Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Disclaimer- Last year after I wrote my article about our following guest, I received an unsettling email from an actor who claimed that I must have gotten a “kickback” from the guest because my views and article were so complimentary of her. This was not the case at all. People who know me, know that I am of integrity and only say something if I sincerely mean it. I value and appreciate Casting Networks’ trust to have an actor write an article through my filters that is read primarily by actors. On the upside, I got a fantastic email from a working Commercial Casting Director who said, “I loved the article that you wrote on Carolyne Barry. Very smart and informational”. I guess you can’t please everyone! Below is part of that article, as well as new information.
On July 31, much requested Commercial Acting Coach and Commercial Casting Director extraordinaire Carolyne Barry was our Inside The Industry guest speaker. Personally, as I stated last year, studying with Carolyne, not only helped me immeasurably, but measurably, every time, I got a residual check for the national Budweiser Super Bowl spot directed by famed Joe Pytka that I booked after studying with her. I also became a better theatrical auditioner. Whether it was because I was a more confident actor or with a better on-camera technique or a combo of both, her teachings worked!
Carolyne began by stating, “I brought just a handful of [commercial] copy which I’ll pass out to just a few people. These people who I am passing it out to, do not take the copy if you mind being made an example of, okay? It’s not a matter of casting you or seeing you act. It’s a matter of helping everybody else by using you as an example, so if that doesn’t feel comfortable for you, don’t take the copy that I give you. Before I do, I want to start by telling you that Tracy and Mary and the people who run this 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 that I’m really passionate about what I believe. 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…totally 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 gleen 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]
Below are Carolyne’s credentials-
- Acted in approximately 400 national commercials, 100 television shows and films
- Awarded Backstage West’s 2009 Favorite Commercial Workshop Readers Award and Backstage West’s 2010 in the Top Three Commercial Coaches Readers Award
- Co-owned and managed the largest casting and training facility in the United States for six years
- Been among the top commercial teachers in Los Angeles since 1982
- Managed the most successful sole-proprietor acting workshop programs in Los Angeles since 1991
- Taught and/or supervised the training for more than 20,000 actors
- Is a recurring guest teacher at universities, numerous Los Angeles Talent Agencies, LA Casting, The Actors’ Network and the SAG Conservatory at AFI.
- Has cast hundreds of commercials and infomercials since 1986
- Co-owned and was the president of the Caliber Creative Advertising Agency for five years
- Directed and helped write a successful off-Broadway play
- Been featured as a teaching authority in The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Reader, The Examiner and Backstage West, as well as on CNN, KHJ, KTTV, and numerous other TV and radio talk shows throughout the country
- Was a contributing writer for Backstage West’s “Commercial Break” column from 2006-2007
- Created Lights, Camera, Kids, a DVD program helping kids start their careers (currently in distribution)
- Co-created the CD program Getting the Job, to help actors do their best auditions (currently in distribution)
Since Carolyne has worked in all facets of commercial production from a commercials’ 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.”
Carolyne then referenced a step-by-step document that she uses in her commercial workshops called “The Blue Sheet” and gave it to the attendees saying, “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-
- “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.”
- “Show up early because it gives you options.”
- “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.”
Carolyne also allowed me to include some of the important points from “The Blue Sheet.” They are-
PREPARING FOR THE COMMERCIAL AUDITION
- Paraphrase out loud…dialogue and/or action. (Use the person’s name you are speaking to.)
- Determine three different sets of “who” (specifically you are talking to), “what” (your objective, pre-life, after life, etc.) is and “where” (Paraphrase out loud…dialogue and/or action and use the person’s name you are speaking to.)
- Motivate every new idea/choice in monologue copy (like it is dialogue).
- Examine a few ways to button the piece (afterlife).
- With 5 words or less, know what you’ve seen, thought, or heard that creates a simple physical, UNREHEARSED reaction that motivates the first line or action for each way (Pre-Life).
Memorize first and last lines, and only as much as it feels comfortable. Remember the first and last lines are the slowest lines in the piece.
IN THE AUDITION
• Trust your instincts/choices. Connect. Commit. Communicate.
• Talk, don’t sell, to someone specific when you are looking into the camera or if it is a scene partner, be authentic, enthusiastic and likeable (unless directed otherwise).
In closing, I have read Carolyne’s book Hit the Ground Running- The First Years of your Acting Career-The Smart Actor’s Guide released last year and although I am a seasoned actor in Los Angeles for many years, I learned a lot! Some of the industry professionals who are contributing writers are Terry Berland, Michael Donovan, Bernard Telsey, Amy Lyndon and Todd Justice just to name a few.
I loved what Carolyne said in closing. She said, “To me, there is not a lot of competition. There are just a lot of people.” Thank you, Carolyne for yet another interactive, smart and very informative Seminar. On a personal note, when you study with Carolyne you will get your money’s worth and will become a more polished, confident and booking actor!
Check out Carolyne’s website and her classes and products.