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The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job

The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job

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The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job

702 pagine
7 ore
Jan 11, 2017


Karen Kondazian's newly revised and edited "The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors," compiles valuable inside information from over 100 premier casting directors, as regards to both Hollywood and New York film, television, theater and commercial auditioning. Bonus conversations included are discussions on film acting, with award-winning directors James Cameron and John Woo - and interviews with renowned acting coaches ‘to the stars,’ Larry Moss, Milton Katselas and Jeff Corey.

Great casting directors have the talent to identify which actor will fit that 'one role,' filtering through hundreds of 'potentials,' eventually delivering that actor into the hands of the decision makers. This in-depth book about the casting process informs actors what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk, what each casting director likes, dislikes and is searching for in the audition process.

"The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors" exists to educate, inspire and empower actors because far too much in this business is out of their control. You have at your fingertips an invaluable resource that serves the actor in any number of ways - one unique example being, it includes a photo of each casting director. (How many actors are in a daze when they walk into the audition room wondering if they are auditioning for the casting director or their assistant - now they will know).

Karen Kondazian’s experience as an award-winning actor and author ("The Whip," inspired by a true story) and her previous long running column for "Backstage," enabled her to ask questions on behalf of actors everywhere. The answers Kondazian has garnered for this book will hopefully give the actor real knowledge and confidence, so that when they walk out of the audition room, they know that they did their best.
Jan 11, 2017

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The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors - Karen Kondazian


Introduction: Why Do You Want to be an Actor?

Dr. Robert Maurer, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Robert Maurer is the director of Behavioral Sciences for the Family Practice Residency program at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, and serves as a faculty member with the UCLA School of Medicine. He also travels extensively, presenting seminars and consultations on a broad spectrum of issues facing people and organizations today. Particularly relevant to performers are his lectures on success, creativity, and fear. Maurer has appeared on ABC’s 20/20 and been profiled by The Los Angeles Times.

Did you ever pursue the arts yourself?

Well, I was cast as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel in the third grade. I was hailed by the school paper as the definitive Hansel, so my acting career peaked rather young.

Twelve or fourteen years ago, I was researching people who were successful in their jobs, health, and relationships, and I had the opportunity to interview highly creative people in the entertainment industry. At that time, I was also offered the opportunity to give a guest lecture to a writing class at UCLA. Researching for that class, in the course of looking at interviews with very successful writers talking about how they created their characters and their stories, I realized the path of the artist and of the scientist were the same. We are both interested in understanding truth and understanding the human condition. The only difference is the vehicle used to communicate those understandings. Successful artists are visionaries. Intuitively, and through other magic, they see why we scientists need instruments and machines to see. So I saw the opportunity to learn at the feet of actors and writers that which science had not yet found the tools to discover. That was how I became interested in working with actors.

Some of the most pivotal changes in my life were not in a therapist’s office, but sitting in a theatre watching a play or film, and being transformed by the experience. I feel a debt of gratitude no price of admission can ever pay. When I’ve lectured to theatre companies, I’ve never taken a penny as a way of repaying the gifts that I’ve received from the theatre. And everything I say applies as much to film as theatre.

What do you suppose drives actors into the profession?

Art has played a powerful and unrecognized role in the history of the world. I think the major motivation for people to be artists, and it can sometimes get complicated and/or corrupted, is this powerful need to express their spirit. There is a passionate need to be creative, to be expressive, to be seen and heard; you see children play-acting from the time they have words and the ability to move. They begin fantasizing, playing, imagining and creating. To me, that is the essence of the human spirit—the ability to imagine and create. What the actor does is to refuse to let go of that most human of all our drives. Most of us get corrupted in that pursuit and go after other things such as money, power, and possessions. But acting, in its true sense, is the essence of the human spirit. Now what has happened with acting, as it has with most other aspects of human life, is that we get distracted by the need to survive, the need to make money and the need to make things commercial.

George Wolfe said that, theatre is people sitting in the dark watching people in the light talking about what it means to be human. It’s true. That’s why people spend all this money to go to theatre and movies and ballet and to read books— to bring something into their lives that they cannot create on their own; actors make them laugh, make them cry and make them re-examine their lives. Even some of the most commercial of vehicles give people access to emotions that, in their personal lives, they don’t have the ability to access. Actors take us to the depths and the heights and give us a feeling of being alive. If we can’t do it in our relationships and our work, or in the way we move our bodies, we’ll do it in the darkness of a theatre. What’s so hard for actors is, given the absolute misery of the process—the auditions, so many classes, the rejections, some of the people you have to work with, all the things that make it painful—that dreams can easily get crushed and people can forget why they once began.

For some people, then money becomes their measure of success?

Yes, and it all boils down to how you define success. Most people get trapped by defining success as what they acquire in life: their possessions, how much money they can earn, their titles and their credits. I think it’s even more problematic for an actor because, unlike any other profession I know, the more success you have the more you have a momentum that continues unabated. As a psychologist, for example, you just assume that once you have established a reputation or competence, even though you will continue to grow and work, basically your future is ordained. That’s true for most professions. In acting, one success is no guarantee that you’ll get another job, let alone continued success.

There was a twenty-year study of painters in Chicago; they looked at people beginning in their graduate training in art, through their training, to what happened to them. They looked at one thing: those who loved school, who just enjoyed painting and the process, and those who were tolerating school and making the best of a difficult situation in the hopes that they would someday paint in a way that would be recognized with fame and fortune. The only people still painting twenty years later were those who loved painting and the process. Painting, like acting or writing or dancing, is such a difficult task. The rewards are infrequent. When they come, when you win the prize, when you get the acclaim, it can be very intense; but those moments are still few and far between, given the number of hours, weeks and months of work there is between those epic events. The people who love their craft and see themselves as artists, and carry that identity through and study each day, who use walking down the street as a place to study and observe, who absorb every person they meet because they don’t know when that person might show up in an artistic endeavor, those are the people who thrive. To me, that’s the only definition of success that matters. Successful people are able to sustain their identity as separate from their profession and what’s happening to them. That’s particularly important in the arts where what happens to you bears only faint correlation to your talent. Unless you take joy in the pursuit of it, you’re better off doing something else.

An actor’s life can be so miserable with all of its obstacles. But as an actor or a mother or a tollbooth operator it’s the same challenge: how do I learn to take joy in this moment? Most of us are convinced that if we could only have something outside ourselves, we’d be happy. We want the right relationship, the right job, enough money. It’s the same tragic error that we all make and actors have a harder time overcoming it because the environment is so punishing, even for the working actor. Once you make a project, you’re at the mercy of everyone. I heard a review of a movie on the radio this morning and it trashed an actor for two minutes. Most of us don’t have to deal with that. My mistakes are made within the privacy of an office.

What’s your advice to actors who put the rest of their lives on hold in pursuit of their careers?

The only reason we want to be successful and on a series making a lot of money is we think that that’s what’s going to make us happy. We’re all striving to be happy. What we lose along the way is the realization that we can all create that happiness, even in the face of all of these adversities. Human beings are capable of it. That’s why we are amazed by the Mother Theresas and Christopher Reeves and Nelson Mandelas of the world; they can live amidst pain, poverty, imprisonment and still find a way to create their own beauty. They are, if you will, Artists. They create their own beauty in an environment where it otherwise might not exist. They make their own stages. The actor has simply made that his or her life’s work, which is the most grand thing a human can do; but the grandeur of it can easily get lost when one’s trying to pay the rent or the car insurance.

Do you favor any techniques to help people focus on the moment?

One thing we recommend is to do volunteer work with people who are struggling. One of the tragedies of the human mind is that we forget how lucky we are. Even an unemployed actor has at least found his life’s dream, is living in a democracy and probably has his health. No matter how miserable our lives are during periods of rejection and bleakness, by comparison we are wealthy beyond means. We have so much to be grateful for; unfortunately, we’re just not wired for gratitude. The experience of helping others is to remind yourself how lucky you are to have found your craft and to have the freedom to pursue it—even if that pursuit can be painful. A second technique is having someone ask you, What do you have to be grateful about right now? What are you enjoying right now? One of the things we’ve discovered about the human brain is that it doesn’t store everything that’s happened to you, it stores what it uses. If you go through the day saying, What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get a break? Why can’t I lose weight? the brain doesn’t have the capacity to say, Hey, that’s not fair. Those are ugly questions and I refuse to listen to you talk to me that way. Instead, the brain is forced to start looking for answers and will start storing columns of cells about every weakness, flaw or mistake it can remember. It’s got all of that stuff stored, whereas all of the positive stuff gets no storage because you don’t go around saying, What am I happy about? What’s great about today? What do I love about being an actor? Those questions may sound kind of sappy but you want to practice saying them out loud so the brain gets used to storing information that relates to what you’re grateful for and happy about. Christopher Reeve, when he was interviewed by Barbara Walters, acknowledged all the pain and suffering he went through but he also said that he realized how lucky he was. We are all capable, even in the face of adversity, of celebrating how lucky we are. Reeve focused his mind and knew that he had the potential to control and shift the emotional experience, no matter the circumstances. That’s what art is all about—the ability to shift one’s perceptions of things.

