Ode to the New York Strangers

Photography by Ben Grey

Last weekend, I attended a convention called the Actors Pro Expo, designed to connect actors with casting directors, schools, photographers, a film company, SAG-AFTRA, and countless other vendors and services. I attended some great sessions and left encouraged by Alison Franck's (Liz Lewis Casting) advice to find my own sound and David Morris's (Telsey + Co.) networking suggestions for actors passionate about perfecting their craft and networking. A film audition for Funny the Movie rounded out my day, and the warm, inviting atmosphere of what must have been a very long day for those involved caused me to stop and consider the beautifully human and often generous side of the entertainment industry.

Who won the day? Not Ray, the guy (about whom I couldn't resist but live tweet) who spent all morning whining about actors who "clearly" didn't know how to sell themselves to the industry, quoting Tony Robbins, and inflicting his podcast/monologue upon everyone who would listen (by the end of the day, he was alone). No. Also not the companies who sold their products by offering a giveaway and then following up via phone calls or emails to sell their services - the same services they could have talked with me about in person while I visited their booth instead of having me fill out a piece of paper to put in the sweepstakes box. Ignored. Unsubscribed.

I admit it. I ignore calls from people I don't know. I prefer to text than talk on the phone. That said, I also much prefer in person connection above all of that. If we can have a conversation in which I can hear your story or advice (not why you think you're smarter than me), I will remember you, want to engage with you again in the future, and possibly help you out or buy your product. So a huge thanks to Blair Hickey, who selflessly and attentively spent a lot of time with me during his seminar and afterwards at the Casting About booth, helping me to personalize my target lists for casting directors with whom I want to work. I recommended to no fewer than five actors that day that they visit his booth. Joe Lawless at GoingLong Productions, Isaiah Seward, and William Dreyer all made great new friends with whom to spend my time.

As William and I talked about New York, we discussed the industry and all of the helpful people we'd encountered in the industry and throughout the convention itself. Stereotypes about the entertainment industry and NYC would have us turn our tails and run if we ever dared to listen for too long. Honestly, acting is about connecting, and the city is an incredible place in which to do it. Don't believe me? Check out these videos by two very different artists in the Big Apple, Kalan Sherrard of the Enormous Face and Brandon Stanton of Humans of NY and see how they use connection as a lifestyle and career. In the meantime, consider talking to that stranger in your class or inviting a new friend to connect over lunch (no cell phones allowed). It might just change your view of things, if not your life.