Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
As a professional actor in Los Angeles for nearly eleven years, there are two classes that I take annually or biennially whenever they are offered. One is by commercial coach and author extraordinaire, Carolyne Barry, to keep my acting chops up! Right after studying with Carolyne the first time, I booked a national Budweiser Super Bowl spot for famed director Joe Pytka! Carolyne’s coaching also helped me theatrically. Her teachings work! That must be why Backstage West readers voted her classes Favorite Commercial Workshop in Los Angeles in 2009!
Casting Networks was honored to have Carolyne as our Inside the Industry Seminar guest speaker on September 26. Seminars with Carolyne are always fun, interactive, candid and very enlightening.
At the beginning, she impressed upon our attendees to know who you are studying with, along with their credentials. That way you will not only get your monies worth but know they are qualified to teach it. It is important to audit classes whenever possible. Carolyne, then, told us about her credentials-
- Acted in approximately 400 national commercials, 100 television shows and films
- 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 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 freesample 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.”
She said, “I passed out copy to a few people, so they can be used as examples. If I give you copy and you don’t feel comfortable getting up, then don’t get up. I want people to feel comfortable because I am using you as a way of teaching everybody….not to make you ‘perfect,’ but to teach you what it is I have on this sheet that we’re going to talk about.”
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 think everyone in attendance learned quite a bit when our six actors individually got up on the stage, slated and read the commercial copy given to them. Carolyne’s direction was succinct, honest and very eye-opening.
- “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.”
- “Arrive early. It gives you options.
- “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.”
Carolyne also allowed me to include some of the important points from her 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” (where you are).
- 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(Before 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 am currently reading Carolyne’s new book Hit the Ground Running- The First Years of your Acting Career-The Smart Actor’s Guide and although I am a seasoned actor in Los Angeles for many years, I am learning more than I knew before! 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.
Thank you, Carolyne for yet another lively and very informative Seminar. On a personal note, when you study with Carolyne you will become a more polished, confident and booking actor!