Theatre alumni pursue film careers
Views 197 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 3 - 25 - 2014 | By: Jeremy Fields
What do our sometimes enigmatic and often fiercely talented theater majors pursue after they have left the stages and classrooms of Westmont? Shaped and augmented by their liberal arts and thespian education, alumni Sam Martin and Shawnee Witt (both ’13) took the plunge and moved to Los Angeles to continue acting and to pursue film-related careers.
“The Westmont theatre department is probably the biggest hidden gem at the school,” said Martin.
For Martin, a combination of hard work and Westmont-given opportunities opened a series of doors for his developing career.
“I played [in the Westmont theater] as Don Pedro in ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ which got me to the KCACTF acting competition in L.A., which got me an audition in front of theater companies and grad schools, which got me into the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company Summer Intensive and the Stella Adler Art of Acting Professional Conservatory in L.A.,” Martin explained. “I am thriving at the conservatory, gaining the in-depth training needed to work in L.A. and New York,” said Martin. “My teachers there see me as already very technically skilled and experienced, largely due to my time in the Westmont Theatre Department.”
In addition to his training at Stella Adler Art of Acting, Martin also auditions consistently for network TV, feature films and commercials through his talent manager in Los Angeles. Martin also expressed gratitude for the multivalent experience of a liberal arts education.
“Thanks to the liberal arts focus at Westmont, I took philosophy, political science and writing classes that have given me a passion for politics and political expression,” he said. “I also recently received a full scholarship to attend a program that trains filmmakers to spread powerful political and philosophical ideas through the medium of film. These are just a few of the things Westmont has given me, especially through the training and mentorship of Mitchell Thomas, John Blondell, Elizabeth Hess and Robert Hamel in the theater department.”
Fellow Westmont alumna Shawnee Witt also said she appreciated how her Westmont experience has influenced her career. Witt double-majored in theater and English, and now pursues acting and filmmaking in Los Angeles.
“I live alone in a little studio apartment, which was a big adjustment after having lived in the Tree House with ten other girls my senior year,” said Witt. “It's been really good for me though. I've grown up and learned a lot by living by myself, had lots of time to work on things like my website, scripts and scene work for my acting class.”
Despite the anxieties many actors feel about pursuing their craft full-time in a very competitive environment, Witt has kept busy. “I've been Key Production Assistant on multiple AFI (American Film Institute) thesis films,” she said.” [I’m] also working 1–2 days a week at Betty Mae Casting. The main casting director in the office cast American Hustle, Black Swan, etc.”
Witt also works as a personal assistant to a film producer. “We are currently working on a feature called ‘It's Raining On Prom Night’ which we will be filming this summer,” she said. Witt plans to audition for one of the roles in the film.
Witt described her post-graduate life as exciting and overwhelming. “I'm still figuring a lot of things out about what my life looks like and what I want it to look like,” she said. “But Westmont and my education there equipped me with a strong work ethic and reinforced my desire to love and care for others. In the entertainment industry, those things don't go unnoticed, so I'm confident in my calling to spread light in all the different environments I find myself in.”