Former reality television actor returns to CSUF to pursue a degree in his newly discovered passion of filmmaking

In Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle
Former reality television actor and current CSUF student Graham Beightol poses for a portrait on campus.

In 1999, Graham Beightol came to Cal State Fullerton as a theater major but moved to New York to pursue a career in Broadway. After gaining experience in television and having an interest in film, he came back motivated to finish what he started 17 years ago.

Now 36 years old, Beightol is graduating this year with a Bachelor of Arts in cinema and television arts and, like many students, he isn’t quite sure where he wants to end up after college, but he’s open to anything that comes his way.

“I’m more of a freethinker. If someone says, ‘Hey I have this great opportunity and it’s in Algeria,’ I might go… That’s where I’m at, just living in the moment,” Beightol said.

Because he’s been to places all over the United States, the biggest question on Beightol’s mind is where he wants to live. In addition to living in New York after he left college to audition for Broadway shows, Beightol grew up in Covina before his career took him to Los Angeles and Seattle.

Beightol said his high school drama teacher, Laura Holbrook, a CSUF alumna, was instrumental in pointing him toward becoming a Titan, but his choice to come back to CSUF years later was due to his desire to continue his education and earn his degree.

Holbrook was influential in helping improve Beightol’s confidence, as he remembers himself being quiet, nervous and reserved.

“I wasn’t outgoing or really driven and I didn’t do anything. Through theater and friendships, I ended up becoming a stronger person with a better personality,” Beightol said.

In December of last year, Beightol appeared on a reality television show called “Encore!” which aired on the ABC Network. The show, produced by Kristen Bell, was about a group of people who performed a musical show in high school and reunited years later to do it again; the musical performed was “Into the Woods.”

“I got to reconnect with eight of my friends from high school, some of them I haven’t seen in 20 years,” Beightol said.

Beightol said he will always love that he took part in reality television but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as he considered it “happy jail.”

“They want every interaction to be on camera. When taping is done, you get into a separate car, you go to separate hotel rooms and you’re not allowed to talk to anybody until the next day,” Beightol said.

Through the series, he got to showcase his performance abilities and get a behind-the-scenes look at how television works, ultimately leading him to become a cinema and television arts major.

Beightol can now be found every month at the Stage Door Repertory Theatre in Anaheim doing improv shows with his team Fancy Hobo.

He’s been doing improv for about 10 years and has done countless shows with teams at the Spectacles Improv Engine in Fullerton and a comedy group in Long Beach called the Upperclassmen, who he helped reunite after they temporarily broke up.

Beightol said his most memorable improv show included a scene that lasted 25 hours. His company tried to surmount a record for the longest improv scene lasting more than 24 hours in an attempt to be recognized by the Guinness World Records.

“People would go off stage and sleep for an hour and then come back as their character. We finished it, and then we all collectively passed out and died,” Beightol said.

Unfortunately, Beightol said his company accidently read the record for the longest stand-up set, not improv.

“We didn’t qualify for their criteria, but still we had the ability to say we did a scene for 25 hours,” Beightol said.

Beightol is now working on a short film called “Consequence” for his cinema and television arts class. The film is about a girl who finds a scrapbook that can tell the future, but every time she alters the future something goes wrong.

Cris Lopez, who is in charge of sound production for the short, said Beightol always had a positive attitude and didn’t stay limited to his role as production designer, he was always trying to help others on set.

“After completing what he had to do, that didn’t stop him from going around. You would see him in every department,” Lopez said.

One of the directors of photography for the film, Ohan Ghazarian said Beightol stayed on top of everything as well.

“He got us all the locations, all the props we needed, all the set designs and the wardrobe,” Ghazarian said.

The film is currently in post-production, but Lopez said a public screening will be held at the Brea Plaza 5 Cinemas on May 21 from 7 p.m to 9 p.m.

“Now I can confidently say I can make a film, and I have,” Beightol said.

In addition, he said that without CSUF, he wouldn’t have known the first thing about filmmaking and wouldn’t have the skills that he has today.

“I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to come back and achieve a degree at Cal State Fullerton when I’d thought that was a pipe dream and a lost hope,” Beightol said.

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