Author Topic: Making it in L.A.  (Read 1500 times)


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Making it in L.A.
« on: April 26, 2015, 02:15:24 PM »

By Brandy Nance

For three former Emporians, life centers around the Los Angeles lifestyle: films, commercials, modeling, movies, theatre and sitcoms.

Spencer Hill, Patrick Janssen and Adam Jefferis all grew up in Emporia and moved to Los Angeles to pursue their dream of working in the entertainment industry.

Spencer Hill

Hill is the son of Kansas State Rep. Don Hill and Robbie Hill. After graduating from Emporia High School and Kansas State University, he moved to Los Angeles in 2003.

“I left Emporia in 1996 after high school and went to K-State to attend school and walk on to the Wildcat football team but after a year and a half of just being on the practice squad I moved back to Emporia and played at Emporia State for a year,” Hill said. “Unfortunately, I injured my neck in one of my last games there and decided that my playing days were over. After that I returned to Manhattan for the last two years of school.”

He began modeling while in school and began his acting career with several roles in short films and commercials.

“After I was done playing football in college I met some people in Kansas City from an agency called Talent Unlimited and started modeling in and around the Kansas City area,” Hill said. “And through them I had the opportunity to audition for some commercials as well. I ended up booking a couple of commercials and just really enjoyed the whole process.”

Hill also was voted one of America’s 50 most eligible bachelors in 2003 by Cosmopolitan Magazine. He then appeared in HBO’s “Six Feet Under” as well as the movie “Sacrifice” and continued to model for companies such as McDonald’s Target, Coors Light, Dr. Pepper, Bud Light, Pinnacle Supplements and several others. He also has appeared in episodes of CSI:NY, Criminal Minds, and--most recently--Knight Rider and the David Twohy film “A Perfect Getaway.” Hill also worked with Avril Lavigne in the music video to her song “What the Hell.”

“Avril was an absolute sweetheart and that video was a lot of fun to shoot,” Hill said. “Everyone was pretty tired at the end of that shoot since it was three 15-hour days in a row but she’s a trooper and her and her whole crew made me feel right at home.”

Hill said he enjoys the film industry.

“There’s no question that the film industry is a huge challenge and a very competitive career path,” he said. “But it’s also exciting to know that you have the opportunity to do something that could possibly be seen by millions of people every time you go to an audition or book a job. So many times people are moved by performances in TV, movies or theater and to have a chance to be involved in something like that is why I think most actors endure the struggle that goes along with this career.”

Hill elaborated on the challenging part of the film industry.

“I think the most challenging part of the film industry is not letting the roller coaster of it get to you, and to do that you have to have other things that fill you up other than your career,” he said. “Whether you are a huge movie star or just starting out, there are going to be some crazy highs and some just as crazy lows, that’s just the nature of a business. So finding a way to keep your head screwed on straight, however that may be, is the toughest part for most actors I think.”

Working with other actors and actresses can be a mixed bag of experiences.

“Just as any co-worker any of us will ever have, there are some really nice actors and some really difficult actors,” Hill said. “You get along with some and some you could care less about. You always hope you get to work with nice, cool people because that’s when you feel the most free and creative, but it doesn’t always work that way. I have had the good fortune of working with mostly really cool, nice actors and, as we all know, that makes the workday so much more fun.”

Hill offered advice for others seeking to enter the film industry.

“The life of an actor is very much an artist’s way of life,” he said. “And sometimes that way of life doesn’t always bring the most amount of money. If being an actor appeals to you, really ask yourself why. It can’t be for fortune and fame because that only comes to very few who go this route. If it’s because of the love you have for the art and you truly think you were meant to do it, then go for it with all you have and never let anyone tell you you can’t do it.”

Patrick Janssen

Patrick Janssen, son of Art and Colleen Janssen, and a graduate of ESU and the California Institute of Arts, was a budding actor when he was in elementary school in Emporia where he attended Butcher Children’s School. Butcher used to be a teaching school located on the ESU campus. Janssen said his first performance was at Butcher School.

“I picked up speed performing at Emporia Middle School and I have continued to pursue every chance I can get since then,” Janssen said. “I started doing some sound while I was attending Emporia State University for theater. It was just another facet of the art-making process that I identified with, but there wasn’t any formal teaching in it at ESU so I applied for grad school to build a new craft. I was accepted to the California Institute of the Arts for Sound Design and here I am now, four months from completing my MFA.”

Janssen’s skill set includes accents, dance, Rugby, diving, chin balancing, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, and musical instruments including guitar, piano, viola, violin and bass. He has done several films including “Windowpain,” “Project 420,” “Deals,” “Pat,” “Hot Afternoon,” “The Lady’s Murder” and “On their Way.” He also has done several theater roles and improv acting as well as film sound, production sound, theater sound design and composition.

