This week is the launch of a new feature that will periodically replace my Monday blog posts. It is titled: MOVERS & SHAKERS. With it, there will be a series of questions from some of the leading artists working and living in the Southeast.
We begin this week with the President of SAG/AFTRA Atlanta, Ric Reitz.
1) You wear a lot of hats. How do you describe what do you do?
Yes, I wear a lot of hats. Perhaps I should have been a haberdasher. Or, I'm “mad as a hatter” for doing so many things. I am primarily an actor, now in my 41st year as a professional. And, I am in my third term as the president of SAG-AFTRA Atlanta. Beyond acting, I write for film, TV and the stage. And, I’ve even written two published children’s books. I also direct and produce when I get the chance.
2) What was your first professional job in the business?
My first professional acting job for the stage was Tigger in House at Pooh Corner. I’m a sucker for Children’s Theater and always have been. My first on-camera acting job was a commercial for a local Atlanta bank. And, my first TV role was in a movie called Case Closed.
3) Name an influential person who made a significant difference in your life and career path.
My parents were actually instrumental in my getting into the arts. My dad performed in musicals and light opera, and my first amateur appearance was with him in South Pacific. I was eleven-years-old and played the Polynesian boy, Jerome, and my dad played Lt. Cable. My mother taught music and sang frequently in choirs and other organized local groups, so it seems I was always around artistic people. Even my older sister, Dana, who is an internationally known modern dancer, encouraged me a great deal when I was young. From a professional standpoint, I would say director Joe Baranowski pushed me the hardest when I lived in NY. And, once acting became a living, there were scores of famous actors and directors who mentored me or gave me inspiration.
4) How have you seen this market/business change in the years that you have lived in Atlanta?
Well, I’ve lived in Atlanta for more than 35 years, and in the early 80’s the business was more a less about commercials and corporate films, with a little theater or an occasional movie thrown in on the side. By the late 80’s and into the mid 90’s, Atlanta enjoyed its first boom for the TV and film business. After the Olympics, the market regressed until entertainment tax incentives began to make headway around 2005, and then we went really big after 2008. Of course, Georgia is now the third largest production center for entertainment in the world, and Number One in film production (FY2017).
5) What is your best piece of advice about working in this industry?
To me, the secret to survival and longevity in the entertainment industry is to be versatile, particularly in a market like Georgia. One of the luxuries of living and working in Atlanta is that one is less likely to be put in a box and type cast, if they can develop a broad range of skills. While that may change over time, as competition becomes greater, Georgia normally allows performers to express their full talents with little or no penalty. I would also like to mention that Georgia actors, and those hoping to come here from the region, need to train harder. Star dust may have landed in Georgia, but mere proximity will not make you a star. You have to work, and you have to love doing the work. On-camera people need to do theater. And theater people need to do on-camera work. Actors should seek vocal training, dialect training, and workout with other actors in scene studies as often as possible. When opportunity knocks, will you be ready? I know from personal history that opportunity tends to knock more often when you’ve put in the work.