BUFFALO, NY - Twenty-plus years ago, Retired Navy Commander Alan Pietruszewski ’84 was certain no profession could be more exhilarating than flying an F-14 Tomcat off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Then, he tried acting.
“There’s this 20 seconds just before the catapult fires until you are safely climbing up to about 100 feet, where you could be flying or dying,” explains the TOPGUN graduate and former flight instructor. “I get that same feeling, of equal parts excitement and terror, on a film or TV set right before the director calls ‘action.’ And just like flying, my professional training takes over.”
Pietruszewski began training as an actor while still serving in the U.S. Navy. In fact, it’s where he first caught the acting bug.
“Options for entertainment on a Navy ship were pretty limited back then so a few of us started to make our own short films about life at sea,” Pietruszewski recalls.
Pietruszewski found the process of creating films so much fun that he started to consider acting as a second career, following his planned retirement from active duty in 2004. The accomplished military officer did his research and developed a strategy. He enrolled in acting classes, studied creative techniques and began to build a diverse demo reel.
“All my spare time was spent preparing and training to be an actor because I knew the success rate in Hollywood was horrendously low,” he recalls.
Yet Pietruszewski may be an exception to the rule, as he’s compiled more than 70 credits to date.
“Criminal Minds,” “NCIS” and “S.W.A.T.” are just a few of the popular television programs on which Pietruszewski has appeared. His feature film work includes roles in the “Transformers” movies and the upcoming “Cold Brook,” which was filmed in Buffalo. “Another Time” is Pietruszewski’s most recent project. The movie stars the Western New York native and also marks his debut as a producer. “Another Time” is scheduled for a limited theater and wide online release Sept 14.
But it’s Pietruszewski’s latest role behind the camera that he finds most fulfilling.
As a leader for the non-profit organization Veterans in Media & Entertainment, Pietruszewski helps former military members pursue their own encore careers in film and television.
“Veterans are out there and they want to contribute in new ways,” Pietruszewski concludes. “My role is to educate and advocate for these veterans within the entertainment industry to help them catch up from the years spent serving their country.”