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Daily Inspiration: Meet Shayla Benoit

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shayla Benoit.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I grew up in the performing arts starting as a Dance Major at Bak Middle School of the Arts, a Theatre Major at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and then a BFA Musical Theatre Major at Florida State University.

When I graduated from college, I started performing at regional theatres around the country. On one of my first contracts, my friend Tim Grady and I created a spoof music video for the show we were performing in, and we were pretty much hooked. We were given an hour to film this music video, so it unknowingly taught us how to produce and direct efficiently.

Tim and I kept getting hired as performers at different theatres together, and we continued creating music videos. We eventually produced a few videos for The Tony Awards, and that’s when I realized that this could really be a business.

I officially created Shady Theatrics LLC in 2015. We are an innovative film production company that has produced multiple works for an array of organizations including The Tony Awards, The Actors’ Equity Foundation, The Juilliard School, The Miami Dolphins with Ashley Furniture, and multiple Broadway productions with Super Awesome Friends and DKC/O&M. I am also the Red Carpet Tony Awards Correspondent for the Actors’ Equity Foundation.

I am so proud of the work we do at Shady Theatrics, and I love collaborating with our amazing clients to tell their unique stories.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think any entrepreneur will tell you that building a business has its own challenges. It’s all about adapting and problem solving. However, in January of 2020, I was presented with my biggest challenge to date.

I had not been feeling well for a few months. I had a cough, I was constantly itching, and I was exhausted most of the time. It got progressively harder for me to carry my film equipment around the city and up my fourth-floor walk-up. At one point, I had to call for help because I couldn’t breathe and get up the stairs.

I was eventually diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma at the age of 34. I had a very rare “bad luck” cancer that manifested as a tumor in my chest collapsing my right lung completely. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and put on an aggressive chemo treatment of 6 rounds of 5-day infusion.

I moved home to West Palm Beach to live with my generous parents while I underwent chemotherapy, and that’s when the pandemic hit.

Having a cancer that affects your respiratory system during a global pandemic that also attacks the respiratory system is REALLY SOMETHING.

I am thrilled to report that I’m in full remission now and still recovering. As a filmmaker and actor, I rely on my body for work. It’s become my full-time job to get my strength back to do everything I once did before. I am proud to say I am making progress every day.

What does this mean for my business? ADAPTATION. I have taken courses and grown my skills to do as much virtual work as I can. I am grateful to all my clients and friends who have sent me editing jobs that I can do safely from home. I just completed my first full in-person shoot two years after being diagnosed. I am also teaching and coaching virtually.

All of the business “obstacles” I faced before this seem so little and trivial now compared to my current journey. But I am very optimistic about my future. I have learned that the timeline is not in my control, but my happiness on a day-to-day basis is. I will continue to work at fully recovering and building my business back, and I’m so grateful to all those who have helped me along the way.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
What I love most about my job is it’s always changing, and we are continually finding ourselves in new places with our clients. We film corporate videos, commercial content, culinary videos, weddings, social media content, and music, theatre, and dance pieces. Really, the sky’s the limit.

No matter what I’m filming and who I’m working with, my job is to tell their story. Because of my arts background, we are a one stop shop. We can direct, choreograph, write, film, and edit. That’s why it’s really important for me to communicate with my clients. I want to understand their goals for the film we are creating for them and make it easy for everyone involved. We love to deliver the content they are looking for and have a great time while we do it.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
This business wouldn’t be where it is without the help of a lot of wonderful people. My parents introduced me to the arts and gave me the opportunities to continue to learn and grow. My teachers at Bak, Dreyfoos, FSU, and Artstage have been truly life-changing. Their knowledge, support, and encouragement have meant everything to me.

My friends, Tim Grady and Eric Mann both have their own film production companies and we are constantly hiring and helping each other. I have learned so much from both of them and, I’m grateful to have peers that support one another.

Susan Stripling of Susan Stripling Photography took my headshots when I was in college in Tallahassee, and then we ended up both working in NYC at the same time. Susan has taught me so much about running a business and has been a great mentor and example for me.

I performed in a production of Grease in 2011 with Marc Summers. From the moment I met him, Marc has been a continuous support. When I told him I was interested in learning more about film work, he invited me to attend meetings at his production office in Philadelphia, and he invited me for a day on the set of Rewrapped. Marc has been an incredible mentor and friend.

I met Julia D’Antonio as a fellow dance major in middle school. She is a genius CPA now and has taught me how to keep my books. She has been essential, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her.

Andrew Kato of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre has generously hired me as an actor and he also gave us our introduction to The Tony Awards. Andrew has opened a lot of doors for me, and he is so kind and generous with his knowledge.

My family and friends have been my amazing cheerleaders. A lot of friends volunteered to be dancers and actors in my first shoots when I was producing everything myself. I have built my client base from family and friend recommendations. So many of my clients have now become wonderful friends as well. I consider myself truly lucky to have these people in my corner.

And on a very personal note, I literally wouldn’t be here without my family and friends. When I was diagnosed with cancer, this community rallied for me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. My gratitude is endless for all of you incredible humans. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all so much.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Susan Stripling Photography Matthew Schmidt Photography

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