Janssen said he now works as a freelance actor and sound designer for both film and theater.

“Because I’m finishing up school in sound right now, I tend to focus a little more on that than acting for the time being,” he said. “Acting-wise, I’ve been in about five or six short films out here and recently starred in a comedic web series. For sound, I have done many short films and animations and my work has been seen at film festivals all over the world, including South by Southwest, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Venice International, Stockholm International and many more. I also have worked at theaters all over Los Angeles as a designer and technician.”

Janssen enjoys the collaborative form of storytelling in the theater and film industry, he said.

“There’s nothing better than getting with a large group of people and telling a good story or creating an experience for somebody else,” he said.

Janssen’s favorite moment thus far is when he was given the opportunity through CalArts to travel to Rwanda and Uganda with a group of artists.

“Most memorable moment, we brought the art of theater to a refugee center of former child soldiers in Northern Uganda and we witnessed them embrace the form of storytelling and create a performance of their own in the same day,” he said.

Janssen offered advice to others wanting to enter the film and theater industry.

“Be an artist,” he said. “But please don’t try to be in the arts if you think it’s all about money and glamor. If you have a passion for something, do it. You’ll be glad you did.”

Adam Jefferis

Adam Jefferis, son of Nancy Quandt and Jan and Janet Jefferis, moved to Los Angeles in 2003 after graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BA in theater arts. He grew up in Emporia and attended Village Elementary School and he got his start in acting in ESU’s homecoming musical “Oliver!”

“While in school I did my first feature film,” Jefferis said. “It was a low-budget independent film called ‘Almost Normal.’ After doing the film, several instructors in the theater and film department encouraged me to move to Los Angeles to pursue a professional acting career. That was nearly eight years ago. Time flies and I still feel like I’m on summer vacation sometimes.”

Jefferis’ most recent work includes the world premiere of “Break the Whip” at The Actors’ Gang theater. “Break the Whip” is the first chapter in a series of plays they are continuing to work on with aspirations of touring the series around the world.

Jefferis said he trained at iO West (LA’s Best Improv Comedy) and has been performing there for five years. In 2010, he landed eight commercial gigs, including two national spots (Weber Grills and Hot Pockets), a Comedy Central promo for David Hasselhoff’s Roast, three international spots (Esprit, Mercedes and Nissan) and two viral/internet commercials (Subway and Burt’s Bees). Most recently he booked a worldwide L’Oreal commercial.

“I’m keeping busy with commercial auditions, call backs and bookings,” Jefferis said. “I perform long-form with improv at iO West with different groups. We get a single suggestion from someone in the audience and do a series of scenes, games and monologues culminating into a 30-minute performance. I’m also work-shopping a new play with the artistic director of The Actors’ Gang, Tim Robbins. On top of all that, I’ve been meeting and working with some of television/film’s top casting directors in acting workshops.”

Jefferis said he never thought he’d do theater again.

“So when I found The Actors’ Gang five years ago, I knew I had found something special,” he said. “I’ve been so grateful for this creative outlet and consequently have come to call this place home. My commercial career is just getting started and I’m enjoying working as an actor and getting paid to do it. I’ve worked on a few TV pilots and several independent short films and look forward to more of that work very soon.”

There are many things Jefferis enjoys about theater and film.

“With theater, I enjoy the rush of an audience’s laughter, seeing them on the edge of their seat, hearing an occasional sniffle or gasp, and of course, the roaring applause at the end of the show,” he said. “With film, I enjoy the collaboration on set that makes it all happen. It’s awesome.”

With any career, the industry comes with its challenges.

“Juggling ‘survival jobs’ and my acting career,” Jefferis said. “I managed to stay positive with the moral support of friends and family. I have been so lucky to be working as an actor as much as I have the last couple of years, but I’m always wanting more.”

Jefferis’ favorite moment was his first commercial booking.

“I was ‘taft hartley’ed into the Screen Actors Guild,” he said. “Was flown first class to Dallas to shoot a commercial for Sonic Drive-in. While in Dallas, we happened to be in town for the U2/Muse Concert...a few of us managed to get backstage passes to the concert for free. Wow, welcome to the high life indeed.”

Jefferis’ most memorable role was this past summer when he played Tranio in “Katie the Curst.”

“Better known was ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ it was our annual family Shakespeare in the Park play,” he said. “We do a different adaptation every year and this was the first project ever in my career I got to put my tumbling skills to use. And it was my first Equity contracted show The Actors’ Gang.”

Jefferis offered advice for others seeking to enter the film/theater industry.

“Patience and persistence is the most important thing I’ve learned,” he said. “Everyone’s journey in this industry is different. You must create your own path and decide what makes you happy and go with that.”