Written by Sheldon Charron
Writing your own bio is tough. I thought about a nice short one, but that wouldn’t really give a sense of who I am and where I come from. I figured if I was going to do this, I might as well put some meat into it.
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I won’t get into all the gory details, but like so many other people out there, life wasn’t easy growing up. My parents split when I was four years old, blah, blah, blah.
For the next three years, I could see my dad whenever I wanted. I played hockey, so my dad took me to every practice and game. He was a manufacturer of fishing tackle, a hunter and an outdoor writer, so naturally we spent every chance we could hunting and fishing. My grandfather had been a huge outdoorsman too, so my dad passed down everything he could. This time together with my father instilled a passion in me for hunting that I could never fully explain.
We used to go on summer long road trips in the CATSASS bus selling fishing lures, and dad had his eight track and cassette players going all the time. Like any son, I wanted my dad to be proud of me. I would sing for him, make silly faces, act out my own little skits and just be a total goofball most of the time. He was always playing some kind of country music, jazz, big-band music, or other stuff like, “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts.” I remember him playing that song over and over again. We would laugh and sing along together. The first song I memorized was Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers. The second was When the Devil Went Down To Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band. I was probably about 6 years old. My dad would present me to people and make me sing for them. And I loved it.
We went to church almost every Sunday and I would always sing my heart out. My dad said I was going to be a famous country singer and actor someday. So naturally, I decided that’s what I was going to do. I did all the school plays and joined all the choirs. I played piano for a while, but my dad said that big band music was coming back. He was a Tommy Dorsey fan, so when it came time to choose an instrument for band, I picked the trombone and played it for the next ten years.
When I was seven years old, my mom got remarried and that changed everything. There was a custody battle, and when it was over, I could only see my dad every second Sunday between 1-5pm. We tried meeting in secret often but that always lead to trouble for my dad.
Back in those days, there was no internet and my dad had to go on the road to sell lures during the summer. But he was always afraid to leave us. That hurt him financially. Eventually the rules were relaxed a bit, and during summer breaks, my brother and I would go on the road with him in the old school bus that he converted to a RV. We would use it as a showroom during the day and our home at night.
Between that and all the legal fees over the years, my dad ended up completely ruined financially. It got so bad that he ended up living in that old CATSASS® Fishing Lures school bus. He parked it outside my grandma’s house to get electricity, cooked on a propane stove, and installed a tin wood stove with a chimney punched through the side so he could burn firewood during winters that could exceed -50f. He lived like that for years.
At 16 years old, I moved out on my own and worked three part time jobs while trying to finish high school. I lost my apartment at one point and spent a winter living in my rusted out Toyota 1/4 ton pickup truck. I always said it had “Flinstone brakes” because the floorboards were so rusted out you could see the ground outside and the brake pedal was about as effective as just sticking your feet through the floor like in the show. Finding places to park at night without getting hassled by police was tough, and then I’d have to leave the truck running all night with the heater on full blast just to keep from freezing. The exhaust leaked in through the cab, so plugging the holes wasn’t an option. I needed ventilation so I didn’t die in my sleep, and would usually crack a window anyway. I struggled to keep gas in the tank and I’m ashamed to admit that siphoned a lot of gas in the middle of the night in order to survive.
I went to school as early as possible to “play sports” in the morning, but it was really to warm up and shower. I participated in every extra curricular I could in order to stay at the school as long as possible. At least when I wasn’t working. I fell asleep during class a LOT. Sea Cadets was another activity that I participated in. It gave me a place to go, they fed us, trained us, and on many weekends and summers, we were paid to train. My first time on a plane was getting flown to the west coast in a Hercules aircraft to train for a long weekend.
After that I joined the Naval Reserve. It fulfilled the basic needs. Food, shelter and some cash in my pocket. Acting was not really in the cards back then. I didn’t last long in the Navy before I met a girl, and soon after we were married. I wanted to become a wildlife biologist, but she was in University, and we both couldn’t be in school that long at the same time, so with the help of some financial assistance I took a year certificate course called Commerce/Industry Sales & Marketing at Red River Community College in Winnipeg. The deal was that I would work until she graduated from teaching, then she would get a job in Alberta and then I would take Wildlife Biology at a school there.
Cellular phones were brand new and the Cantel network was just starting up, so I worked for them for a year before starting my own cell phone business. When my first wife graduated, and it was my turn to go to school, I sold my business. I was 24 years old. But when it came time move, she wouldn’t leave her family. That was the end of that.
I became a real estate agent and eventually became a broker. I was a top producer, but I hated it. I did that for almost 8 years. In 2000 I started a virtual reality business. We produced interactive maps and floor plans with 360 degree virtual tours for tourism boards, museums, resorts, etc. Our focus was the hospitality industry. We even developed our own software to render our work faster and were considered one of the top providers for VR in the world. We had venture capitalists circling us and were about to make a deal that would have made me a millionaire, but then the events of 9/11 changed all that. I literally had investor contracts sitting on my desk when it happened. My staff and I huddled around a TV in the office and watched it happen. Suddenly my tech business was tanking and soon afterward, my first wife and I split.
I needed to support myself somehow. The office and the legal bills from my divorce were piling up, so I diversified the company into web design, then print, then a full-on advertising agency. Hunting was my passion, so I began to really focus on the outdoor sports industry. Business took off. I had custody of my kids every other week, I was making money and life was good.
A couple of our clients were using a popular e-commerce and back office system made by a company out of New York. They had over 10,000 clients, but the software had a lot of problems and would go down quite often. I decided to replace the front end with something better based on .NET. I called it Umbilical. After a couple of years of development, we put one of our clients on it as a test and it was a huge improvement. We added a bunch of modules that gave additional functionality and our clients sales went through the roof. We then replaced the back office portion and created a stand alone version for people starting a new store. With a complete package ready, our plan was to start marketing to that company’s 10,000 customers.
