Frank Ponce, a native of Chesterfield, is planning a major career move to Los Angeles to make his name in the entertainment business – on both sides of the camera.
While an accomplished actor, Ponce recently signed a contract to work as a production assistant on the set of Twentieth Century Fox's "X-Men: First Class."
Ponce currently lives in Savannah, Ga., where he is a producer for CBS by day and manages a movie theater at night. At age 24, his résumé already includes appearances in several independent films, production work on movies such as "Dear John," "Leatherheads" and "Halloween II," and production of his own two short films.
Also on this budding star's résumé is Northeastern Technical College, where he started his pathway to a career in the media arts.
"My dad had a lot to do with why I chose to attend NETC after graduating Chesterfield High School," Ponce said. "On the practical side, it was a cost-saving choice, but my dad also knew the smaller classes would provide a richer learning experience."
Ponce's father, Frankie J., knows firsthand the educational opportunities at NETC, having graduated in 1980 from the college when it was Chesterfield-Marlboro Technical College.
"I am a strong supporter of the community college," Frankie said. "The smaller classes allow for more one-on-one time between instructor and the student, which is ideal for first-year students who may need that extra attention as they begin their college career."
Ponce realized his acting talent at NETC after taking Introduction to Theater 101 in fall 2005. He joined the Northeastern Players under the mentorship of Alexandria Shifflet.
"Mrs. Shifflet opened my eyes to acting and encouraged me to pursue it," Ponce said, adding he received mentoring from several instructors who recognized his creative talents.
Ponce earned an Associate in Arts degree from NETC in 2006 and transferred to the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He was an A student in acting at USC and worked as an intern his junior year on the set of a major motion picture called "Nailed." Yet to be released, this movie put him in the mix with some of Hollywood's elite actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Biel and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman).
Ponce graduated in 2009 from USC with a Bachelors of Arts in journalism and mass communication with a major in advertising and minor in media arts. He was hired by the Regal Entertainment Group and worked for six months at a movie theater in Charleston before being relocated to Savannah, where he was made theater manager. At the same time, he was hired by CBS in Savannah for the producer job.
"They liked what Frank brought to the table," his father said about Ponce's landing the job with a major television network. "He's high energy and easy to get along with. He's got a lot charisma, and he's a go-getter."
While at NETC, Ponce was president of the Student Government Association. He also worked at the college library and became a self-described "voracious reader." His first lead acting role was in the literary classic "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.
Ponce's latest acting role is in the independent film, "All The Missing Pieces," which was released to DVD in November after winning several major film festival awards nationwide. Ponce not only starred in the movie, but he also helped produce the movie, which was filmed in Greer, S.C.
With special talents such as singing, playing guitar, juggling, breakdancing and speaking with foreign accents, Ponce was groomed for a career in the entertainment business. During his childhood years, he would listen to his father's voice come across the radio on WCPL, a former station in Pageland. His mother, Marlene Luarez, is gifted musically, but also his father's family is related to the legendary Johnny Cash, whose grandfather, John L. Rivers, was born and raised in Chesterfield.
Besides Ponce, his brother, Brian, is also pursuing a career in the media arts, specifically film production. Brian has followed in his older brother's footsteps, earning an associate degree from NETC in 2007 and transferring to USC-Columbia, where he will graduate this coming year.
"Our goal is to become a global family business in entertainment," said Frankie J., who is currently working toward a doctorate in talent management. "I envision Frank and Brian as Hollywood's next Ron and Ken Howard." (While not brothers, one Howard excelled as a producer and the other an actor.)
Despite his lofty goals, Ponce remains grounded by the creative spark that was fanned by mentors who challenged him to follow that pathway to a star-studded future.
"I have a passion to create," Ponce said. "I'm not just doing this because of the money, the fame or power. It is truly my passion. I am an artist, and I will always create to make people happy ... and that passion was sparked while attending NETC."
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