"Us" vs "Them": An Editorial

Is Hollywood and Broadway Better Than Local Talent?

     There is a general misconception that most people fall prey to about the quality of what’s available here (meaning anywhere except New York, Los Angeles and possibly Chicago) and there (meaning specifically New York, Los Angeles and possibly Chicago).  The misconception is this:  If you want the best talent, you can only find it in New York and Los Angeles (and possibly Chicago).  If your talent comes from the local market, it is somehow inferior to what’s in the major hubs of the U.S. entertainment industry, that business we call “show”.


     The truth of the matter is this.  Those supposedly superior markets contained the same range of talent as you can find anywhere else in the United States.  What makes those markets different than local markets is the numbers.  There are more actors located in New York and Los Angeles than in other areas. This means two things.  You have more actors to choose from, who are desperate for work, and the level of competition and likelihood of getting work is decreased by the volume of competing talent trying for the same role.


      I just finished the first round of call backs for my film, and I was blown away by the overall quality of talent that auditioned.  I have the best problem in the world when it comes to casting this feature film.  Too many talented actors and not enough roles to do them justice; and they are all from around here.   I’m not talking “adequate” or “can get by with” performances.  I’m talking about superior, elevated quality that I never expected to find in such quantities in a smaller Midwestern market. In spite of the dedication and passion exhibited by our local artists,  we are still perceived to be a bunch of amateurs pursuing a hobby.  Let’s face it. If we were any good, we wouldn’t be here.  We’d be where the real action is, right?  We’d be plying our trade on the coast, or in Chicago.


      So, what is the point I’m making?  Do not underestimate the value of what’s here.  Local does not equal inferior.  Local equals readily available.  For the actor, local means a greater likelihood of getting great roles.  For the director, local means sifting through a smaller, more manageable pool.  Now, if you are looking for a one-eyed, one-armed Polynesian with a lisp, you might need that larger pool of talent that resides on the coast.  Or you can invest a little more into your makeup and effects budget.


     The best kept secret in Kansas City is the thriving artistic community.  To the world at large, Kansas City has jazz.  That’s all they know about.  As the owner and managing editor for KC Stage magazine, I helped set up over 200 theatre accounts for local theatre companies.  The Independent Film Coalition has trained and helped to produce a large body of work for budding filmmakers, who have gone on to produce web series, short films, and features. I have participated in and supported (via KC Stage) a local Fringe Festival that has grown from a single weekend event to a two-week festival that is spread around the downtown area of Kansas City.


     “They” are no better and no worse than “us”.  There are just more of “them”.  And that is not always a good thing, especially if you are one of “them”.  It’s kind of like swimming in a pool of sharks.  The more there are, the more likely you are to be eaten.  The fewer there are, the better your chances of fending them off and achieving success.  Make no mistake, film is a shark-infested business


     So, in closing, do not dismiss “us.”  We are every bit as good as “them.”  All we really need to compete with “them” is the active support of our local community.  Help by funding the projects you are interested in.  Help by spreading the word about the amazing artistic things you see.  Help by attending your local artistic events.  I happen to be in Kansas City, but this principle applies to any local municipality.