Do you have any final tips for the actor?

I’ve worked with people in countless different professions. The most heroic of life’s paths is that of the creative artist. There is nothing that fulfills the human experience more. There are other animals that work together, that use tools that have language. The only thing that anthropologists have found that separates humans from other animals is our ability to create our own beauty.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two tragedies in the artist’s life. First, the artist doesn’t appreciate how grand and heroic their path is. He or she takes the most difficult and gallant road on the planet and then feels bad if it’s not commercially successful. The second is how artists are treated in the world. It’s not recognized that they are essentially our spiritual leaders. They are providing what religion attempts to provide. We dearly hope that they will entertain us and give us light and show us the way.

John A. Aiello, csa

John A. Aiello began his career in New York as an actor and producer. When a production of On Tina Tuna Walk, which he cast in New York, was to be mounted in Los Angeles, he relocated to co-produce and cast it. Tuna Walk and the play he cast the following year, The Ten Percent Review, earned a total of fifteen Drama-Logue Awards. Soon after, Aiello moved on to television as a casting assistant to Junie Lowry-Johnson. He subsequently worked as an associate to Lowry-Johnson on the television series Civil Wars, NYPD Blue Murder One, Nash Bridges, Marital Law and the feature, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Aiello went independent in 1995 and cast The Nutty Professor. Other work includes Sliders, The Burning Zone, Dellaventura and Fast Track.

During callbacks, the auditioning actor faces a great number of people in the room. To whom should he address his questions?

Though in most cases in television it is the producer who makes the final decisions, it’s best to address the director, because it is he or she who will direct the actor. But this dynamic varies from show to show and even from episode to episode, depending on the producer/director relationship.

What do you think can empower the actor during the audition process?

Professionalism is the key empowerment. Come in; do the scene, say, Thank you, and leave. Many actors expend a great deal of energy trying to make an impression with their presence through a lot of chitchat. That can prevent the director and producer from seeing you as the character.

I don’t recommend that the actor ask if they want to see the scene done in another way. Though you may think you gave a bad reading, the director may have thought you were brilliant. If they want to see anything different, they’ll ask.

It’s also really important to be on time. Having been an actor and producer myself, I am a stickler for punctuality. I hate to keep actors waiting to go in or producers waiting between actors. Waiting zaps energy. I try to balance the schedule so nobody on either side waits longer than ten minutes.

What are some tips that you think can enhance an actor’s career?

Believe in yourself, then go along and do all the other things that are necessary to keep your talent up to date. Most people in other walks of life work at least forty hours per week. If an actor is not spending at least forty hours a week honing his craft in some way, then acting is just a hobby. A career needs constant attention. The actor has to spend his time taking classes, doing workshops, going to the theatre, watching all the television and films that he hasn’t seen before, and doing everything else possible to promote his career. Being an actor is not just picking up the sides and auditioning.

Are you open to unsolicited submissions?

Though everything that comes into the office crosses my desk, I don’t recommend actors send their headshots and résumés unsolicited. Because even when I find you interesting, if I don’t have anything for you at that time, I have to recycle them. On the other hand, when we get submissions for a specific show, we divide them by character first, then go through them and decide who to bring in for a pre-read, who to take to the producers directly, and who to put on a list for generals in the future. Sometimes I may not have anything for an actor, but if they have a great look, I may bring them in for a general during slow weeks. But a general for me is not chitchat and monologue. Instead, I send the actor sides from actual scripts and ask them to prepare like a real audition. Then they come in and read it with me.

How do you keep in touch with new talent? Do you go to the theatre?

