Over the past few years Dave Velarde, 32, has pursued his passion for acting around the world as a budding freelance actor in Indonesia. In a bold move, the St. Marys native parted ways with his career as a successful plastics engineer to relocate to the exotic island.
Originally Velarde moved to Bali in February 2008, but relocated to Jakarta, where a majority of the country’s entertainment industry is based.
“While in Jakarta I rubbed elbows with some agents and soap stars that got me started in commercials and some odd and ends modeling gigs including runway shows, novel covers, print ads and billboards,” Velarde said. “There is much less competition in foreign countries compared to Los Angeles for western male actors, so I was able to get my foot in the door, often playing the token westerner roles.”
He noted the country’s 250 million population provides an extensive entertainment market.
Velarde chose to move to Indonesia following a vacation to the exotic country in August 2007.
“I fell in love with the island, friendly people and the culture,” he noted.
At the time Velarde was a successful senior plastics engineer for Johnson and Johnson in Los Angeles, where he designed catheters for heart surgery. He obtained that position in 2000 following his graduation from Penn State Behrend where he obtained a degree in Plastics Engineering Technology. Velarde explained that he was very impressed with Penn State’s program and the fact that it had 100 percent job placement before graduation.
“It was a great job, but I was ready for a change,” Velarde said. “I always dreamed of life in the big city of Los Angeles. I love beaches and warm weather that Northwestern PA lacks. After moving to LA, I came out of my shell and my confidence was peaking. But is certainly magical how things worked out for me.”
According to Velarde he never dreamed of being an actor.
“During my school years in St. Marys I was never one of the really popular students, so even my college years were aimed at engineering, which seemed to be a much better fit,” he said. “I never signed up for school dramas, I was always too shy.”
Born in Hollywood, Elk County, Velarde grew up in St. Marys until he was 10 then resided in Kersey until graduating from St. Marys Area High School in 1996.
Dave is the son of Rose Ann Schatz Reuscher and Mark Velarde. He is the grandson of Doris Schatz. His siblings include Robert, Derrick, Mark, Matthew, Luke and Timothy Velarde and Garrett Reuscher. He has one daughter, Keira Velarde.
While living in St. Marys, Velarde worked as a landscaper at the St. Marys Catholic Cemetery during the summers of his college years. He also worked at Keystone Thermometrics. Growing up Velarde participated in Boys Scouts and played baseball and football at SMAHS as well as for local teams in Kersey.
Velarde said he moved to Indonesia without a job as he attempted to seek a role in a soap opera. Unfortunately he was not fluent in the Indonesian language which made it difficult to secure a position.
“You just can’t be afraid to take chances. You must sometimes leave everything you know, which can be the hardest and scariest thing in your life to do, but you never know where life will take you,” he said.
Upon relocating to Jakarta Velarde has performed in comedic roles in a day time talk shows and other local programming.
Most recently he performed in a 30 minute local television show which translates into “Hanging Out with Westerners.” The show features local celebrities and westerners as they introduce each other to different cultures.
“It’s slap stick comedy with many of the laughs coming from the language barrier,” Velarde said.
He has also worked on runway shows in local malls and other social venues as well as print ads for “top 1”, Tora Bika coffee mix, Chocolatos and a few others.
The two most famous roles Velarde has had were playing the boyfriend of Luna Maya, which he described as the most famous female local actress in Indonesia, and playing the main talent for “Enjoy Jakarta”, a set of television tourism commercials which aired worldwide and on airplanes.
Velarde was also featured on the cover a novel which translates into “Last Man”.
“I think I was just lucky to be blessed with some good genes from my parents. They really value height and the combination of dark hair with colored eyes,” Velarde explained of the popular traits sought in Indonesian actors.
In the future Velarde said he hopes to improve his Indonesian language well enough to land a soap opera role, which he originally had his sights set on.
“The biggest challenge I have is learning the language. I am horrible at learning languages to begin with,” he said.
Velarde added that someday he would like to purchase a villa in Bali to rent out to tourists or to house his family and friends when they visit.
“I love the little perks of the job like traveling to exotic islands for shooting, that I would have never seen otherwise. All the female attention is certainly a positive too,” Velarde said.
When he’s not pursuing his acting career, Velarde has traveled extensively around Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, of about which 6,000 are inhabited.
“I have been to Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand multiple times,” Velarde said. “I have also visited China and Cambodia.”