We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Scott Airitam a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Scott, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Almost all entrepreneurs have had to decide whether to start now or later? There are always pros and cons for waiting and so we’d love to hear what you think about your decision in retrospect. If you could go back in time, would you have started your business sooner, later or at the exact time you started?
I have returned to my first love!
Just after graduating high school I went on to work for a growing, new radio station in the DFW Market. The experience I attained there was tremendous. I was a radio personality, a promotions specialist, a show producer, and I even got to help with programming. I was in love with my job. It only grew as I started to have opportunities to act in commercials. Eventually, I signed with a very large talent agency in Dallas. Because I was very young and without someone guiding me through this, I signed a terrible contract. Long story short, after four years of success, signing with the agency signaled the end of all of it.
I eventually found a new home with Southwest Airlines. It seemed I was done with the arts. I was able to use my creativity as a leader in helping to create the University for People at SWA. In my 9 years helping to grow an adolescent airline, I found my footing in the corporate world and my career took off! I went on to start my own company and ran it as CEO for over 20 years. In that time, I formed several other companies, consulted many others to find their success with the companies they were running, and even lead a company as its CEO. Running more than one company became second nature.
When COVID caused lockdowns, it significantly changed markets and business operations. I found myself thinking of starting over. I began to look for new, available executive management roles. For months I looked with very limited success during the height of the COVID lockdown in 2020.
At the beginning of 2021, I was beginning to feel a bit defeated. I haven’t always finished first, but I never failed at something I put my heart into. In each situation I invested in, I can honestly say that I left it better than when I arrived. Going through a job search was disheartening. That is when I began to reframe my mental mindset and my approach. I questioned why I was so leveraged in the pursuit of these corporate positions. My only answer is that I was conditioned to do it. I was good at it even if it didn’t fulfill me. I had convinced myself that having one of those jobs was what my self-esteem was tied to. That notion simply wasn’t true. With this discovery, I asked myself what would fulfill me.
In all the years of my corporate success, I’d stayed in touch with the acting world by participating in community productions and working as a background extra on TV and movies. I loved the ability to renew my creativity and get out of the linear dollars and cents idea of success. I asked myself, “What’s stopping you from acting full time?” It was obvious that I needed to hone my skills, so I began teaching acting at Bella Modeling School in Dallas and in McKinney. I found a tremendous acting coach for myself out of California. By taking classes and teaching classes, I was able to quickly discover the habits both theater and the corporate world had drilled into me and make adjustments for acting on the screen. I found an agent that I could trust. She was what I needed in that moment. Since then, I’ve grown into the agent I need today and you can see me in commercials and TV shows.
I value all of my experience. I don’t think I would start my full-time acting career any earlier, but I would definitely approach it with more confidence and patience. I would focus on the art and let the bookings and the money follow. I am so content in my career right now and I am approaching it with the right mindset and approach. I’d love to teach more, help more people with their self-tape auditions in my studio, and even make videos that help companies tell their stories. Of course, I’d love for my own acting abilities to continue to grow, and, perhaps, be appreciated on a wide scale, but, if that never happens, I am happy with my career.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
As an actor, I have to do much more than act. I’ve learned this from being a successful businessperson. Being an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that I am my role, but I would spend as much time being advertising and market, HR, accounting, IT, sales and all manner of other roles. If I was just learning this, it could be overwhelming and disheartening. Thankfully, I’m very familiar with the sacrifices of building a truly successful business. My acting career is the business now.
I have a wonderful agency, The Clutts Agency, here in Dallas. They make sure I am submitted for roles that are suited for me. I audition, and, occasionally, I work on set to produce something people would see on TV or on a movie. Onscreen, I go by the name of Scott Acus. I’ve learned that with as recognizable a last name as Airitam, it is helpful to operate with a proper business name separate from my own, real name.
The work, though, is much more than acting.
My job requires me to think differently than I did as a CEO. I find myself more present in every moment. I am always observing others to understand thoughts and actions that wouldn’t necessarily be my preferences. This helps me react better as whatever character I am assuming. Being present is part of the art that many starting out find the most difficult. Their minds constantly focus on the “what ifs” of the future and the failures of the past. Successful actors don’t have the luxury of settling into those thoughts. Reacting realistically, in the moment, is the foundation of telling a story, which is what actors engage in. This can leave a person vulnerable and in business, avoiding risk and vulnerabilities is basic.
I teach acting to sharpen my saw. To be the best, I have to accept that I am still progressing. There is no mountaintop, no finish line for an actors skillset. Any actor, at any level, has to make educated guesses on what the right moves are. There are no exceptions and, by teaching acting, I am constantly learning. I am learning about my limitations and I am learning from my students who’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and natural reactions are all like oxygen to me as I observe them learning. Simply, teaching makes me better.
