Veterans in Creative Careers: Jay and Karla Schuneman, Army Actors

Today I am excited to introduce my readers to a husband and wife military veteran and acting team, Jay and Karla Schuneman.


Jay SchunemanJay Schuneman can be seen in Feature Films such as Popolo, Watashi no Hawaii no Arukikata (Japanese film), ForGet Him, The Road Less Traveled, and The Tattoo Club: Curse of the Dragon. In addition, Jay has worked in a number of student films and an industrial film. Of course, Jay had a great time working as a Background Actor on the set of Godzilla and a Cameron Crowe movie and also in an episode of the television show ‘Hawaii Five-O’.


Karla SchunemanKarla Schuneman can be seen in the Feature Film ForGet Him and the The Road Less Traveled, numerous student films and an industrial film, and the television show Dead of Night – Murder in Paradise! on NBC Discovery ID. In addition, Karla worked as a Background Actor on the
television show Hawaii Five-O, the feature film Godzilla, a Cameron Crowe feature film, and in a college television commercial.


Justin Sloan: I look forward to hearing about your experience both in the military and with acting. Let’s start first with what you did in the military. What years did you serve, and are you still active?

Karla and Jay: Karla has been in the Army since 1988, and she will be out of the military in about a year. Jay started his military career just before Karla, and retired from the Army in early 2012.

JS: What inspired you to join the military, and what have you learned during your time?

K & J: We wanted the adventure and assistance paying for school. We have learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, how to interact with people from various cultures, and how to set priorities and produce results. We have also learned that we can push ourselves farther and overcome challenges. About other people, we’ve learned there are some really great people around the world; however, there also seems to be no end to man’s inhumanity toward man.

JS: I understand you have acted in several independent films. Can you tell us a bit more about these films and how you got involved? What did you learn from this experience?

K & J: We have been in a few independent films, student films and TV. We initially got involved with acting during a call for background actors in the area. We had so much fun doing it that we decided to keep doing it. We learned from some of the background actors on the first set that if we got some training and worked hard that we could actually get acting jobs for commercials and films.

JS: What more can you tell us about your experience on set? Was it the dream we all believe it to be?

K & J: We are always fascinated by all of the interactions going on behind and on the set. It is interesting seeing the logistics and planning that goes into making the production. Some productions are incredibly well organized with equipment, costumes, make-up, people (actors and crew), parking, signage, transportation, administration, and showing-up on time in a manner rivalling any professional military. At the other end of the spectrum, it is interesting watching other productions go through the discovery, learning process, trying to grope their way along and trying to herd cats.

JS: Have you studied acting, and if so, where?
K & J: We have taken a number of private and group acting classes while in Hawaii. Our classes have included auditioning/acting classes, stunt work training, classes for acting in commercials and attending lectures from some very successful individuals in the entertainment industry.

JS: What other resources are out there for aspiring actors?

K &J: Karla is the researcher for acting opportunities. Karla looks in numerous web-sites and the internet for roles which might be appropriate for us, and we try to get hired for those roles. For local opportunities, we are members of the Hawaii Actors Network, and we check that site to see if anyone is looking to hire actors for any type of acting job.

JS: Do you feel your time in the military has helped you with your acting, even for any non-military roles you may have? How so?

K & J: We feel as if our time in the military has helped us with acting. When dealing with people, you have to be aware of your body language, facial expressions and voice inflections. If you’re giving an important briefing and you’re in a closed body stance, not making eye contact, and not speaking confidently, you will quickly lose the interest of your audience. Being in the military has also helped to mold us into better listeners who try to understand instructions along with the intent and implied tasks, then work together to do our best to achieve the desired outcome.

JS: What about the network? Do you find that having this cadre of fellow military men and women available has helped, or is there not a sense of people helping each other? If there is, how should a military veteran aspiring actor reach out and conduct themselves?

K & J: In our area, there is only a small network of military personnel who also work as actors. We do enjoy working with other military actors and they are great people to network with; but, while on the set, military personnel are actors so they leave military talk at the door while still maintaining their military training and bearing. As a new military actor, never compromise in your beliefs and what you stand for when asked to work on projects.

JS: Have you interacted with other military (current or former) men and women in the entertainment industry aside from actors? Do you have any advice for people aspiring to those positions?

K & J: We know a few military personnel who have gone on to write and produce films. To other military personnel, we would tell them to keep pursuing their dreams because they are the only ones keeping themselves from achieving their dreams. Stay true to yourself.

JS: Thank you so much for your wonderful advice. Before we sign off, do you have one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with? This can be something that I forgot to ask about, or a summary of your points above.

K & J: You are never too old to learn and achieve your dreams, so keep your eyes on the prize and work for it.


These interviews will appear in an upcoming book on military members and veterans in the world of entertainment. As you wait, please read my book Creative Writing Career, on Amazon.



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