How To Quit Your Job, Move To Atlanta and Get Paid To Be An Actor... (for real!)
"“We all keep dreaming, and luckily, dreams really do come true.”
– Katie Holmes"
Elijah Everette (@skoolatharula) is a long-time friend... We met while we were both Production Assistants back in 2012.
He's the first person I had ever met who was successfully pursuing Acting as a dream while working as a Grip in Production.
Now he's got roles in "Sleepless", "Hidden Figures" and "Greenleaf", working beside celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan and Tyler Perry ....
He even body doubles for Shaq!
And he does all of this while working as a Grip and AP for numerous Productions like "Acrimony" and the "Haves and Have Nots".
Needless to say, Eli stays on the grind and is the perfect person to answer this question from RJ, a Rule The Set subscriber.
So I gave Eli a call... and this is how it went...
(This is for you RJ ;))
Afrika: Hello my Darlin! How are you?
Eli: Good! Good! How are you?
Afrika: Fantastic. What's going on?
Eli: Go check out the movie!!!!!
Afrika: What do you have coming out? What are you doing?
Eli: It's called "Sleepless". In that movie I’m a concierge. I have 5 scenes...
The movie features Jamie Foxx trying to get his son back after being kidnapped. And you don't know if he's a bad guy or a good guy.
So we are about to see in the movie...
The next movie, coming out is August 11. That's called "Baby Driver" for Sony Pictures. Oh! And "Hidden Figures"!
Afrika: Awwwwww! Look at you! Oh my God!!!!!
Eli: So yeah! 3 or 4 movies coming up...
Afrika: You're in Hidden Figures? What are you doing in Hidden Figures?
Eli: I'm just at the end crying but I don't even know if they left it in there. (Laughter) But I get residuals... I'm good.
Afrika: Listen, I have a couple of questions for you from our Rule The Set subscribers.
How did you get into the business?
Eli: So, the business? I got in from an internship I did with BET DC. And basically, I just wanted to do something in TV. I didn't know what it was but I knew I wanted to do something.
I started out Googling at BET dot net, at BET dot com, at BET dot org. I was just trying to find someone's email address because I was getting nowhere when I put in the application for my internship...
So after doing that there was a woman named Raven Carter... Raven Carter, who replied and sent me to BET DC. She sent me to Rita Lewis and Rita Lewis brought me in for an interview.
I flew in for an interview and had about 5 different interviews that day. There were two other people but Rita Lewis hooked me up with Lilian Blankson Bossman and then Lilian put me on to Rudy Way who was the assistant to the Vice President of BET International, Ava Madison Hall.
I did my internship there, which opened doors for me to connect with people in the New York Office. And I started being a PA on little jobs they had here and there. And there was this show called 106 and Gospel where the EP took a liking to me. She liked my spirit, the go-getter spirit.
I didn't know she was an EP at the time. I'm glad I didn't because I think I would've been intimidated. I probably would've taken a different strategy.
But because I took my way of doing things, she knew I was genuine....
6 days after quitting my job at Glen Mills, which is a school for troubled youth, they called me for an opportunity to move to Georgia to be on the Monique Show.
Afrika: That is so crazy...
Eli: Ummm hmmmm! Nuts! Yeah...
Afrika: This is the question from our Rule The Set subscriber:
My name is RJ. I'm new to Atlanta, just moved here from Texas to pursue a career in acting. And recently, I'm getting a lot of PA work, free stuff paid stuff wherever I can get.
I don't want to be known as just RJ the PA. I know they save me in their phone as just PA RJ. And I don't want to be known as or have them hit me up as just RJ the PA.
I want to act…
So how do I transition from being behind the scenes or just a PA to, for me, acting?
Eli: Yeah! RJ the best way of answering this question...enjoy the journey! No more free stuff being a PA because as a PA you can learn on the fly as you go.
So if you've already done paid PA work you don't have to do free PA work. The best thing to do if you want to get in front of the camera is learn behind the scenes so that when you get in front of the camera you're prepared.
Normally as a PA you don't have time to look at people in front of the camera. But if you can, just take a peek in.
You gotta think you're in an excellent excellent position to see the etiquette of how to be on camera when other people don't have that opportunity.
Be thankful that you don't have to wait tables because being a P.A. you get to work on your own schedule. You're freelancing. You get to have and maintain a good livelihood.
You can always work your way up, you know.
PA is just a title. You can show them that you can do plenty of other things once you get there... Get there early...stay late. And in-between that's when you show what else you can do besides being a PA.
At the end of the day, you have a goal and you want to achieve it. Create a plan to where you can maintain a livelihood and at the same time chase after a goal of acting, which can take six months or six years. It just depends.
And don't worry about the title. You know what you are. You know what you want to do. And once you get there when it's consistent that's when that title will change.
But for right now, people know that you can do a good job being a PA. Show them that you can do a good job.
Just like on any job, if you want to change your title, you've got to put in extra work. In order to do that, you've got to bust your butt.
So I say, once you punch that clock in, show me more, you know.
Don't over exhaust yourself or get overzealous or anything. Just go in there and give 'em all you've got every day.
To become a better actor and be consistent, take your acting classes.
And that's how you'll make the transition.
Afrika: That's good. Did you find it difficult to make the transition from production to acting?
I still do production. I just haven't been doing the creative side of production. I may not have to. I may not have to, thank God. I may not have to go back to production. But production definitely helps me to have a good livelihood while chasing this dream of acting. And it's getting there, you know what I mean?
So the best thing for me is to continue on my path whether I’m gripping or whether I'm producing until acting is full time.
And producing and acting go hand in hand. I say that in a sense of, one day you can work and one day you're not working.
So when you're not working you can go back to production and produce your own work, which is what I do. And now that I have a name it's easier for me to pitch my idea and get on TV.
Eli: And that's what the advantage of working behind the scenes is. Most people who are already actors...that's all they know how to do. There are only a couple of people like Matt Damon who can say, "OK I'm going to write some of my own stuff."
James Franco... I want to write some of my own stuff and put it up there and get it green lit. And that's a very good advantage to have that a lot of people don't have.
So that's what I plan on doing. Once my name gets really known and it's easier for me to pitch my ideas. Then all of my other ideas that I 'm currently doing right now are already going to be in perspective for the future.
Afrika: That's good stuff Eli! That's really good stuff...
Thank you so much.
Eli: No Problem!
Afrika: I appreciate you.
Eli: Thank you...
Now, we’d love to hear from you.
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Wishing you the Best,