, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it.

“You guys who want to do this have to do the work and stop bullshitting yourselves. And stop bullshitting each other with the mediocre stuff that I’ve seen over the last 25 years.”

The best thing you can do, says Tom, is sweat over it and make sure that it’s the best work it can be. Then, he says, you pursue the money. And if no one is interested in the work you’re doing? It may not be that they don’t get it — it might be that you need to take another stab.

“Do another rewrite,” Tom says. “Do the work.”

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.