Erin Bethea '04
A successful acting career might be measured by the many millions of dollars made from your movies, or how many times your picture makes the cover of the tabloids. UMobile alumna Erin Bethea '04 has a different definition of success.
"To me, the definition of success is 'Have you made a difference?'" Erin said.
Erin recalled a night when she and her husband, Bill Shafer, were at a screening for the new movie "October Baby." After the movie, a firefighter recognized her as the lead actress in "Fireproof." With tears in his eyes, he approached her. He told her how much the movie impacted his life and helped save his marriage.
"There is nothing more powerful than being part of something that people saw and were saved, and marriages were saved," Erin said.
Erin got her start in the University of Mobile Upper Room Theatre, in the small black-box theatre on the second floor in Martin Hall. The intimate atmosphere taught her how to be authentic in her film acting career when the camera moves in for close-ups.
After Erin graduated, a huge shift happened for her professionally. She transitioned from a musical theatre major who wanted to be on the Broadway stage, to an entertainer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Then her big break came: she was cast for the lead role opposite veteran actor Kirk Cameron in the movie "Fireproof."
The success of Fireproof has opened doors to other movie roles, and has given her opportunities to speak to others about the movie, her faith, and her call to an acting career.
Over the last eight months she has filmed five movies. They are faith-based or inspirational family drama movies. In August of 2011, she shot "The Heart of Christmas" with Matthew West and Candace Cameron Bure that was featured on the Gospel Music channel. Two movies she recently finished shooting are "Amazing Love" and "This is Our Time," both of which will be released on television.
"Amazing Love" is a modern-day story of Hosea. It follows five friends on a weekend camping trip with their youth group leader and his wife. The story teaches them about faith, commitment and love.
"This Is Our Time" is about several friends who are graduating from college and getting ready to face the challenges of the world. It also sheds light on a leper colony called "Embrace a Village" outreach in Chennai, India.
"What is neat about this movie is that we are actually working and filming at the leper colony in Chennai, India. Being able to combine acting and filmmaking while getting to do great work with this leper colony is amazing," said Erin.
The success of "Fireproof" and the impact of its message of the sanctity of marriage has led to speaking engagements for Erin.
"I always wondered how I would combine my love for performing arts and making an impact on the world," she said. Public speaking has allowed her to make this happen.
In May of 2012, she will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to speak at a four-day Women's Conference where Beth Moore spoke two years ago.
Erin said that, in addition to preparing her for an acting career, the University of Mobile helped her evolve spiritually into the woman she is today.
"There is a deeper reason for choosing a school like the University of Mobile; there is more here than just an education or a sports program. It molds you into the person you are intended to be, to change lives to change the world," she said.
Erin said she is especially proud of how the Center for Performing Arts has grown, and the leadership and integrity that the University of Mobile stands for.
To this day, when she returns to UMobile to visit faculty and staff, she is still captivated by the campus and memories such as laying on the soccer field because it was the best place to look at stars, and doing a scavenger hunt for one of her roommate's birthdays. Erin says she "cherishes these experiences and the lifelong friendships that continue to be important."
Erin said the opportunities she has been given are beyond what she ever thought they would be. As her life takes her to many different places, she remembers what Dr. Foley told her at graduation when she walked across the stage, "Now go and change the world." She hopes to continue doing just that through her acting and sharing of her faith with people she meets along the way.
"My goal is to be the light in a dark place in Hollywood. It's always good to add that one more voice," Erin said.