The Film and Theatre Artist’s Exchange Networking Event

By:  Dave Ferrier

Once again The Film and Theatre Artist’s Exchange networking event, founded and hosted by the dapper John Mitchel, co-hosted by the elegant Renee Ungrue Carrillo and Sheryl Lewis Brown, and co-hosted the ebullient Kenneth John McGregor, was a huge success. During the February 17 event, nearly 450 actors, writers, directors, makeup artists, musicians and more gathered at Dave & Buster’s in Philadelphia to connect, have red carpet photos taken, talk with headshot photographers and hear a number of guest speakers.

First-time-attendee and actor Brittany Rose said about the event, “It’s awesome. This is such a great opportunity for both new and experienced actors to meet each other. I just graduated from acting classes and wanted to see what this event was all about.”

John Mitchel founded and organized the event a few years ago to bring the local performing community together, since at the time, no real networking events like this existed. In 2015, he reinvigorated the event, and if the swelling attendance is an indication, local talent is hungry to connect with one another.

Red Carpet host Tina M Davido, Photographer Melany Klohoker and Interviewer Lisa Marie Collins all ensured that attendees were made to feel welcome and got their pictures taken free of charge. Renee and Sheryl did a masterful job checking everyone in at the packed venue.

True to form, McGregor, a partner in the event, got the standing-room-only crowd excited with two simple words — “Yeah Philadelphia!” He then briefly discussed a few topics such as clarifying what the Taft Hartley Act means to actors (non-union actors are hired on to a project as union actors because they have the necessary skills and a union actor isn’t available).  “We have seen a lot of headshots, and frankly some of them are really poor,” McGregor said. “So we decided to bring some of the best headshot photograhers to you.” Those photographers included: Betsy Brody, Scott Burkett, Peter Halperin, Christopher Kadish, Kristine Pape, Kate Raines, Paul Sirochman and Robert Szatmari.

Next to speak was Maria Breyman, Co-Chair of Membership Committee at Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PaFIA). She spoke about what PaFIA is, why people in the business should join, and how the organization fights for our common dream — to bring more productions to Pennsylvania.

Filmmaker John Iwasz said PaFIA “Helps attract business to the area and higher profile studio productions. Philly has a wealth of talent and resources.”

Next, Jennifer Schoenewald, passionate electrcian and member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), talked about what the organization is and why those in the behind-the-scenes production should join. “We want to have more work for all of us locally and not driving to Baltimore of New York for jobs.” Her presentation included contact information for those interesting in joining, costs, and requirements. Some words of advice she had for the crowd were “It’s so important you know everyone’s job (behind the scenes).”

Featured speaker of the evening was Melanie Forchetti of Mike Lemon Casting, who spoke at length about auditioning advice, resume tips and do’s and don’ts. “You are your product that you are selling,” she said. “What are people saying about you when you leave the audition?” In addition to a sample acting resume that was handed out, here is some of the valuable advice she provided.

  1. Invest in good headshots. Make sure they are in color. Look at the camera. Put your contact number on the back of your headshot even if your resume is stapled to it.
  2. Always bring plenty of copies of your headshots and resumes to an audition.
  3. Come prepared to auditions. Don’t just memorize the copy, but know the character.
  4. Dress like the part you are auditioning for. If wardrobe isn’t specified, come dressed like your headshot.
  5. Remember that casting is rooting for you, but don’t waste their time if you are not ready to audition.
  6. If you make a flub, don’t stop the read, but just keep going.

Forchetti told a “casting horror story” about a newcomer actor who was waiting in her office to audition. “She had practiced the copy, but when she arrived the copy had changed so we handed her the new version. She said how glad she was because the other copy sucked! Unfortunately, the person who wrote the copy heard her say that. Needless to say she did not get the part.” When asked why he attends this event, actor Mike Sutton summed it up nicely. “Two reasons. To see people I have worked with and to meet people I want to work with.”

PafIA was thankful to be at this event both with a membership table and with an opportunity to speak to the packed crows. This night brought in six new members to the organization. We look forward to future set ups with this worthwhile event.

To see more photos from this event, click here!