The story of how catapult came to be

Erik's Opus

Hey there, I’m Erik Lingvall. Yes, it’s me, writing my own bio. Well, really this is a story. A story about a guy and a company. I realize bio’s are generally brief and in the third person. In fact, that’s how I originally approached this. If I’m being honest, which I suppose I should be (I would hate to start this relationship riddled with deception), I initially implemented our friend ChatGPT to assist me with my new bio. I was impressed with what our artificially intelligent friend conjured up. But here’s the thing, it didn’t feel real, like me or my story. It felt like an “artificial” me and my story. I don’t like artificial. I don’t like it in my food, and sure as heck don’t want it in my bio. So, here’s a little adventure about me and how Catapult came to be! If you’re interested in taking the trip, I suggest you buckle up. It’s gonna be quite the journey.

My experience in the acting/entertainment industry has been a little all over the place. It began in 1996. I was the Master of Ceremonies at my high school graduation. Not sure how that happened. I had never hosted anything before. I wasn’t what you would call a “star student.” And I had never spent any time on stage in drama or anything like that. But nonetheless, there I was, about to get in front of about a thousand people and host the graduation ceremonies of our rowdy class of ‘96. We were outside in our outdoor courtyard amphitheater. The sun was shining. There was a nice breeze. The weather was beautiful, and this was the first time in my life I specifically remember being completely overwhelmed by panic and fear.

Growing up, I always had a natural confidence about myself. I loved being the center of attention. I idolized and wanted to be Robin Williams (hence why his face and quote are on the wall right when you walk into Catapult). I always welcomed uncomfortable situations, and often thrived amidst them. But for some reason, this specific graduation situation sparked a terror inside me that I had never experienced. My palms began to sweat. The saliva in my mouth became nonexistent. My body started to mildly shake. And I was about to get up in front of this huge audience for the next two hours and somehow be the glue that kept this ceremony together. It was not good. It was really not good.

As I slowly made way up to the stage, I could barely get my brain to convince my legs to continue the path to this seemingly inevitable catastrophe. Somehow, I made it up to the mic and began my agonizing speech. The words seemed to come out of my mouth like glue. Every moment felt like an eternity. I just did my best to keep my head down on my script and somehow get through this nightmare. But alas, Mother Nature had a different plan for me. Maybe ten minutes into the graduation ceremony a huge gust of wind came whipping through our courtyard and blew my script all over the stage. I was frozen. This was bad. This was really bad.

As I embarrassingly did my best to pick up the many pages of my script, place them back on my podium and figure out which page I was on, something triggered. I vividly remember this moment. Something inside of me said, “Stop thinking. Breathe. Have fun. Just riff, Erik.” And so I did. I remember saying something along the lines of, “I guess the wind’s not working with me.” Which for some reason led to laughter in the audience. I looked out at all of these people and for the first time that afternoon felt total peace. I continued to riff. They continued to laugh. I continued to have fun, and so did everyone else. It was a complete 180. The words flowed like a beautiful river. It was amazing. I can’t tell you exactly what happened for the rest of the graduation. But I know I was exactly where I needed to be. I was in my zone, and it felt incredible. As I made my way off the stage, person after person came up to me saying how much fun they had, how great the ceremony was, how I looked so at home up there, and how I needed to do more of this. I can honestly say that this experience was the catalyst for everything I do today.

I learned many lessons on this majestically windy afternoon, the most influential being the importance of letting go and embracing the moment. I was in complete and total resistance prior to that perfectly timed gust of wind. My mom used to say, “We plan and Mother Nature laughs.” In this case, Mother Nature laughed and led. She compelled me to stop worrying, take a breath, and allow the moment to unfold. Additionally, she reminded me to play and have fun. Each of these components I learned that day (let go, have fun, embrace the moment, worry less, play more, breathe) had always been ideas that I understood, but on that day I had to fully live & embody them. Nearly 30 years later, the tools and techniques I applied at that graduation are still at the core of who I am as both a teacher and human being.

After moving to LA in 2000 to pursue acting in TV/Film & Commercials, I realized quickly that I had no plan, no concept of what I was doing, and no one to help me figure anything out. It was a super solid start. But what I did have was the blind confidence of a twenty-one year old kid who had nothing to lose. So I jumped in head first. While I had basically no acting training, I decided to start auditioning. I had never auditioned for anything in my life. But I could care less. “Let’s jump in and see what happens!”

