By: Jeffery Baker
From: The Atlanta Voiceovers
It’s been getting on more years than I’d like to think about since I’ve been on stage. Theatre was my first real love when it comes to the arts and while I did little church plays growing up, it wasn’t until High School that I got bit by the acting bug.
And it bit hard.
Let’s jump back a little bit. Before High School I was the kid that doodled on everything at all times. To keep my little rambunctious butt occupied in church my mom would write numbers on the sermon notes and have me turn them into little characters. During class the only way I could concentrate on the teacher was if I could be drawing something at the same time. It kept my mind from wandering too much. I had a friend one time even ask if he could have my school worksheet so that he could keep the drawings on the margins.
I was a drawing fiend. So much so that when we had our High School orientation my mom was hell bent on making sure I was enrolled in art classes. I was going to be an illustrator after all. Clearly that’s what I was meant to do.
Art class was OK. I don’t remember anything about it to be honest. So that’s the best I can say about it. And that would have been what I did for four years had it not been for my friend who said I should try out for that year’s One Act plays for the second semester. I did, I got cast in three of them! I just had to drop out of the art class to make room for the rehearsals.
My mom was pissed. She’d done all that hard work to make sure I was enrolled in the one thing I was meant to do! But I didn’t care, the acting bug had woken up.
I’ll keep this short(er). That time of rehearsal, the collaboration, the intensity of focus on bringing a script to life and adding my personal touch to it fed that acting bug who turned into a friggin’ Kaiju! When my mom came to see the show her anger melted away seeing me on the stage. I was alive.
The next four years I dedicated as much time as I could to being in theatre. If I wasn’t acting in a play then I was backstage for it. By my senior year they let me direct my own show (Arsenic & Old Lace which outsold the main show for that year — take that!).
After graduating I had no intention of going to college. I was an actor. My mom and I worked together in making connections and through that I landed representation with The People Store here in Atlanta. If you don’t know them, they’re one of the top agencies here. They, at the time at least, represented Raven-Symone!
Ugh, if only I realized what I had back then. How hard it is to land an agent, especially that kind of agent, and what kind of doors where going to open for me.
You see, I had other family members that felt I was wasting my time. That acting is nice and all, but there isn’t a future there. “What will you do if it doesn’t work out? When you don’t have something to fall back on you’ll regret it. You need to GO TO COLLEGE. You NEED A DEGREE.”
What a dummy, I listened to them.
I enrolled in a private art school here in Atlanta to get a degree in animation. I fell back on that thing that I quit for acting. I took four years of classes to learn illustration, the twelve principles of animation, and become proficient in character animation.
What did it cost? $75k in student loan debt and getting dropped by my agent because I couldn’t get the time off to go to auditions. I remember the last call from the People Store so vividly. I was at work and they had an audition for me. I told them I couldn’t make it because I had enrolled in college. There was a pause on the other side and, “Thank you for letting us know. We’ll be in touch.” CLICK
It was the last I ever heard from them.
Still a gut punch.
But that gut punch has taught me a very valuable lesson. Follow your passion, don’t listen to others, and keep going no matter what. It’s what has kept me going over these past three years when life seems to be doing whatever it can to keep me from my coaching sessions, auditioning, or training. I’ve already fallen back on the “safe bet” before, not again.
Besides, the safe bet just leads to feeling unfulfilled.
Voice Acting has woken up that bug again and feeds it. I can feel the passion again and it’s like returning home.
What in your life is the safe bet? Are you listening to others and not following your passion? Are you ready to add a little drama to your life?
I know I am.