Tom Lynskey, 20, of Holland, has been fascinated with the story of the Titanic ever since he can remember. In fact, one of his earliest childhood memories is playing with a broken model of the ship with his father. He’s also been interested in filmmaking since his youth and recently completed two semesters in film at Temple University.
So it came as no surprise to people who know Tom that he decided to produce, direct, write and co-star in a film about the Titanic to commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of its sinking on April 14th.
The film, “The Last Signals,” tells the story of the Titanic’s two telegraph operators, Harold Bride and John Phillips, who were responsible for calling for assistance. It is told through Harold’s point of view.
Tom plays the role of John, the senior wireless operator, and Jake Swing of Virginia, who also produces films, plays the lead role of Harold, the junior wireless operator.
Tom made this film during his senior year at Council Rock High School South, and the majority of the cast includes students from his high school. For adult parts, Tom recruited some of his teachers. For example, the role of Captain Edward John Smith was played by Tom’s ninth grade history teacher, Richard Myers.
Tom built his set in the basement of his home in Holland. It consisted of three rooms; the main telegraph room, the operators’ cabin and a room with a generator, known as the dynamo room. He also built an outside hallway that led to these rooms.
“I was determined to construct a set that was identical to the original ship,” says Tom, who based its layout on the Titanic’s blueprints, as well as from first-hand accounts of survivors who had described it in detail in various reports.
Titanic historians who Tom has befriended over the years also helped him with the intricate details of this set and the overall film content.
“I arranged the rooms exactly like those on the ship right down to the patterns of the blankets and the design of the uniform buttons,” says Tom.
Tom, who collects Titanic memorabilia, utilized props that were identical to their original counterparts. In addition, he is the proud owner of an original dinner plate from the RMS Carpethia, the rescue ship, which he calls a “lucky purchase from eBay,”
“It’s very likely that Titanic passengers ate off this very plate,” says Tom who used it in a scene aboard the Carpethia in his film.
Approximately 10 of Tom’s friends, also students from Council Rock High School South, helped Tom construct the set, which took approximately a year and a half to build.
Based on the Titanic’s tragic conclusion, Tom ultimately flooded and destroyed his set for the production of his film. Despite the fact that this film cost only $2,700 to produce, including the cost to build the set, it has recently become ranked by some alongside of James Cameron’s “Titanic” and other major productions of the “Titanic” over the years.
Said William Brower, author of “Touched by the Titanic,” “This film’s set is the most accurate replica, and it is one of the most historically accurate films produced about the Titanic.”
Some of Harold’s descendants wrote to Tom saying they liked the way Harold was portrayed and the truthfulness of the film. The film is 42 minutes and focuses entirely on the ship and rescue.
“The film is actually a history lesson, but it’s fast-paced,” says Tom. “It’s meant to be educational. What you see in the film is how it happened. Visually, all the costumes are what they wore. Some of the conversations are taken word by word, quoted by survivors who were there. If they are not direct quotes, it’s very close to how the dialogue was stated.”
Tom also produced a two-hour version of the film that includes all the footage from the shorter film, but also adds scenes following the Titanic’s sinking.
In addition, Tom specifically edited a five-minute version of the film to submit to a film festival taking place in Belfast, Ireland where the Titanic was built. He recently learned that his film has placed in the top 10 at the festival. The winning film will be announced during the festival, which is part of a month-long festival beginning March 29th to commemorate the Titanic’s survivors and those lost at sea.
Tom plans to attend the festival as part of his quest to continue to expand his knowledge about this “unsinkable” ship.
Tom is available to speak at schools and give lectures about the Titanic. Email him at email@example.com.
PHOTO CAP: Movie poster for “The Last Signals”