While many college graduates are frantically looking for work, Arroyo Grande’s Chris Reinacher is doing just the opposite. He wants to avoid a job.
Specifically, the 22-year-old, who is two summer classes away from graduating from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, wants to avoid becoming the stereotypical Hollywood wannabe.
“We’re trying to not be waiters. That’s the goal for now, is to try to get some money acting and writing,” Reinacher said.
It’s a goal his mother, Nina, knows well. She held 11 waitress jobs while seeking acting roles early in her acting career.
The “we” Chris referred to is The Wait List, a group of immensely talented student writers, actors, directors and improvisational talents Reinacher and a couple of other Central Coast natives formed at UCLA.
The group — Reinacher, Jordan Dunn of Los Olivos, Steven Wilson of Solvang, Ali Ghandour, Anne Lane, John Davies, Jason Lazarus, Josh Lunetta, Greg Ruben, Julie Alexander, Lesley Hollingsworth, Kylie Alesso, Mikey Hawley, Zac Wolf and Brett Hoag — put together a 5-minute project film called “The Butterfly King,” which earlier this month won the international finals of Campus Moviefest 2010, the largest student movie festival in the world.
The short film has earned other kudos at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. Reinacher and crew were able to make it home for the SLO festival, scored some nice freebies in Park City, Utah at Sundance, but couldn’t quite afford a trip to the south of France.
“We conned our way into the AT&T pavilion and scored some nice Sean Jean outfits,” Reinacher said about the Sundance festival.
In addition to winning Campus Moviefest 2010, Reinacher was chosen as the best actor in the contest.
To add a punchline to his acting success, Reinacher outlasted 19 other performers in the X-ecution, a 15-week American Idol-style improvisation competition at iO West, one of the top comedy clubs in Los Angeles. The victory earned Reinacher $500 — perfect for a starving artist — and interviews with the four television networks. Like any college grad, he is hoping the interviews lead to some work.
“The core was to find the best improver in L.A. I’m not going to say I’m the best improver in L.A., because the best improvs in L.A. probably we’re in the competition, but it was pretty nice to win,” he said.
The success of “The Butterfly King” has already earned The Wait List some work. Reinacher said the group has contracted with MTV to do video segments for a Laugh Factory competition that will air on the cable station. Their segments will fill television time between acts. A talented writer, he’s also working on development of a pilot for Comedy Central.
Reinacher’s success is much of a surprise to his parents — John and Nina — because he’s shown talent since he was born, according to John, the general manager of the Santa Maria Inn.
“The kid’s amazing. I can’t keep up with everything the guy does. He’s so creative he kind of scares me sometimes,” John said.
Nina teaches guitar and is a performer and story-teller who performs under the name Nina Ryne. She gets credit from both Chris and John for nurturing Chris’ creativity and individuality.
“It’s been an adventure,” Nina said of raising her rambunctious son, who often combined wildly creative improvisational talent with single-minded focus.
Nina coached her son’s Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination teams, which began when he was in first grade. By 2002, the middle school team of Reinacher, Zac Efron, Bryce Blue, Anthony Martin, Daniel Angel and Brogan Sterns won the DI Global Finals in the challenge The Art of Improv.
The team has had a little bit of success following their world championship.
Efron is Hollywood’s latest heart-throb, who hit it big in the Disney motion picture “High School Musical.” Blue has appeared in “Wassup Rockers,” “High School Blues” and on episodes of “The Unit” and “Gary Unmarried.” And now Reinacher’s name is in the news and splashed across the Internet.
This local “Brat Pack” isn’t even the first nationally recognized talent produced by Lucia Mar’s drama department.
Harry Shum Jr. started dancing at Arroyo Grande High School and is now one of the stars of the Fox television series “Glee” and was in motion pictures “Stomp the Yard,” “The Onion Movie” and “Step Up 2: The Streets.”
Reinacher credits his experience in Destination Imagination, which he began competing in at Ocean View Elementary in Arroyo Grande, and his drama experience in middle school and high school for cultivating his growing talent.
“Odyssey of the Mind and DI, those were like two huge parts of what made me the person I am today. The realm of creativity,” said Reinacher. “With DI, they encourage you to create the most creative solution you can. I competed in it all throughout elementary school.”
Reinacher also credited his older sister, Emily, an Internet marketing specialist with Macy’s, and Lucia Mar Unified School District drama teachers Robyn Metchik, at Paulding Middle School, Mike Liebo, at Judkins, and Billy Houck, at Arroyo Grande High, for their encouragement and direction. He also needs to take some of the credit for his own success.
As a middle school student, Reinacher hounded his mother to take him to a PCPA casting call for “Peter Pan,” where he earned a part. In middle school he acted in productions of “Les Miserables,” earning high praise from Liebo.
“He is a talented kid that pretty much possesses every skill in the performing arts— comedy, singing, dancing acting, writing, everything,” Liebo said. “He was one of the best Thenardiers I’ve ever seen and that was in 10th grade.”
Reinacher hopes to put those skills to work, even if he doesn’t want a steady job.
“Me and The Wait List really hope to stick together. I’m pretty confident we can obtain significant careers in the writing and acting world,” he said.