Oscar and Tony Award-nominated actor, screenwriter and director Ethan Hawke visited Ringling College of Art and Design this week, where he met with students, led a master class and discussed the possibility of future projects with the college. Hawke, known for his numerous collaborations with acclaimed director Richard Linklater (including Boyhood) and his Oscar-nominated turn in Training Day opposite Denzel Washington, recently worked with four Ringling College interns on his latest film Blaze, about cult musician Blaze Foley, which he wrote and directed and is set to release in 2018. Yesterday afternoon, Hawke took a moment with SRQ to talk about the joy of working with students, breaking into film and the future of production.
SRQ: You taught a master class yesterday. Why did you want to take the time to work with students and what were you hoping to impart? Hawke: That expression is dubious. The whole idea of a master class is not really a title I feel I deserve. But I love being around students. Students have idealism in their eyes and in their questions and in their energy. The way that they look at the profession that I’ve dedicated my life to is with the eyes of somebody who really sees the best in it and they see so much hope in it. One of the things that is amazing after 30 years of being an artist in the professional world is surviving all of the whips and scorns of professionalism, meaning reducing everything to finance or some lowest common denominator. I love being around students and I find that one of the most surprising things about getting older is the joy I get from being around young people.
Is that energy why you brought four Ringling students on board your latest film, Blaze? I love the idea of incorporating school and work and apprenticeship, and exposing young people [to the world]. A lot of young people, particularly with film, have these ideas of what Hollywood is. People are often shocked to find out that I live in New York. They have this idea that Hollywood is something you can touch, as if it’s a real thing. And it’s not. It’s imaginative. There is no “they.” Exposing students to real life work helps break down that wall and helps them see that they too can be Hollywood. What I love about schools and education is that it’s a place where you’re not forced to compete in a commercial world, but you’re forced to compete to educate yourself. Just because you may not feel you have permission to enter this universe, that is the way everyone feels. All of us are scared to have permission. You have to decide if you think the arts have value. And if you believe that any movie or any performance or any painting or any dance or any song has value, then it’s a worthy attempt to try and make such a thing. Then it’s up to the universe.
Do aspiring filmmakers still need to be in New York or LA to get something made? No. One of my great collaborations is with Richard Linklater and he’s proved that fact. You’re often better off where your roots are. [Linklater] made Slacker in 1991 and he hasn’t left Austin. And he’s conquered the cinema world from Austin. We live in a really exciting time period, where those rules about where you’re supposed to be just don’t exist anymore. One of the things that I think is exciting about what this school is doing is trying to bring people who are working into the student environment. As they do that, they’ll start to see that you are in charge of your own destiny. Everybody is. Use the resources that you have, that are specific to you. Be yourself.
Check upcoming issues of SRQ magazine for the full interview.