Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Silicon Valley to the Silver Screen

This column was published in the Bay Area News Group papers in June 2010.

Pete Saulnier was 58 when he was laid off from his job two years ago. Aside from serving four years in the Air Force, Saulnier worked his entire life in Silicon Valley.

“My first job was in 1968 with IBM,” said Saulnier, who lives in Livermore.

Uncertain where to turn for employment and knowing most companies wouldn’t hire a man almost 60, he remembered that several associates over the years told him he had a “voice for radio.”

“So in 2009 I decided to take voice-over classes in San Francisco,” said Saulnier, who then connected with people in the commercial and entertainment business.
After lending his voice to promotional and other spots, Saulnier was asked a question he never thought he would hear in his life: “I was asked if I wanted to act in a feature-length film,” he said.
With this 6 foot height, long hair and beard, and his resonant voice, Saulnier was perfect for the role of a background character, and he jumped at the chance to appear in the movie, titled “Two Mothers.”

Soon Saulnier was offered opportunities to appear on television and in other films. In just over a year, he’s now appeared in 5 feature length films and 13 short films.

His appearances include roles as a pedestrian, a hospital patient, a coffee shop patron, a news photographer, a homeless person, a college professor, a bartender, an office worker, a Russian bodyguard, and a detective.
“I never know what character I might be from one day to the next,” said Saulnier.

On television, he appeared in a PBS production titled “The Grand CafĂ©,” as well as in “America’s Most Wanted” and the NBC/Universal series “Trauma.” Saulnier will also play a suspect in a criminal lineup in an upcoming episode of “Mythbusters,” scheduled to air in the coming months.

According to Saulnier, the pay for acting roles can vary widely, from zero to $250 per hour and more. New actors will often work for free to build their resumes or if they want to support a certain production company or effort.

Saulnier credits the Livermore Valley Film Commission with promoting the film industry in the Tri-Valley, which has helped him find several acting opportunities.

“I wasn’t aware how much filming is done right here,” he said. “Film making is good for our local economy.”

Saulnier notes that film crews bring money into the region by booking hotels, renting local equipment, employing caterers, and using other services. In fact, he has become a volunteer ambassador for the commission when he is auditioning or acting.
“I encourage producers to contact the film commission for their next project,” he said.
Along with acting and promoting the region, Saulnier is also involved with Big Burrito Media, a start-up visual media company that promotes authors and books via the web and creates animation, web-TV series, film, and social networking advertisements to help its customers maximize the marketing potential of the internet.

Taking stock of his life these past two years, Saulnier doesn’t miss his former commute from Livermore to the Silicon Valley. Instead, he looks forward every day to his new work and the variety it brings.

For anyone out of work, he offers these words of advice: “Look for new ideas in your life. If you have a hobby or a certain talent, embrace it. It just might be your next career.”

To see Saulnier in a 4-minute short film, visit www.YouTube.com and search by typing “Saulnier” and “Take a seat.” For more information about Big Burrito Media, visit www.bigburritomedia.blogspot.com.

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