Military veteran hitting the screens as actor
James Burleson caught the acting bug at age five, inspired by movies he saw on TV and on the big screen. But unlike many who started as children thanks to acting parents’ connections, the son of a military veteran had no network to start his showbiz career. Nevertheless, many years later, James is pursuing his passion on the small and large screens and hoping for his big break.
The journey to this point has been long and winding. After graduating from high school, James turned down an ROTC scholarship to follow his own path. But it didn’t take long to realize he wasn’t really sure what that was. He turned to the familiar, joining the U.S. Air Force in hopes of learning and serving while discovering what was next.
Education and service journey
After training in San Antonio and Mississippi, James was stationed at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma when he decided to pursue his college education through the Wayland branch at the base.
“There wasn’t much to do while in Altus, so I used that time to get my act together and take advantage of the tuition assistance they were providing me,” he says. “I was the first to get a bachelor’s degree in my family, and that propelled me as well. It was very difficult to do both classes and serve in the military full-time, but I was able to still finish in four years.”
James earned his WBU degree in August 2007 and the next month started pursuing an acting career while still in the Air Force Reserves, stationed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (NAS Fort Worth JRB). He is based in the downtown Dallas area, making it easy to travel for acting jobs in the region and further out. His first roles were as extras in TV shows, but he has recently transitioned into doing more short films and independent feature work as well as some TV episodes. The early years were hard, though.
“I had no connection to the entertainment industry so that made it harder for me. I basically started my career from scratch. I remember my first professional audition was for a short film in the role of a schizophrenic. I realized then I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” he recalled. “That day on another audition, I met this director who cast me in a weird character and the process of filming was very slow, like over a few years, and then they did a complete rewrite and my scenes were dropped.”
That letdown hurt, but James ultimately didn’t give up. He worked with an agent for seven years, but found he was discovering audition opportunities on his own through industry friends and other connections, like social media and casting sites.
“It’s not as hard as it used to be. You used to have to have an agent but now there are so many different ways to learn about these things and when to audition so I do it myself,” he said. “The last few years have probably been the most successful for me.”
He said it’s still a good idea to have an agent in order to keep track of what’s going on in the industry as well as being submitted to roles that are not publicized. He has been represented by the Core Talent agency in Dallas since 2013. “They are a spectacular agency,” he noted.
Among his most familiar work would be an episode of “Mystery Diners” on the Food Network, where he played a manager who steals a barbecue sauce recipe from his uncle, the owner, and one on Investigation Discovery called “Most Evil,” where he played a serial killer named Levi King. He also played Sean Penn and Jim Toth on two separate episodes of “The Price of Fame” on the REELZ channel, both airing this month.
James’ first leading role in a feature film was Andy Larson in “Suburban Coven,” which was released recently after being filmed in 2015. Among his most proud accomplishments is the film “The Johnny Starr Story,” a true story about a musician who dies with his band in a plane crash. James plays the band manager in the film, which won several awards at national film festivals. It is also available for streaming on Amazon.com. Another feature film, “Body Harvest,” was filmed in 2015 and releases later this year.
“I love acting,” James says. “It’s a lot of fun to portray a role that is so unlike who you are as a person. It’s fun to create a new personality. I’m driven to bring the character to life and have the audience empathize with that character and let them escape into their own imaginations or relate to it through perception or substitution. If this is all accomplished in an entertaining way and a difference has been made, I feel like I’ve done my job as an actor.”
Devotional: God's grace sustains in feast, famine
Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse to quote. it is so comforting that God has plans to give prosperity, hope, and a future. Yet this verse can only be properly understood reading all of chapters 27-29 and seeing that this was not at all what the people wanted to hear. The false prophets were telling them what they wanted, that within two years their king, countrymen, and temple treasures would return from captivity in Babylon.
In contrast, Jeremiah told those remaining at home that they were in danger of a worse siege than they had just experienced. To the exiles, he said to settle down and build families, because it would be not them, but their grandchildren who would return to Judea and see that hope and future God was promising. Their restoration would not be in two years like they wanted, but 70.
Our modern, business-oriented world pursues the five-year plan, and politics seem to look no further than the next election, but God's plans span generations. It's hard to imagine more cause for despair than Jeremiah had; for decades he pleaded with his people to repent and how to obey the Lord, and everything he told them they disobeyed. Even every time they acknowledged they had done wrong and he told them they had another chance, they directly disobeyed yet again. Jeremiah died in Egypt -- the place he told them never to go was where they forcibly brought him. Yet he knew that God's grace, persistent through the centuries, would cover even this multiplicity of failure.
Let us remember when He determines "to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow," that He will later "build and plant" (Jer. 1:10). And let us remember, when He gives us these gracious times to build and to plant, that we may not see the end result we are praying and working for in our lifetimes, and it may look as if all our service has been a failure. But isn't that the beauty of serving God—that we are living for something bigger than ourselves?!
JennyBeth Gardner earned her bachelor's degree at Wayland in 2009, where she was honored
as one of 20 Centennial Scholars. She is a writer with TEN3 (Transformational Education
Network), a ministry of SIM, and develops curriculum that allows African nationals
to teach technology merged with gospel messaging. She and husband Kenneth, a 2002
graduate, have an 18-month-old son, Nathanael.
Teacher finds driving success in limo business
What started as a small side business for Bryan and Becky Baty to help fund their daughters’ college tuition has now blossomed into a booming venture for the couple in Midland, Texas. Today B&B Platinum Limo operates a fleet of six limousines transporting groups to weddings, quinceaneras, proms, concerts, birthdays, parties, funerals, anniversaries, corporate trips, sporting events, and a fun night on the town. But how they got to this point is another story.
