“I wanted to be the ‘Doogie Howser’ of the entertainment world,” said Regent University alumnus, David Acuff ’02 (School of Communication & the Arts).
That is to say, he was called into the entertainment industry at the age of nine; he thought he’d go to Hollywood at the age of 12, and maybe run a television studio by the time he was 14. A child prodigy. A screenwriter, M.D.
“God had other plans,” he said. “Now I’m 44, and so many years later I’m finally inside the entertainment industry.”
Even his current position as a video editor of behind-the-scenes footage for Disney-ABC Television Group didn’t come to him through a stroke of Amadeus-like privilege. It came to him through time, 20 years of professional experience and a lot of hard, diverse work.
“You arrive in Los Angeles and nobody cares,” said Acuff. “You start off at the bottom. This takes blood, sweat and tears for years and years and years. And you can’t shortcut the process.”
Acuff moved to L.A. in August of 2014 with three-month’s worth of savings and 20 years of experience, understanding that if he wanted to “make it” as a writer in such a large market, he’d have to be in it for the “long-game.”
Much like the founder of his current employer, Walt Disney.
“Everyone was telling Walt that nobody would want to see a feature length animated movie, but ‘Snow White’ was a blockbuster hit and paved the way for the Disney Brothers to launch their Studio in Burbank, California,” said Acuff.
When the opportunity came for Acuff to work as a temp for a two-month gig at the company, he took it.
“Twenty years of experience, and I became an office assistant doing Microsoft Excel spreadsheets,” said Acuff. “And I was going to be the best ‘Excel spreadsheet-er’ they ever had.”
But, much like his favorite Disney princess, Ariel, he wanted more. Through his faithfulness with the “small,” administrative tasks, he was able to make friends. Shortly after his short stint in the office had ended, he received word that an editing position was open.
“I’m not even sure how they knew I edited,” said Acuff. “But through the day-to-day, stuff comes out.”
To Acuff, editing is his “bread and butter” as he pursues his first passion, writing, in his free time. But he knows the longevity of the industry, and how it can take longer than one year and one script to see any success as a writer.
And in the meantime, he has five film scripts and a science-fiction novel underway.
“The competition for attention is very fierce,” he said. “And once you have a finished script you really only have half a project. They don’t want someone with just one script and one story idea.”
Throughout the rest of his professional life, every experience – whether teaching at a university, working for a ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina, performing a stand-up comedy routine, or even the unexpected routes of his own life – serve a greater purpose: making him a better story teller.
“You never know the journey, and that’s why you rely on the Lord for direction,” said Acuff. “You have to remain tight with Him, because it takes a lot of twists and turns along the way.”
Learn more about Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts.