Hanover native producing for NYC studio
On the comedic game show "Billy on the Street," Billy Eichner ambushes passersby in New York City with trivia questions about pop culture.
South Western High School graduate Alex Tracy spent a couple months working the undesirable job of ambushing the unsuspecting pedestrians a second time, requesting they sign a release form to appear on the television show.
"One time I chased a woman into a hardware store," Tracy said, brimming with laughter. "She kept saying no. Then she threatened to call the police so I had to stop."
It's safe to say Tracy's life in the Big Apple is a far cry from the quiet life he had growing up around Hanover.
Tracy, 26, is making a name for himself in the visual effects industry as an associate producer for Method Studios, an international visual effects company in New York City. Since joining the creative group's team in 2014, Tracy has worked on several major commercial projects, serving clients such as Revlon, Papa John's Pizza and Coca Cola.
"I like the pace of the work and keeping busy, he said. "I hate when I don't have anything to do or I'm not working. My job really keeps me busy. I like going behind the scenes as well. Before I started working here I never knew how the entertainment/commercial world worked. It's really interesting to see the process everything goes through."
Tracy's active involvement in the arts at South Western High School helped shape his career path. He participated in choir, plays and musicals.
"I felt very close to it, and I took it very seriously, probably too seriously," he said. "It taught me how to be responsible for myself."
Chair of the music department Erika McKee was Tracy's favorite teacher and a significant mentor in his life.
"She was the perfect balance of the caring supportive type who you could go to for advice, but she also never suffered fools," he said. "She wouldn't put up with anyone's nonsense. I look back and I think she may be who I model my producing manners after."
McKee described Tracy as big-hearted, reliable and willing to try anything.
"He was a great risk-taker," she said.
After graduating in 2007, Tracy studied cinema and digital arts at Point Park University in downtown Pittsburgh with a focus on producing and screenwriting. He earned his diploma in 2011 and stuck around the city for a year producing short films and performing at the Steel City Improv Theater.
In 2012, he took the leap to the Big Apple. He worked at visual effects agency Framestore, where he served as a "runner," answering phones and fetching coffee for staff. He also worked as a facilities coordinator. The many connections he forged with employees who left for opportunities elsewhere helped him land his position at Method Studios.
"It's frustrating that the answer is luck and just knowing people because that's just such a cliche answer," he said.
As associate producer, Tracy collaborates with clients and artists to craft the vision an advertising agency is seeking. His work ranges from adding a computer-generated eagle to a commercial, to putting finishing touches on a Times Square interactive billboard campaign for Revlon. He's also worked on commercial spots for Papa Johns and Coca-Cola.
"For both of these, I was responsible for finishing these spots," he said. "After they had been color-corrected it came to us to be finalized. We added final audio, final legals and shipped it out the door. Depending on the project there may be some small clean-up. Clean-up can range from making products look their best to removing anything in the frame that the client doesn't want there."
In a public service announcement for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration entitled "Man in the Mirror," Tracy worked on "cleaning up" a mirror so viewers wouldn't see the camera, as well as placing a different person in the mirror, he said. It was his first official job as a producer, and he traveled to Los Angeles for the shoot. It premiered in movie theaters at showings for "Stars Wars: The Force Awakens."
When he isn't working, Tracy performs with and coaches improv troupes, an activity he was involved in at Point Park University. He also enjoys cooking.
His knack for the culinary arts helped him keep busy during Winter Storm Jonas. Like Hanover, New York City received its fair share of snow. Tracy spent his snowed-in weekend making biscuits, cookies, egg sandwiches and lasagna.
When the city isn't submerged in several feet of snow, Tracy said "there's so much happening all the time." Most places are open past 8 p.m., he can get a beer anywhere and the choices for entertainment are endless.
Though he enjoys the accessibility to so many things in New York City, Tracy misses living in a house in the middle of nowhere sometimes. He comes home to visit frequently.
"It's nice and quiet," he said. "I probably get better sleep when I'm home. It's just more relaxed."
He also misses some of Hanover's staples, like Texas Hot Weiner, the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center and R/C Hanover Movies.
For young Hanoverians preparing to embark on life after high school, Tracy is an advocate for broadening one's horizons and seeing what else the world has to offer.
"You can always come back," he said. "Always go for it. It's just about getting out of your shell and doing something that kind of scares you."
Tracy's ultimate career goal changes every three months or so.
"When I was a kid I wanted to be a chef," he said. "When I was in high school I wanted to be an actor. When I was in college I wanted to be a writer. When I graduated I just wanted a job. My ultimate career goal has something to do with writing. I wish I was more in the television side of production because I've always wanted to be a show runner. If it all doesn't work out? To quote Liz Lemon (of television show "30 Rock"), 'I don't know...I guess I could go back to teaching seniors improv on cruise ships?'"