In 1994, Bryan earned his biology and physical education degree (double major) from the Plainview campus and set out in the teaching profession. He spent 24 years in teaching & coaching and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas Permian Basin in December of 2011.
Much of Bryan’s career has been teaching science & coaching at Abell Junior High. He met Becky, who is the PE teacher at Parker Elementary, through their coaching connections and the singles ministry at First Baptist Church of Midland. When the two married in 2010, Becky’s three daughters were already in the picture. One of her biggest concerns was being able to fund their college education, especially having a public education career not known for large paychecks.
“I knew we needed to do something to help raise money for college,” Bryan recalled, noting he thought about various options but knew the CDL driver’s license he kept to drive district charter buses over 20 years was an asset. “I started thinking about different things I can do through driving, and we only had one limo company in Midland. I thought just having one car would be enough to get some extra money coming in.
“It took me about three months to convince Becky to go ahead and start the business. We got our LLC license and started with just one limo, a 20-passenger Cadillac Escalade. We started with a large 30-foot limo so we could transport one or twenty passengers,” Bryan stated. "When the oil boom hit, things really took off. We added another limo and now we have six."
B&B Platinum Limo started rolling officially in February 2013 with their Escalade. Today their fleet includes five Hummer limos (three black and two white) that each hold 20 people and a traditional black Lincoln Car limo that holds 10 people. Also, they have some Infiniti QX80 SUVs for shuttling clients to airports and other desired locations that prefer a more low-profile presence.
Bryan said most of their jobs are pretty expected: lots of weddings, quinceaneras – 3-4 each Saturday is typical – as well as proms, birthday parties and anniversaries. But their busiest season has become December, when many families love to rent a limo for Christmas light tours around Midland’s well-lit neighborhoods. Also, they have transported clients to concerts at the casino in nearby Hobbs, N.M., Lubbock, San Angelo, or to other ventures in the Midland/Odessa area. And there are always a few unique situations.
“We have gotten to drive a several famous celebrities who came in for various events. Three-Time Gold Medalist Beach Volleyball Champion Misty May Treanor, rapper 50 Cent, and country music legend Randy Travis are few of the many famous celebrities that we have driven to speaking engagements, concerts, weddings, funerals, airport transfers,” recalls Bryan. But the strangest request? “George Bush’s niece has a house in Midland. She and her boyfriend were dining at a local restaurant. She wanted me to go to her house, pick up her dog and bring her dog to the restaurant. Later, I took all three of them cruising around the Tall City in our Cadillac Escalade limo.”
While Bryan serves as the primary driver for the business, the couple has a stable of other drivers they use for days when the whole fleet is on the road, such as many weekends. Becky is the bookkeeper and keeps the vehicles clean and prepped for the next clients.
This year, Bryan changed teaching jobs. He is now at Parker Elementary as a Midland ISD Elementary DAEP Teacher, which lessens his time commitment at the school.
“I was getting up at 5:15am for early athletic practices, staying late for after school duty, and running a limousine business. It was just too much. Now, I can do early morning airport jobs and after school limo jobs as well,” he says. “It’s a fun job, and the customers we get are usually pretty good folks. We have some charter rules that folks have to follow so that keeps things tamed.”
The success of B&B led to the Batys starting a second business in May, Baty Transportation Management, LLC. Through this venture, the couple manages luxury vehicles, provides qualified drivers, and sets up valet service for events for clients.
Those three girls whose education prompted the side business are all grown and mostly done with school. Their goal of funding those ventures was successful. So what becomes of B&B Platinum Limo? Bryan said they’ll wait and see.
“We’d like to give it another five years and see how it goes. In the limousine business, you have to rotate vehicles and evaluate the economy. We plan to keep going as long as God allows us,” he says. “I look at limo booking as a divine appointment from God. So when God says it’s time to close the doors, it’s time to close the doors. We’ve been very blessed.”
B&B can be found online at http://www.limosmidland.com/.
From the History Files
Amid the massive growth on the Wayland campus in the 1950s and 1960s, new buildings were rising up like a West Texas cotton crop. One of those was Harral Memorial Auditorium, provided by a generous gift in 1964 from Mrs. Billie Harral of Abernathy. The $500,000 gift provided a new auditorium that would become the new home to events like the weekly chapel service, graduation ceremonies and special events that had once been limited to the 2nd floor auditorium in Gates Hall.
Construction started on the auditorium that would be named after Mrs. Harral, a 1924 Waylan graduate and a former faculty member. But Mrs. Harral's gift would not stop there. She agreed to continue to give to the project until enough had been raised to construct additional wings on the building: one for music and one for speech, theatre and art.
Special permission was granted a few months before the auditorium portion of the project was officially completed to allow the first graduation ceremony in the new 1,100-seat facility featuring a full orchestra pit and stadium seating the back half. The auditorium was dedicated in September 1969 with Leland Atwood, son of former WBU President E.B. Atwood and president of North American Rockwell, as speaker. Pop singer Neil Diamond performed at the dedication.
Mrs. Harral kept her promise, giving a total of more than $1.25 million to finish the double-winged facility. The music wing was completed in 1973, and the arts wing was finished in 1978. The gift also included the addition of a custom Wicks pipe organ, at the time the largest in the state of Texas. The organ - which still remains in the auditorium - has more than 3,000 pipes with 58 ranks played on a three manual and pedal console.
Since its construction, Harral Auditorium has hosted hundreds of thousands of guests through graduation ceremonies twice each year, weekly Wednesday chapel services attended by students, music recitals, concerts, theatre musicals and other campus gatherings. It's also the premier venue for local events such as Plainview Community Concerts and other large-group performances.