With lips sunburned from a recent fly fishing trip in Jackson Hole and a baseball cap on his head, Tom Skerritt looked every bit the unassuming Seattleite sipping tea from his Starbucks mug last week.
And as he began talking and his enthusiasm grew, it was not to promote his own movie star projects, but to share the latest progress made by TheFilmSchool.
“TheFilmSchool has had a really great year,” Skerritt said.
I met Skerritt at the Madison Park Starbucks to catch up on
TheFilmSchool, the screenwriting program Skerritt helped found six years ago. I’ve kept in touch with Skerritt since attending TheFilmSchool several years ago to learn about script writing, and I’m always eager to hear about the school’s progress.
By Skerrit’s account, TheFilmSchool has never been stronger. Applicant numbers have been rising each year, and the school now has 350 graduates. TheFilmSchool will for the first time offer three separate three-week intensive sessions this year, up from two in years past. In addition, this summer marked the inaugural Prodigy Camp, a week-long summer program on Whidbey Island for teens.
Each of the adult sessions attracted 20 to 30 students, and Prodigy Camp hosted 15 kids. TheFilmSchool drew applicants from around the world, including Australia, Estonia, and the United Kingdom. Students receive instruction from Skerritt and fellow school founders Warren Etheredge, John Jacobsen, Rick Stevenson, and Stewart Stern.
TheFilmSchool is also gearing up for next year’s move into its own space. The school teamed up with the Seattle International Film Festival to lobby for city matching funds to renovate the Seattle Center’s Alki Room.
Construction will begin in October and wrap up next July. SIFF and TheFilmSchool will share office and classroom space and a film screening theater. Right now, SIFF has offices in South Lake Union and TheFilmSchool uses rooms in the Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms and Center House.
Skerritt believes TheFilmSchool’s new shared space and partnership with SIFF will strengthen the local film community. SIFF’s mission to showcase quality films fits right with TheFilmSchool’s aims, Skerritt said.
“We can work together to legitimize the Seattle film community,” Skerritt said.
Skerritt and the school’s other founders started TheFilmSchool because they wanted to teach students how to become better story tellers, and produce the kind of scripts worth turning into films. At the time, Hollywood was bypassing Seattle as a filming venue for cheaper locations in Canada. If Seattle couldn’t attract movie projects, Skerritt and the rest of the team figured, the city needed to create its own.
Skerritt continues to make TheFilmSchool his priority, even though his life is hectic. He also juggles continued onscreen roles and his own screenwriting projects. Right now, Skerritt is trying to find funding to turn one of his screenplays into a feature film. The story surrounds a wounded World War II veteran passing on life knowledge to a young man.
In addition, Skerritt spends much of his time being a father to three-year-old Emiko. Skerritt, who also has grown children from his first marriage, adopted Emiko with his wife, Julie. Their quiet family life suits Skerritt well.
“I never thought I’d do fatherhood again, but here I am, and I absolutely love it,” Skerritt said.