Meet the Next Clint Eastwood!

Independent film director and actor Tom Linskey could have Hollywood in his hands, if only he was on the radar.

Interview by Michael Breton ‘12 | Style and Culture

Title card from "The Last Signals"

Many young, ambitious people today aspire to reach stardom in Hollywood. As in any dream, there must be two things in the equation: talent and passion. Some have the talent, while others could only exercise the passion. Tom Linskey is an independent director who has both; he is also only a college student at Pennsylvania. His latest masterpiece, The Last Signals, is an example of not only his directorial visions but also his acting roles in which he played the co-star. The film was well received on The only problem is, he is oblivious to the industry. Tom’s films have this gritty, heroic theme going on that it reminisce those films of director and actor Clint Eastwood; less western, more Letters to Iwo Jima.

1.What are the themes that are portrayed in your films? Explain them.

Most of my films, especially these last few years, have all had the same theme; history and heroism. I really enjoy recreating true tales of bravery and inspiration with the backdrop of some major event in it. The Last Signals, of course, is no exception. It focuses on Harold Bride, the assistance telegraph operator of the Titanic. His chief was John Phillips. Phillips remained at the telegraph sending distress calls long after the captain allowed him to make a run for it, and Bride stayed, too, refusing to abandon his friend. They stayed in the room until it flooded out, which is a remarkable act of courage considering how much electricity flowed through that room.

2.Who are your favorite filmmakers?

This is a very tough choice. I know you’re specifically asking for film makers here, but I can answer the question of favorite actors easily. I think every generation tends to have a few actors who -almost no matter what they’re in- they pull it off, and often make it a good movie simply due to their presence. Far back, we’ve got Jimmy Stewart, previously we’ve had Steve McQueen, then Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks. Most recently, and still active, I’d say this generation’s top actor is Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio (and I’m not biased towards him because of James Cameron’s Titanic film- I genuinely feel he’s a talented actor).

Now, I’ll take a stab at film makers, but I can’t answer it as thoroughly. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, especially when they team up, but my style doesn’t fully reflect them, though it used to. I’ve noticed my movies have tended to lean towards the style of Clint Eastwood’s most recent productions.

3. Your recent film, The Last Signal, was well made and seemed like a lot of effort. How did you decide to film this particular picture?

Thank you. I’ve always had an interest in the Titanic- for as long as I’ve had an interest in filmmaking, actually. When I read the story of Harold Bride (again), I was in high school, and it hit me- this story would make a great film, especially with the twist of seeing Phillips dead on the boat. When I thought about it more, the fact that the majority of film took place in the one wireless room, it suddenly became extremely possible for me, a high-schooler at the time, to pull it off. Harold Bride’s tale is one of the most important tales of the sinking, and if not for he and Phillips, no ships would have been aware of the sinking, and those in the lifeboats would have drifted almost indefinitely. This was 2 years before the completion, so the 100th anniversary wasn’t even on my mind. I realized it towards the end of production, and set the goal to be finished before then. This wasn’t originally intended to come out alongside the countless other Titanic related films for the anniversary.

4. Who or what are your influences as well as inspirations?

A lot of my inspirations are more on a personal level as opposed to related to film, such as T.E.Lawrence and William Murdoch, etc. With filmmaking, I’d have to say a lot of the names listed above in the favorite filmmakers. Quite frankly, however, I don’t pay too much attention to what others do in the film industry. I focus mainly on what I want to do, so I’m not actually heavily influenced by anyone, save for my friends who film alongside me.

5. Your films have this gritty, masculine feel to them. Most of your films are about war battles and disasters. Why these subjects in particular? Will you ever make “chick-flicks”?

I guess I always tend to lean towards the more epic kinds of films, as they’re the most exciting to shoot and create stories for, in my opinion. Would I ever make a chick flick? If by chick flick we’re talking like Twilight, or anything with Sarah Jessica Parker, then no. But, I’m not adverse to shooting a film more geared towards women, though I’m honestly quite surprised: according to youtube’s analytics, one of my strongest following is Australian girls age 18-24. Not complaining, of course 😉 . I also, for some odd reason, have a female following of 47%, which I wouldn’t have anticipated. Unfortunately, due to the fact that most of my films are war, and The Last Signals focused on Titanic’s crew (which was 800 some men and only around 20 women), most of my films tend to mostly show males. The film I’ve shot most recently, and all of my next three actually have prominent female roles, so my trend seems to be broken.

6. What is the film you were most proud of making?

The Last Signals currently is my pride and joy, but one of the next films I have in the making, I know for a fact, will be beating it out, if I can get the proper funding. The Last Signals was my only full length 2 hour film I’ve made. The youtube version is 42 minutes, but there’s a 2 hour version of it (which does feature quite a few women, in response to the previous question), but this film is limited in availability at the moment.

7. What would you like to achieve in the future?

I’d like to get my films to the point where I’m able to make money off them. None of my films as of yet have been for profit. I’d like to keep my films in the same themes that they’ve been following, and my main goal is to show people that history can be exciting to learn about. My main goal with a lot of my films is to show what truthfully happened; I want people to watch these films and, with or without realizing it, experience a fully accurate history lesson. The Last Signals did that.

8. Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker or would you like to be a mainstream director? Why?

I’m independent right now. I hope to remain independent. I honestly think that’s the best way to be. If I were to go mainstream, I’d have high budget producers, legalists, and marketing agents constantly breathing down my neck making the priority of the film to make money as opposed to tell a good story. The majority of a high budget mainstream movie’s money goes to actors and overpaid workers. An independent film can pull off just as good of a job with a tiny fraction of the budget, as they won’t use big names. Granted, a lot of mainstream actors are talented, but I have worked with some actors who I feel are better actors than some mainstreamers! And I didn’t even have to pay them! I hope to stay independent, but reach the point where finding a budget isn’t difficult.

9. When did you realize you wanted to be in film industry?

Tough question… I always made films- my first film I remember was in kindergarten, yet I also remember I’ve been making films before that. When growing up I wanted to be a teacher, then writer, then archaeologist, only in high school realizing that I wanted to turn my lifelong hobby into my career, and that’s stayed with me since.

10. What is your favorite movie that you did not make?

Most recently, I’ve really enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes series with Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law (and secretly wish I directed them haha), but some of my favorite films of all time are more vintage. The Time Machine from 1960 tends to be my favorite film of all time, followed closely by A Night To Remember (1958) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) is up there too, along with The Great Race (1965).

11. What is your signature film style?

A lot of my films tend be to less focusing on the massive explosions and constant fighting, despite often being war or disaster related, and more dialogue driven and based on dramatics. For example, The Last Signals, the film about the Titanic disaster, only had about 5 minutes of intense action, while the rest before that was dramatics and build up of tension, yet, most people say they’ve stayed hooked from the beginning. The style I like shooting in is a vintage style- a lot of the violence being off screen, for example, and relying on the actors to give the story as opposed to special effects and massive scaled shots. Granted, I don’t have the budget for those, but even if I did, I wouldn’t utilize them much. I also have an almost OCD style when filming. I want all the details in my films to be historically accurate. In the Last Signals, for example, even the Morse Code used was correct, the stars in the sky were positioned right, and a lot of the dialogue was word for word. It doesn’t add stress or anything to the project, it just allows me to be more proud in the end, and for all of these details, I’ve been told that The Last Signals is actually the most historically accurate Titanic film to have been produced.



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