I take classes because I’ve always been a learning. In school, in previous jobs, and in my current career. I had a student ask me why I have to take classes. My response is because I always have something to learn. Acting isn’t linear with one way to success or failure. Every person brings something different to the table and I’ve learned about my ingrained behaviors that come out without me even knowing. I’ve learned more about people than I ever have, and this is something considering my dives into psychology, human development, and my degree in sociology. I love being a learner and I love being in class with a wonderful coach, Patrick Malone, who doesn’t impose his will, but, gently, or not so gently sometimes, forces us to confront ourselves and make changes and adjustments in order to be better. I love having fellow students in the class that are all working very hard to reach that next level, but do not feel the need to compete with one another to get there. Instead it is a full investment in collaboration and the results are often unexpected and tremendous.
Promoting myself is important. It was always easy for me to represent a brand–a company–shamelessly. Doing the same for myself is sometimes weird, but necessary. I am the brand and the company. I do most of my promotion via social media. In spite of slow times for auditions or bookings, I remain true to my art by practicing it every day. I produce shorts and monologues that I post on YouTube. I promote my progress on Twitter. I allow people to get to know me a bit on Instagram and TikTok. I do maintain a social media strategy even thought I am not an influencer. That isn’t the goal. If it happens, it would be an accident. Each medium allows the right people to see what they need to see.
Auditioning is my real job. I am fortunate that my agent submits me for many roles and Casting Directors seem to like what I can do well enough to invite me to audition. A lot of people struggle to get auditions. I am fortunate to get quite a few. Auditioning is part of me practicing my trade every day. The world of self-tape auditions is fairly new and nobody really knows the rules as they seem to change frequently. I audition a lot and that is what I can reasonably influence. Actually getting selected for the role is not in my ability to control, so I let that go. It’s good for my sanity that way!
Helping others to audition is also a passion. It keeps me with a great finger on the pulse of what’s out there and what directors and casting directors are looking for. Like helping others learn, this also helps me learn. I am fortunate to be able to afford proper lighting, backdrops, tripods and other equipment to make auditions consistent for people. They don’t have to worry about the technical things. They can focus on being present in the moment and bringing depth and authenticity to the roles they are auditioning for. Actors need community. This is a great way for me to both get and receive that as well. Collaboration, when there is time for it, almost always makes for a greater end result.
For me as an actor, I am the combination of all of the above, plus more! My years of experience leading others, managing things, and traveling the world as a business person makes me a better actor. Being able to merge industry and art is challenging, and it is the first challenge that I took on in this career path, allowing me to be find freedom in my own ability to act.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
I’ve had to redirect my notion of what success is.
In business, I was very good at identifying the things that we could use to build the highway to success. Similarly, I was extremely successful at finding the things that could close down that road. All of this enabled me to plot a path to achievement of the goals of the company. Almost always, I was adept at selling the path and the avoidance of risk that could derail us. The little infighting that I’d find myself in over my career usually centered around how the big picture concept of building the road and avoiding the potholes would meet the daily realities of building the road and avoiding the potholes. Usually, there is a compromise to be found, if all sides are on-board with getting to the same place. I defined success in my role as finding that compromise.
As an actor, I have to collaborate with many different people who all have different ideas of the destination they are traveling toward. The compromise I would want to create isn’t possible in my current situation because not everyone’s interests are met by a compromise. The challenge is in finding room for each person’s needs without judgement. Simply, we work together to pay homage to this wonderful career we are lucky to be a part of and to make each other better. It’s a short-term collaboration instead of a long-term compromise. If we’re lucky, we find others who’s destinations are similar and we bond, forming a community of support. Even this is based on full collaboration, letting others own the situation as much as I do. My accomplishments do not put me above anyone else and there is something to learn from anyone whether they are a newbie trying to get their feet under them or if they have a star on the walk of fame. This approach is beneficial for me, because the acting world is so small. I still feel like everyone I meet deserves to be left with something being better for having met me. If I do this for everyone, my career will be fine.
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
Growing my clientele, for me, means being irresistible to directors and casting directors. This is what gives me a chance at a role.
To do this, I have to make my auditions consistent. With different notions of how self-tape auditions “ought” to be set up and performed, I never know what one director sees that they love versus another that dislikes the same thing. Since I can’t control that, I eliminate that from something I worry about by providing a consistent style of self-tape auditions. When my audition comes up as number 57 out of 70 that they have to sit through, there is a sense of familiarity with what they are seeing. Couple with with well-conceived auditions over time and the familiarity is an asset. It also helps me not worry about anything in my environment when my self-tape auditions are almost always shot in the same setting. I get to freely focus on being present in the mind of my character.
I also pay attention to details such as the naming format I’ve adopted for all my files. When I submit an audition, it is clearly labeled with the information anyone on the receiving end would need, right there in the filename. I try to present as pleasant and easy to work with when not in character. I also try to submit quickly after being invited to audition. All of this helps shape the way that I’m seen by the directors and casting directors.
When helping others with their auditions, I do everything I can to reproduce this approach for them.
- Instagram: @ScottyAyy
- Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/scott-airitam
- Twitter: @scottacusshoots
- Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUP0_zxj8FOmtP5dw_cpdlA
Scott Acus Raysa Peres