But then..my dad went in for a fairly simple operation to unblock his carotid artery. Due to some complications, he ended up in intensive care for a month and half. With all of his organs failing, he demanded to be “unplugged.” We gave our permission to the hospital and in a very traumatic episode, with my kids in the room (at the insistence of the social worker), they just started yanking cables and plugs and my father passed away. Plus, there was no priest present and by the time I realized that and spoke up it was too late. It happened so fast. I just couldn’t get over it. And my kids NEVER should have been in the room. It was super hard on them, and I couldn’t shake the guilt that came with allowing them to see that.
Haunted by the feeling that I killed my own father and faced with my own mortality, I was lost and depressed. Things were not going well with my kids and my heart just wasn’t in the business like it used to be.
I wanted to pursue a MBA at the University of Manitoba’s Asper Business School. As an experienced and accomplished business person, if I passed the GMAT and was approved by the board, I could get into the program without an undergraduate degree. They took a few “special cases” each year. I went for some interviews at the University, audited a few classes and began to study for the GMAT.
Soon after though, I ended up getting a heart infection called myopericarditis that nearly killed me. The inside and outside lining of the heart separate from the muscle and fills with infected fluid. The infection eats away the heart muscle which can never be repaired.
I managed to get another company I used to outsourced work to, to take over some of my clients. I licensed my software to clients who were using it so they could update the code, and then eventually, laid off my staff and shut the business down. I went down to 132 pounds and it took over a year to recover. My kids spent most of their time with their mother while I stayed at home alone. By the time I was better, they wanted to stay with her full time. That was really hard on me.
During all that time in my country home alone, I wrote screenplays, stories, played guitar, sang, wrote songs and poems. I thought about the dreams I had as a kid. Acting, singing, writing, making films, it all seemed possible again if I was just willing to live lean, like an artist. I thought about producing my own hunting show. BC had some of the best hunting in the country and it’s also where a lot of the films and TV shows are being made. My dad lived there for a while before I was born and he always told me I should move there. Since I rarely saw my boys much anyway, I decided I would go for it and if they wanted to, they could always follow me out later. I sold my home and everything I owned that wouldn’t fit into a 7×14′ motorcycle trailer and hauled it out to Vancouver.
Soon after, I went down to New York Film Academy in LA to take acting. I was told it would make me a better director. One of my teachers said she had to break me down so I could build myself back up. I needed to become an empty container so I could fill myself with each new character…or something like that. Well whatever ego I had or walls I put up, soon came down. Maybe too far to the other end of the extreme. I became much more sensitive to everything. I began to think differently and started to live the life of an artist.
I acted in as many short films as I could. I didn’t want to work another job so I could focus exclusively on acting, training, writing and pitching my stories around at various pitch festivals and to network execs, so I survived on the proceeds from selling my house and a lifetime of “stuff.”
I had always dreamed of crossing the pacific on a sailboat, and thought about doing my own adventure travel show based around the trip. In early 2012, I decided I was going to buy a boat in LA and sail through the French Polynesians to Australia, and document the trip along the way with a small crew. We would hit all the islands. We would shoot reality footage with GoPros while on the boat and then shoot high res episodes at each stop. I wanted to do it in French and English, so we could sell it to French TV in Canada and Europe. I would interview people in English, then swap out the mic for the camera and my French speaking crew member would do it again in French. We’d edit footage on the boat, upload the BTS footage at each stop, and people could follow us on the internet using a tracker. When we arrived in Australia, I’d sell the boat and fly back to Vancouver with a season of SeeWorld TV and a bunch of B-roll to sell.
I budgeted $100,000 of my own money, packed a backpack with $17,000 of film gear and flew to LA. I went up and down the coast from SD to San Fransisco shopping for boats. I was staying in hostels, and the first hit came when my backpack full of camera gear was stolen. A guy grabbed my bag and ran. And I couldn’t get insurance to cover it so I was hooped.
Determined to keep going, I scaled back my budget on the boat, which meant buying something smaller. I was staying at a hostel in Hermosa Beach after that, and one night I went to a Karaoke bar with a friend from the hostel. A girl walked in and well….that was that. Monique and I were supposed to just hang out until I sailed away on my trip. Now she’s my wife.
I found a boat in Marina Del Rey that would work, and started the refit, but as luck would have it, the boat was infested with termites. So after spending thousands on the boat to get it ready, I couldn’t do the trip. Apparently Australia is extremely strict and officials bring insect-sniffing dogs on boats to check for such things. The boat would likely be seized and burned or I would be turned away on the open sea.
It took me a year and half to sell that boat and I lost a ton of money. During that time, Monique and I spent a lot of time together. I was living on the boat and we’d sail it around the Santa Monica bay. We fell in love, and were married in 2014. Sadly, we separated in 2019 and are now divorced.
I don’t see my kids that often, and right now my oldest son isn’t even talking to me, but he’s 23 and I hope he comes around. One of my 2020 resolutions is to try rebuild that bond.
Spending several years living as an artist has not been very lucrative financially, and my savings have run out, so I decided it’s time to get back to work in marketing and tech. I miss working in the business and the pride that comes with helping others achieve something great. In the past couple of years I produced a branded, reality/adventure travel show for outdoor television, produced a TV show for Discovery, and have produced numerous branded documentaries for brands. My plan is to take my marketing, advertising, tech and strategy skills, and combine that with everything I know about film, television and entertainment, to get a job with a major brand or agency.
I would still love to act, and still plan to write, but for now, my acting days are pretty much over, as I move back into a mainstream career in advertising and marketing. Thanks for following along during my time as an actor.