small talk

I'm posting for 60 days straight, leading up to my early December birthday, and I'm making the time to write on behalf of slain UCC Professor and aspiring novelist, Larry Levine.

I attended one of those events tonight. An annual holiday mixer that featured English filmmaker Danny Boyle getting an award: an unassuming wood plaque from the San Francisco Chapter of the Director's Guild of America. The plaque's ostensibly because Boyle fought to have all of the production of his latest film, Steve Jobs, shot here in the Bay Area. Not Budapest, which would've saved, he said, $5,000,000.

Boyle's lovely, seems quite genuine and charming when he makes his brief remarks. There are probably 200 people in the country club ballroom, give or take. And I know maybe two or three people there, one of whom runs the event, so he's quite busy. Which means small talk.

I refuse to stand in the corner, pecking away at my iPhone. So I make a game of it. My goal is to talk with 10 strangers and prove it by collecting 10 business cards. I search for solo folks, walk up and say, "Hi, I'm Ben, what brings you here?" or "What's your connection to DGA?" And then we're off on a chat, sometimes filled with awkward silences, sometimes not. Sometimes we're joined by others, sometimes not.

The other obvious places to chat are the bathroom line or the inevitable line at the bar. Because - not exactly news - people love to talk about themselves. Or give an opinion on the latest Bond film, the election, last night's game, whatever. Or, as typical for the arts, bemoan how difficult it is to get work. Or share about their latest project.

So in the course of all this small talk, I actually say very little. I ask a few open ended, relevant questions. And simply listen. 

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