By Sgt. 1st Class Shelman SpencerNovember 15, 2018
Many Hollywood celebrities served this great nation as a Soldier, Marine, Airman, or in the Navy or Coast Guard. Clint Eastwood, Drew Cary, Chuck Norris, Morgan Freeman, Elvis Presley and late former President Ronald Reagan, just to name a few. And why shouldn't they? One of their cadences is: "Standing tall and looking good now, Should be marching tall in Hollywood now."
We could probably fill a book of celebrities who've hung up the uniform, marched out of the ranks and onto the Hollywood scene.
One man making his way up the Hollywood ladder is Steve Kreider, a native of Waterford, Pa., just south of Erie.
Steve is a retired Army, Active Guard & Reserve (AGR), first sergeant. The first sergeant is the most senior noncommissioned officer in the unit. They are the top of the NCO support chain in the company and often referred to as "TOP" - basically, they make sure the job gets done. Steve is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Bronze Star recipient.
Prior to his transition from the Army Reserves, Steve was stationed in Southern California, with the 304th Sustainment Brigade, which is one of the biggest sustainment units in the Army. This is where he met several celebrities; one of those being Ricky Schroder. This is when Steve's transition from military service to working in the Hollywood scene started developing.
"All the stars were aligned, no pun intended," Steve jokingly says. "I loosely kept in contact with Ricky. When I retired in 2013, I reached out to Ricky to pitch him a reality show about helping homeless veterans get off the streets."
"Ricky was very busy with different projects and couldn't take on another at that time, but he did ask me, now that I retired, if I'd be interested in working on an Army reality show he was producing called 'Starting Strong.' My reply was - ah, let me look at my schedule...YES!"
Service members gain a wealth of knowledge and skills while in uniform which make them extremely marketable for civilian life and careers.
"When I started working on Starting Strong, I began to understand the operation aspects of filming a show, I realized how similar it is to running a military operation," Steve said. "If you ever coordinated a firing range or field exercise for a company sized element in the military, then you can handle the logistics of production."
Steve continued explaining the connection between his military experiences and how it helped with film production.
"The logistical support my soldiers needed during training is the same logistics I had to organize for the production crew. A place to eat, sleep, transportation, medical and personal equipment," says Steve. "The difference generally is that the production company stays at a hotel, eats the best food, and has state of the art equipment. The military - not so much."
He also spent three years getting people to sign up for the Army as a recruiter.
"Those few years as an Army recruiter helped me become more outgoing and able to talk to a broader amount of people. It was a lasting experience I'll never forget," he says.
Steve's work didn't end with Starting Strong, which was an Army reality show where a civilian was brought into Army life under a job of their choice and ran through the rigors of both physical and mental toughness. Starting Strong ran for three seasons and highlighted many different aspects of Army life, including the vast opportunities soldiers have in life after the uniform.
"Shortly after working on Starting Strong, my friend from the show, Jo Haskin, asked me if I wanted to work on Duck Dynasty as an Associate Producer. It was quite an interesting experience. The guys from the show are as authentic in real life as they are on the show," Steve says.
"After learning the ropes, I started building up my own company to break into the entertainment industry. I called the company Hollywood Top LLC. I called it that was because of my leadership role as a first sergeant. I started meeting Hollywood celebrities, so my soldiers started calling me 'Hollywood Top.' I didn't like it at first, but the moniker eventually grew on me. So, I started a military consulting company by that name."
He then landed a job helping another military consultant on the feature film Pitch Perfect 3, which had a huge military presence in the film.
"I thought it was going to be a challenge dealing with Hollywood types, but I was pleasantly surprised that most were respectful, hardworking, individuals, they were all very grateful for my service. I ironically had more difficulty dealing with Army personnel while working on Starting Strong then the Hollywood type," he says.
These experiences allowed him to grow significantly and professionally since he first stepped onto the set.
"Working with some of the top reality shows producers, filmmakers, and production personnel have been educational. It has helped me to get to where I am now."
"But it's my military training has really given me the edge in this industry. Developing schedules and presentations, time management, and leadership are essential skills that I learned in the Army, which made me excel."
Currently residing in Houston, Texas, he is diligently working and sees his company growing with more opportunities and productions.
"I would ideally like to have several shows running at once, while prospecting for new ones. I'd like to also move into feature film production. My goal is to hire as many veterans as possible, whether is a part-time gig or full-time, if they want to be in this industry.
"This is a turbulent industry, some ideas may be hot today, but cold the next. It can be a feast or famine industry, so I thank God for my military retirement and my benefits," said Steve. "Otherwise, I might be one of the homeless veterans I look for."
His has completed a project called 'Flea Market Fanatics,' a reality show that has celebrity guests like Football Hall of Fame running back, Larry Csonka.
Steve is prospecting a new show called 'The Shadow Warriors,' which is in preproduction and undergoing certain revisions. With this series production, Steve is expanding his experience and talent with going from behind the scenes to more in front of the camera.
To see more of what Steve Kreider's team is doing visit www.hollywoodtop.net, from there you can follow him via social media for up to date projects.