Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
After one of Hollywood’s premiere and most successful commercial coaches, Carolyne Barry, spoke to our free Casting Networks members Inside the Industry Seminar October 23, an actor said, “I had forgotten how great she is!” as he left. Carolyne’s seminars are always lively and interactive. When she gets actors up on the stage with sample commercial copy, the audience can see instant results in performances after her redirects.
When I introduced Carolyne, I said that I partially credit her with some of my success I have had as a professional actor in Hollywood because soon after I worked with her, I booked a Super Bowl commercial directed by the famed Joe Pytka. She then stated that she liked the word “partially” as no one coach, teacher, or director can take full credit for any actor’s success and that it is a culmination of experiences over years on our creative journeys as actors.
In addition to coaching, Carolyne produced a series of free videos for actors/performers with industry professionals called Master Talent Teachers that I have found very informative. I even learned quite a bit from one video featuring my commercial agent of 12 years with things that I didn’t know about him and the agency!! I also teach at the Young Actors Theatre Camp each summer 400 miles north of Los Angeles in the redwoods and use Carolyne’s enlightening articles that she has written over the years that are very helpful to actors of any age.
Here is Carolyne’s bio-
CAROLYNE BARRY has had extensive professional experience as an Actress, Teacher, Casting Director, Director, and Producer. Ms. Barry has cast over 600 national and regional commercials commercial campaigns, industrials and infomercials. She has 100+ television and film acting credits and has appeared in more than 400 national commercials.
Since 1982, The Carolyne Barry Workshops have been one of the most successful independent full training programs in Hollywood with one or two month waitlists. Carolyne and her teachers have trained thousands of professional actors. Recommended by agents, casting directors, managers, and former students, Ms. Barry is recognized as one of the top Commercial Audition teachers and is known to be one of the most comprehensive.
The Carolyne Barry Workshops have been voted Best Commercial Acting Program in Los Angeles by Backstage West three times in the last three years. She had been featured as a teaching authority in the The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Reader, The Examiner, as well as on C.N.N., K.H.J., K.T.T.V. and numerous TV and Radio talk shows throughout the country and has written for the Commercial Break column for Backstage West.
From 1983 till 1989, Carolyne created and ran Professional Artist Group which was the largest training and casting facility in the country. In 1995, she co-created and directed Hysterical Blindness a musical comedy that ran in Los Angeles for five months before it went to off-Broadway where it had an extensive run.
Ms. Barry’s book Hit The Ground Running was released in 2009 and is a best-seller wherever it is carried. Also on the market, Ms. Barry has two other products for actors. The first, Lights, Camera, Kids!, is a DVD for children getting into the commercial business. And she co-created An Actor’s Guide to GETTING THE JOB– a two-CD audio program (specifically created for both the actor who is ready to start getting work in Television and Film and the professional working actor who wants to increase their booking ratio) as well as a series of podcasts that are available on iTunes. And she is the founder of MasterTalentTeachers.com, one of the top online free video training websites for actors, dancers, singers, writers, comics, hosts, and models.
I had such a positive response from actors to my synopsis article/blog about Carolyne the last time she spoke to our Casting Networks’ members, that I included some still-pertinent points in this article.
Carolyne began by stating, “I want to start by telling you that Casting Networks and Tracy are very careful who they bring you. I am among only a few people they invite that is not a full-time casting director because I seem to really make a difference with people, so they allow me to come. I don’t really advertise my classes. I am probably one of the top commercial teachers in town with improv and all that stuff but I don’t advertise, so it’s all word of mouth. That’s one of the reasons I do it, but I also do it to give back for all the success I have had in so many areas. My goal for all of you sitting in this room is by the time you leave here today, your concept of how you audition for commercials will totally change. That’s my goal…total change over the next hour and twenty minutes. One of the things is that when people get up here, you’re going to listen to them but you’ve got to be careful of who you listen to. Even in my book (Hit the Ground Running- The First Years of your Acting Career-The Smart Actor’s Guide), I have fifteen people write where they agree or disagree with me because there is not any one way to have an acting career. I just want you to learn something from it. If you’ve heard the expression, ‘Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody’s got one and most of them stink’ … The thing is that I am a more-educated a**hole than most!” [laughter]
Carolyne also said, “On YouTube, I have a whole channel of videos about this stuff (coaching pointers) in more detail. Anything you want to know about me is all over the web. Good and bad. [laughter]
Carolyne gave out her step-by-step document that she uses in her commercial workshops called “The Blue Sheet” to all attendees to touch on a few points in our seminar.
Since Carolyne has worked in all facets of commercial production, from a commercial’s inception to the final spot on the air, her insights were especially on target. She said, “So when I talk to you about commercial auditioning, I am talking about it from all those different points of view…not just from an actress who was successful. My passion is the acting. My goal here today is to get you to change how you think about commercial auditioning. Most of you think there is acting over here and commercial acting over there and they don’t really rely on each other. I’ll tell you, like Tracy had said, a lot of people who work with me book theatrical stuff because it’s all about who you are and what you’re bringing to the audition and how fast you can make it happen. Actually commercial auditioning is harder and once you have mastered that, then theatrical is easy! What’s the difference? Theatrical auditions are character-driven and you have a lot more time to work on them. Commercials are personality and role-driven not character-driven for the most part.”
When Carolyne gave out the sample commercial copy to actors who volunteered, she stated, “I’ve given copy out to a few people here, so if I gave it to you and you all of a sudden have been hit by real fear, then don’t come up here. I tend to get really picky with people. Like she (Tracy) warned you, I am a kick-ass teacher….I have a sense of humor about it but there is a real difference by the way with other teachers as well. You have got to be careful. There’s tough and there is mean. I’m tough. The difference is that mean just likes to have an ego trip on you and be above you in some way. Tough is someone who cares enough to get in your face and push you to the next place. When you are judging teachers and people, I think that’s a good distinction to have, okay?”
She said, “At the end of my classes, we always talk and when I ask people what it is they have learned and achieved from the workshops, they say they feel more secure when they walk in because they know how to approach it (the audition). They have more confidence. Confidence is so important. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance though. Confidence comes from experience. Experience gives you confidence and confidence gives you freedom. I am a major advocate of that.”
Carolyne then suggested that we go to her website because there are free sample videos of what she teaches in her workshops. We, then, could review what we learned at the seminar. She said, “I want people to be educated. Yes, I want people to come study and train with me, but I also believe they can be educated.”
Carolyne stated, “This is my philosophy about who gets callbacks. 60% of why you get a callback is what you look like. You look around the room and most of the people are your age, your ethnicity or your ‘type’…whatever. So 60% of why you get a callback, not the job yet, is what you look like. I can’t do anything about that today, but in my classes, we talk about wardrobe, your hair and what you can do to be more in tune with your type. You have to look like your type. I had a girl working for me years ago when I had my casting facility who was tall, very character-woman, very tough, but she thought she was Marilyn Monroe. She didn’t want to be the character-woman that she looked like. You have to own your type whether you like it or not. Okay, 60% is what you look like. 20% is your talent. 20% is your personality, your essence, your confidence, if they feel good about you when they see you. All that stuff. Now what is the difference between the callback and the booking? Now it comes down to about 40% of what you look like because they’ve narrowed it down to people who are the right type. Then 30% becomes about your talent because they’re expecting you to be [talented], otherwise you wouldn’t be there. Then 30% becomes about how you take direction in the room, how people perceive you, your confidence, personality, and your essence. Does that make sense?”
“One of the things that you need to be aware of is how you come off in the room. When you come in, they don’t want you to complain….you’re not a problem, but you don’t want be ass-kissy either. By the way, I’m sorry if there are kids here for the cursing. I was married to a Sicilian. [laughter] How do you deal with the callback situation? You don’t want to be too much of an ass-kisser, but you don’t want to be someone who is arrogant and thinks he has the answers. I remember one year, I was casting this commercial and this guy obviously won this role and they had the callback just as a formality. He came in and said, ‘The direction of the writing on this is wrong.’ Strangely enough, he was right but when he walked out, the director said to the client, ‘I still am directing, right?’ That’s what some people do!”
