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In His Own Words, an Actor Describes the Experience of Initially Attempting to Break into the Industry

By Sven Kennedy

Leaping out into the world with ambitious goals isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is necessary in order to transform from caterpillar to butterfly. After returning home from my second combat tour in Iraq, I realized that if I really wanted to be a part of the film/entertainment industry, I would have to take a leap into the unknown.

As scared as I was of making that decision, knowing that there are people that will reject me, hate me or hurt me, I also knew that there are people who will accept me, love me or help me. So in 2013 i took my first step. Even though I had studied acting books, asked advice from actors and coaches, and studied the wonderful world of cinema and Hollywood, it was terrifying.

But just as when you are a wee babe, learning to walk for the first time, you begin to become more confident in putting one foot in front of the other. Sure, it was a slow start, working on small pitch pilots/student reels (that I was never able to get copies of), talking to agencies that simply laughed me out the door, listening to friends and family tell me how stupid I was for not staying in the military or looking for a "regular" job.

In 2015, however, I received my first breakthrough. After a nasty breakup helped give me the armor I needed to withstand the future rejection, I made an executive decision to just go live in my car in Atlanta and only work on real projects.

What a step indeed, for as soon as I had left Nashville I received an email about a football movie audition the day that I was driving down. Providence, you say? Could have been, maybe it was just the universe telling me I was on the right path. Either way, I was excited and scared. I had only been on a semi-pro football team (Tennessee Crush) for eight months in 2008 before my first deployment. You could say my experience was lacking in that department. These were true football athletes, I didn't stand a chance. I gave it my very best on the field but ultimately failed the audition.

Crestfallen but proud of myself for making an effort, I walked off the field but was stopped at the sign-in table. The nice lady sitting there stopped me to ask if I still wanted to be in this film as an extra player on the sideline, to which I said "Why, yes," real cool like, but inside I was freaking out. They still wanted me after I had botched that audition!? Heck yeah.

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She told me it would be a month or so but that someone would email me details. I drove away, thoughts racing through my mind. Who was the director? What was the movie title? What was the pay going to be like? How would I make this car-living situation work in the meantime?

Thirty minutes later I received another email about a show named Quantico, I accepted and and ended up working on it till the football movie was ready to shoot. A month later I walk into the massive football dome, excited to be a part of the controlled chaos, only to find out the director was none other than the amazing Mr. Ang Lee. The movie, as it turned out, was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Several weeks of filming go by and on my last day walking out I was approached by two AD's. They asked if I would be interested in playing Steve Martin’s assistant in the film, but I told them I had prior obligations to another film and wasn't sure I would be able, to which one replied, "If you want it, call me and be here at 6 a.m., clean shaven".

As I rode home, I thought about it. I realized this was another step I should take. I told myself, "one, two, three, f**k it", and I called the AD.

The next morning was cray cray, going through wardrobe, hair and makeup. Finally, I walked out onto the field to meet Mr. Lee, where he greeted me with a smile and said, "What's up Superman?" to which I replied, "I heard you are filming a moving picture and might need some help" with a smile.

Ang Lee chuckled and said, "Come on over here and I'll show you what we're doing". What followed were some of the best three months of my life working with Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund and Joe Alwyn.

You never know where a step in a given direction might take you. It could be bad, but what if it's the best thing that sets you on your path? Listen to your heart, follow that intuition that guides you and take your first step with courage. See ya'll on set!

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Dec 18, 2022

I would like to see Sven Kennedy play some roles in some body horror movies someday, if he wants to.

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