I’m an untrained actor with no formal education in moviemaking. I learned my trade by observing the work of others, reading books about actin and film, and through trial and error on sets and stages. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Trust your gut. Don’t guess what the audience wants. Tell the story you want to tell, the way you want to tell it.
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.
3. Loaf occasionally.
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 thousand 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.
6. Be kind. Be brave. Be prepared. Work hard. Have a great sense of humor.
7. William Goldman famously said of the film industry that: “Nobody knows anything.” This may be true. I don’t know for sure.
Since making his debut in the 1985 horror-comedy Future-Kill, John Hawkes has become one of Hollywood’s most reliable character actors, racking up close to 200 credits thus far. The Minnesota native has been a familiar face on the small screen, with starring roles in “Deadwood” and “Eastbound & Down.” He has stolen scenes on the big screen in films big and small, including The Perfect Storm, Me and You and Everyone We Know, and American Gangster. in 2011 he was nominated for an Oscar for his powerful turn as a meth addict in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. He’s appeared most recently in Lincoln, and Ben Lewin’s The Sessions.