I booked the very first film I auditioned for. The film ended up being a complete disaster (as is the case with many projects) and never amounted to anything. But it did increase my already overboard confidence and convinced me that training was for the peasants. I didn’t need that. By this point I had also secured a very reputable agent and started auditioning for lots of commercials. Fortunately, commercials didn’t require much preparation. Which was good for me, because I wasn’t about to waste my time preparing for anything. After all, I had a legit LA agent, was getting callbacks, booking some little indie films here and there, and eventually booking commercials as well. I thought I was on my path to effortless bliss. Life had a different plan.

As my time in LA grew, as did the pressure of booking more jobs, and the competition I came up against. I vividly remember Aaron Paul (Emmy award winner for Breaking Bad) being at a lot of the callbacks I would have. I remember thinking to myself, “Dude, this guy is really good. I’m not as good as this guy.” This is when the doubt started to set in. Which was soon followed by stress and anxiety. Suddenly, I realized I was back at the steps of the stage at my high school graduation, riddled with panic and fear. In fact, I literally had a full blown panic attack, sitting in my car, outside of a huge callback. I remember calling my agent and telling him I couldn’t make it to the callback. He was like, “We can just reschedule it. This is a really big one.” I insisted I couldn’t make it, that something had come up. After continuing to skip auditions, my agent soon dropped me. My mindset had completely flipped from when I first moved to LA. I realized that my confidence could only take me so far. My lack in training and understanding the artistry of acting had led me to a place where I had to pivot. In hindsight, I realize that this early lack of tools and knowhow has become a key component to my current success as an acting coach.

While I had decided to hang up my acting shoes, I still loved this field of creativity. After some exploring in production and other aspects of the industry, I found myself with an opportunity to work for a company that produced showcases for actors. There were many wonderful gifts I gained while working with this company. Not the least of which, I had the opportunity to work with literally thousands and thousands of aspiring actors and parents of young actors. In addition, because we would bring in hundreds of industry professionals from all over the country, from agents to managers to casting directors, I was also learning invaluable insight from some of the top players in our industry. I would pick their brains every chance I had. What made a marketable actor. Why did some actors seem to achieve success while others didn’t? How did the casting process work? What made a great agent or manager? How did different markets work? I was a sponge. Every interaction I had, whether it be with an amazingly talented young actor from middle-of-nowhere America, or a top agent from LA or NY, I loved getting to know each and every one of these individuals, and all of the perspectives that came with our connection.

While there were many wonderful aspects to this company I was working with, there were also many things that I felt could be improved upon. After much thought, research, and a variety of well respected industry pros recommending I start my own thing, I decided it was time to get back into my acting game. But this time I was creating the experience for other actors. I started an amazing experience called The Acting Camp. This was a 3 day all-inclusive event, specifically designed for young actors and their parents. It took place at El Capitan Canyon Resort (the ultimate glamping experience), located in Santa Barbara. The first two days of the event included training from some of the top coaches in LA. From audition technique to vocal to comedy, these young actors had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business. In addition, I brought in top agents/managers, casting directors, and parents of working actors, for the parents at the camp to learn from. The camp culminated with all of the actors doing scenes and singing and playing music in front of 15 top industry professionals. Then each of the families had the opportunity to sit one on one with each of these pros and get direct feedback. To this day, The Acting Camp may have been the best experience I ever created. Only problem, it cost way too much money, and basically bankrupted me. Thankfully, I reconnected with the love of my life (my now wife and baby mama, Jennifer), who kept me motivated through this transition period and has consistently been the rock in my life ever since. I learned many wonderful lessons with The Acting Camp, the most important being my love for working with young actors. I’ve always been a kid at heart, with what some might say a fairly crazy amount of energy. So working with young actors was a great fit. Even though my camp didn’t pan out, it did catapult me into something even more amazing, Catapult Acting!

In 2015, with the help of my then business partner Dalton Lilley, Catapult Acting was launched. What began with no physical location and me with my mobile studio (aka an suv full of lights and camera equipment) is now a 3300 sq ft state of the art studio, including three sound insulated audition taping rooms, an array of amazing coaches, the most amazing clients in the world, and an acting program that I believe is one of the best in the country. I truly feel like I have found my calling with Catapult. I tell my students all of the time, “I don’t ever feel as though I have to come into work. I get to come into work.” We have now served thousands upon thousands of clients, and look forward to serving so many more. Our Tribe never ceases to amaze me. We continue to strive for excellence in everything we do, and our hope is to truly make this world a better place, one actor at a time.

If you’ve made it to the end of this opus, I commend you and appreciate you. Also, if I haven’t already, I look forward to hopefully working with you soon. Thank you for being here. 

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