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Phillip Frey talks about film-making in New York, having a short film in the New York Film Festival and living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near the Hudson River.

READERSVOICE.COM: What was it like learning acting in Los Angeles back then, and being around other actors?

PHILLIP FREY: I think it built my character, made me a better person. Aside from that, it was the most fun I ever had.

RV: When did you move to New York and where did you live at first, and support yourself?

PF: As an actor in Los Angeles, I wanted to do film work, so I sought out an agent. One of them said to me that if a job playing an Indian (Native American was not in use back then), he would call me. There were a lot of movies and TV work for cowboys and Indians at the time. This was the agent who broke the camel’s back. I thought that since I had so much stage experience I ought to forget about film and move to New York to do stage, which I did four years after living in Los Angeles.

The agent experience happened just before the likes of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino appeared on the map. Like them, I’m ethnic looking. While in Los Angeles, the actors sought after were the blond, blue-eyed ones.

I moved to New York with a friend of mine who was returning to New York. I stayed with him at his mother’s apartment in the Bronx. Two other friends of mine from Los Angeles, who had been at LACC with me, came to New York and we got an apartment in the Village. The three of us lived in a nice building, in a one-bedroom. I slept in the living room.

My first six months living in the Village I worked in a Village candle/dishware shop. I then auditioned for Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival and got hired. Needless to say, I quit the shop.

RV: Where else did you live in New York and what are some of your memories of living there?

PF: After about two years in the Village, we three roommates found our own places to live. Thereafter we remained close friends. I moved to the upper West Side, to 81st Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. About a three-minute walk to the Hudson River and its promenade. A few years later, I moved to West 88th Street, which again was a quick walk to the Hudson. I stayed there for about 10 years, until I moved back to Los Angeles. The 88th Street apartment was a ground floor one-bedroom with a nice-sized garden out back. I loved the place.

The reason I moved back to Los Angeles was because I’d had a screenplay optioned by a Hollywood producer. I had been writing screenplays in New York and thought if I’m going to be doing that I should move back to Los Angeles.

Are you dizzy yet from my back-and-forth existence?

When making short films in New York, I had one accepted by the New York Film Festival. It was a very big deal. My short film, Three Days, was partnered with Francois Truffaut’s feature The Wild Child.

There was a little party afterward at the French embassy. I had a date with me, and she and I met Francois Truffaut. He was seated on a couch with Catherine Deneuve, whom he was going with at the time, and at that time, she was pregnant with their child. Francois didn’t speak English. Catherine translated for us. To be sure, it was an unforgettable evening.

I still miss New York. It’s an inspiring place to live, especially for any type of artist.

I think it’s time to give some chronological order to this. I started out as an actor to later become an independent filmmaker, to then become a screenwriter, ending up for now as a fiction writer.

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– copyright Simon Sandal