Carolyne continued, “I have a girl who is a friend of mine now. She took my class for eighteen years…every year. She’s a very talented girl and she works a lot. It took her eighteen years because every time she would open her mouth, she would lose a job. So she would come in and I would do what I call ‘corrective beating’ with her and made her aware of how she was hurting herself when she went out on auditions. Then she would go out and book a bunch of them and then it would start to peter off again. She was smart enough to know that she was screwing it up and needed an adjustment every so often. So there are things that you can do besides your talent that will get you jobs or hurt you from getting jobs.”
I feel everyone learned quite a bit when our several actors got up individually on the stage, slated and read the commercial copy given to them. Carolyne’s direction was clear and succinct and we saw immediate results when they read the copy again! When a talented young actress read her copy the first time, Carolyne then asked the girl’s mother if she had done a lot of musical theatre. When the Mom confirmed that she had, Carolyne told the young actress, “There’s a difference in ‘performing’ and ‘acting.’ Performing is for a result. Acting is more personal and private.” Good advice!
WHEN SLATING and AUDITIONING–
- “Show up early because it gives you options.”
- “Slates are an introduction, not an announcement.”
- When doing a 360 degree slate- “You are a product. Have fun with it. Don’t make fun of it.”
- “You are the answer to their problem.”
- “Be friendly, positive, and professional. They don’t care if you are having a bad hair day and your cat has a urinary tract infection!”
- “Listen carefully. In general, if you listen, you will be way ahead of the game!”
- “When they say, ‘dial it down,’ it does not mean doing less but being more motivated and more honest.”
- “When you make a mistake, keep going and have fun with it! Mistakes are gifts!”
- “Laughter is the #1 way to relax you. It connects you to your spirit.”
- “If you are a ‘swayer’, put your weight on the front part of your feet when standing. Keep your weight on both feet, so you stay connected.”
Nearing the end of our seminar, an actor asked about Carolyne’s classes and her other teachers and if she did “privates.” I then asked Carolyne for her “last words of wisdom” as I do with all our guest speakers. Carolyne said, “I teach all of the advanced, half of the intermediate and a third of the beginning commercial classes because the guy who teaches the beginning classes has much more patience than me. [laughter] I’m a killer. I watch every video and I know what goes on with every person there. I have about 200 people in classes right now. I don’t do privates. I don’t believe in privates. I have some people who do coaching when they need it but I think privates are a waste of money. Learning is a transformational process. You need to go to class, work on it, practice it, go back to class, get more stuff and work on it. Think about the most value you’ve ever got is not by a one-time coaching. In fact, whenever anybody’s come to me and they’ve had two years of private coaching, I put them into beginning class because they don’t have that experience of transformation. There is a difference between information and transformation and maybe that will be my last thought for right now. Whenever you go get training, you’re interested in getting information but if the information does not create transformation, it doesn’t do you any good because the information by itself, puts you in your head trying to do the information. You haven’t been practicing and incorporating it long enough for it to become a part of who you are. Every single one of you, I don’t care if you’re the next Meryl Streep sitting in this room right now, we all can get better. The only way to get better is through transformation and accepting what it is you’ve learned. That’s why actors performances are so exciting. I tell people all the time, 95% of the people who started acting, won’t be here in five years, right? But if they are trained correctly, their life is better. There is nothing that makes us better human beings than knowing how to listen, react, not to take ourselves too seriously and all the stuff you learned in really good classes with really good teachers. Whether it’s with me or somebody else, research people, audit, make sure you feel connected with whomever you work with and get the best training you can….forever….because even as you get older, you become different people and you have to keep incorporating that. That’s why I love what I do because I think it really makes a difference in people’s lives.”
I asked Carolyne if I could also include her terrific “Blue Sheet” in our article and she said yes. Since she has 3 levels of classes, this is the simplified version.
Thank you Carolyne as always for a fun and educational Saturday morning!
To check out Carolyne’s classes, go to www.carolynebarry.com