Yes, I do, but only when I know someone involved in the production, when a title intrigues me, or when a show gets great reviews. We also keep in touch with the work of actors by watching films and television. When my assistants see someone they like, they research them and bring them to my attention. Both my assistants want to be casting directors in the future and are very aggressive.

Should an invitation to the theatre include a picture and résumé, or do you prefer postcards?

Postcards are more economical and ecological. It’s the picture itself that sells me on somebody, not necessarily their résumé. Many résumés exaggerate and mislead. I’ve seen résumés where the actor mentions work on shows I worked on, and know for a fact they didn’t do. Or maybe they were an extra. But if you list it, you have to mention it was extra work. Not that being an extra during your early career is wrong; you have to start somewhere. As an extra, you have a chance on the set to learn the lingo, as opposed to wasting your time talking to the other extras and hanging out around the craft service table. Watch and learn about camera angles, observe how actors get direction, see how a performance changes from take to take. Eventually, your observations may pay off and you may move up from being an extra to doing under-fives, then to co-starring roles and even higher.

What advice do you have for veteran actors who don’t book as much as they should?

It seems that every five years, there is a great turnover of writers, directors and producers. Yet many veteran actors reach a point where—though they are available—they refuse to audition for the new directors and producers. They want the part offered to them. While I can understand it, I feel that this attitude is detrimental. You never know who you are reading for; the director you read for today may end up directing a major feature in six months. You should never turn down an opportunity to audition and show your talent to as many people as possible.

What do you enjoy most about casting?

I love actors. I live vicariously through them. I like to encourage people to be what they want to be. If they want to be actors, I encourage them and help them to be better at it. I didn’t get that nourishment when I was an actor. Today, nothing gives me a bigger thrill than finding an exciting talent, bringing them to the producers, and seeing them book the role. Or, if they don’t get it, but do such a good job that everybody likes them, I am thrilled because I can bring them back again for other roles. It gives me a great feeling to be able to say, Look who I found for you!

Do you have any other thoughts you want to share with actors?

I wish actors would prepare better for their auditions. Many don’t prepare at all. They come in without knowing who they are reading for, what the role is, what the style of the show demands. They pick up the sides right before they walk in the door and say, I’m sorry, I just got these sides a couple of minutes ago. It just doesn’t work for me. My big thing is thorough research and detailed homework. If, for example, you are asked to read for a television show you have never seen, get a subscription to Netflix and study it. As a result, for example, your sides feature a character named John, you will know that he is a series regular and is played by so and so. Now you will know how to play the scene because you will know how he acts and reacts. The same scene, read opposite a Drew Carey, is entirely different when it is played opposite a Sean Connery. So, know what your role is, know who you will play against, know the style of the show. Then prepare the best you can, come in, do it, leave and try to forget all about it. Go out instead and take charge of doing forty hours a week for your career.

Do you have any suggestions about how to cope with the constant rejections that actors have to deal with?

Do what I did; find a therapist with a sliding scale.

John A Aiello Casting, CSA

3400 Riverside Drive, Suite 100. Burbank, CA 91505 USA

Tel 818.238.2203

Julie Ashton

Julie Ashton got her entry into show business early on as a professional dancer and teacher. During her training at Arizona State University, she entered an actor’s talent search and won. She was flown to Los Angeles and met with many of the same people she associates with now. One of the contest’s judges, veteran casting director Caro Jones, took Ashton under her wing and hired her on as a reader. While she continued acting for a bit, she ultimately decided to stay in casting. After interning with Jones, Ashton worked as an assistant to Cody Ewell before moving to the office of Mike Fenton and Judy Taylor. There, she worked as an assistant before she was promoted to casting director and added Bad Girls, Operation Dumbo Drop and Lightning Jack, among others, to her credits. While still with Mike Fenton, she independently cast Flipper, Leviation, Anarchy TV and The Killing Jar before moving on to the position of director of casting at Saban Entertainment. Her work there included the pilot for the hugely successful Two Broke Girls, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the series Breaker High, and films The Internship and Balls of Fury.

In a sense, you started your casting career as a reader. Can you talk about how this kind of experience might be beneficial to an actor?

