Hiring a U.S. Military Veteran Turned Actor for Your Film/TV Project
By Alan Pietruszewski
My name is Alan Pietruszewski, I used to be a US Navy F-14 Tomcat Navigator, Flight Instructor and I’m a TOPGUN graduate. I recently retired after 24 years served and I’m now a working actor. I am a veteran advocate (I’ve done it all but now concentrate on mentoring actors who are former military) and there is a question I am asked quite often, one which isn’t specific to acting and the entertainment industry, but definitely applies to the biz as well. That question is “Why should I hire a veteran?” My response is as reflexive as reciting emergency procedures was during my flying days. I respond by saying, “we say what we mean, mean what we say, follow through, show up on time (that means EARLY), and are always prepared.”
Every service member, past and present, has successfully survived a highly regimented training program. Not just any training program though, U.S. Military training regimens are DESIGNED to weed out the weak, the lazy, and the non-committed. There is a level of attrition at each phase of training and the elite minority who graduate have survived multiple rounds of culling. We are indoctrinated into a system that rewards out of the box thinking, expects respect for a chain of command and demands attention to detail in every thing you do. When you wear a uniform and come up short, there are consequences. If you are not a team player, you do not promote. Competition is always encouraged, but the men and women you compete with become your best buds and often times, lifelong relationships ensue.
We do not believe in failure, only trying harder. A victory by a unit mate is a victory for the unit and therefore a victory for myself. We understand that there will always be a number one, a winner if you will, and yet we still share our knowledge, experience and talent to help make our teammates better. If they are better, we benefit from that, sometimes the sharing of skills and knowledge with them, can save our own life.
We are not drones, working within a fixed system of tasks with template solutions. Yes, we are trained to apply repeatability to take as much unknown out of the unknown. However, a day rarely goes by where we don’t have to adapt to overcome. We are thinkers, solvers and while we might be outmaneuvered once, we’ll learn from the loss and take away the positive of knowing that specific shortcoming will be prepared for the next time around.
We are overachievers, able to survive and succeed as a lone unit, but “built” to be a cog in a larger machine and ready to contribute to a group victory, knowing that sooner or later, our hard work and sacrifice will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded.
I think there are two points that the civilian populace largely does not know. One, we are here, in LA, NY and other geographical hot spots of entertainment activity, and in large numbers. And two, we are talented with skill sets and capabilities that DIRECTLY translate to the entertainment industry. One group alone, Veterans in Film and Television (VFT) has over 1,500 members in NY and LA, all with the training, skills and success oriented attitudes that were developed with your own tax dollars. There are other veteran groups but will warn you that there are pretenders and imposters who see good things happening for vets in entertainment. They sometimes reap the rewards you intend for us. VFT VERIFIES military service (as do other legitimate veteran owned organizations), so you don’t have to. Everyone in the VFT directory (www.vftla.org/directory) is a verified US military veteran.
I focused in on acting in this article because I am an actor. And while every actor understands that casting for a role will always come down to talent, we’d love it if for roles specifically that call for a character who plays a military member or a vet, if you would consider putting a few of us in the room. We will bring a level of realism and believability that yes any talented actor can learn with enough time and training and perhaps exposure to real vets, but we are there now. Leading actors will get months to prepare, but for supporting roles especially, you may find it beneficial that we are already at that place. We bring a lived in way of walking and talking vet/military that you may just find makes your production feel a bit more authentic.
It’s a GREAT time to be a vet. We are coming off of a multi-front war footing for over the last decade. Americans want to give back, to recognize and help vets get ahead or get to the next level in a career field that gives a good degree of job satisfaction and helps us continue to be contributing members to the greatest society on planet earth. VFT gets calls from Talent Agencies asking for vets to interview for their mail rooms (future agents), directors have called and asked for names to interview for personal assistants and production companies have solicited script concepts for projects to co-produce and support. These are all GREAT things for our veteran community. I guess in a way it’s a bit like affirmative action hiring, which I’ll admit I’ve not always been a fan of. But this success oriented employment hiring isn’t based on ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender (things vets tend not to see anyway). It is based on the not so simple act of an American walking into a recruiters office and signing up for tough training to serve in harsh environments that have all too often the last ten plus years included putting one’s life at risk to serve and protect the American public and preserve the American way of life. It’s a GREAT time to be a vet, but it doesn’t cleanly translate to the field of acting. Acting roles will always be given to the most talented person in the room. Please consider putting a few vets in the room for vet/military roles. It’s really hard getting traction in entertainment and even harder when it’s as a second career after serving for our first career. A few supporting roles as a character we have pretty much already lived can seriously kick start a budding acting career. We are here, in large numbers and with skill sets and talents that DIRECTLY translate to most if not all jobs in the field of entertainment.
Alan Pietruszewski is a former US Navy Commander , F-14 Tomcat flight instructor and graduate of TOPGUN. While stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base from 2001 to 2007, Alan became interested in acting and began studying and performing in community theater and student films. After leaving the Navy in 2007, Alan made the transition to full time actor and has appeared in such TV shows as COLD CASE, CSI: NY, THE MENTALIST, LUCK, THE EVENT, CRIMINAL MINDS and NCIS as well as feature films like ROADSIDE, TRANSFOMERS: DARK OF THE MOON and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Today Alan is a full time working actor, voice over artist and host. Alan is currently hosting a series of support programs for veterans on AFTERDEPLOYMENT.ORG and mentoring veterans pursuing acting as a career after serving in the military.
You can view his VFT profile here: http://www.vftla.org/veteran/alan-pietruszewski