Being a reader was invaluable. You get to see what the casting directors and directors are looking for. You get to observe the whole process. And when the actor leaves, you get to hear the casting director, the director and the producer discuss what they liked and didn’t like. You see through their eyes how someone comes in and either blows an audition or gets it. And what makes them get it. It might not be because they were the greatest actor in the world. It might be because they had the right look or because they were really prepared and professional. It actually happens all the time that an actor blows me away but one person in the room doesn’t agree, and the actor doesn’t even get a callback. Of course, if I’m in a position where if I feel strongly, I can say, Look, I’m gonna fight for this person. They’re worth seeing again. But it’s not like I can do that every time with every actor or I’d lose my credibility.

Are there any special things the casting directors you’ve worked for taught you?

Collectively, every one of them liked actors and showed a lot of respect and compassion for them. That’s why they’ve became the successes that they are and that’s what they taught me. We need actors. We want actors to be as good as they possibly can. They always tried to make actors feel comfortable so the actor was relaxed and the best performance could come out. Negativity in any way hurts the actor, their performance, and ultimately, you, the casting director.

What’s your advice to a young actor who has no SAG card and little experience?

Study, study, study. Even if you have natural talent and even if you’re beautiful, you must know how to audition and know the business. The most important thing when auditioning is, being prepared. There just isn’t any reason not to be. And it makes us look good. We want everyone to be great. We want the producer to have so many choices he doesn’t know what to do.

Recently, at a callback, I had people who had been given literally a week and a half notice. Still, half came in and asked for sides. HALF! They hadn’t bothered to get the sides and prepare. It’s either laziness or they really don’t care. They think they can come in and grab the sides and do it. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t happen that way. Consistently, the ones who prepare and make choices land the job. And don’t think that I won’t remember those who come in unprepared.

Another part of preparing is asking important questions beforehand. For example, some actors like props. There are casting directors who won’t even look at you if you come in with a prop. So ask in advance. Call the assistant and find out what the casting director likes or if they mind. Likewise, the use of an accent. Call. Or have your agent call. But do the research. The more information you’re armed with, the better the scene will be. It’s all about preparation!

Are there people who come in and don’t have that charisma until they read?

I’ve had a few actors walk into a room and disappoint me with the way they look and then they’ll read and turn me right around. And it may not be because they’re not the most beautiful or anything else; it might be because they didn’t match my vision of the character or what my producer and director are looking for. Then they’ll go into this reading and completely blow me away and I’ll have to say, You have completely changed my original concept of who you were from when you walked in the door. Of course, the opposite has happened, too. A person can come in and you think, You’re it! You’re it! and then they open their mouth and you think, You’re not! You’re not! You can often tell within the first two sentences of the audition.

Any final words of wisdom?

Everyone should study. Study and empower yourself with as much information as you can. There are actors out there making millions of dollars who still take classes. You should never stop learning. You should never reach a point where you say, I’ve learned everything there is to know about being an actor. If you do, you’ll never fulfill your potential. Keep active. Get into a play. Time and time again I hear actors saying, I’m not working, my agent never sends me out. Well, what are you doing to get work? I hit that point, too, as an actress, and I had to reinvent myself and move on. I’m not telling actors to move on but rather than sitting in a chair, you have to do something. You are always going to be your own best agent. A lot of actors I know, and that I’m a fan of, have not necessarily come to me through agents. I see them in a play or at a workshop or showcase. It’s the actor you see over and over again, popping up around town that makes you think, He really wants this. And that means something to us as casting directors. Those actors are not sitting at home saying, I don’t know anybody in this town, and feeling sorry for themselves. Everyone wants to have a decent agent. Preferably a great agent. But only you can control your own destiny.

I know a lot of people who generate their own work in this town. It’s really important that you do as much as possible. Don’t stop. That goes for all of us. Even though I’ve been blessed with the situation I’m in, I can’t just stop and say, Okay, I know every actor in town. There are tons of actors out there I don’t know yet and more people come to town every day. It took a lot of work to get here. It wasn’t just luck. I had to take steps and pay my dues like in any other business. Intern. Assistant. Assistant at a bigger company. Casting director. Head of casting. And that’s the way it goes whether you’re an attorney, or a journalist or whatever. You have to work hard at it. I believe that if an actor really, really works hard and they put as much as they possibly can into their careers and, if they have talent, they’re gonna make it. Whether it’s just getting by and making a living as an actor or becoming a huge star, you’ll reach your own personal level of success.

Julie Ashton Casting


6253 Hollywood Blvd. Ste. 505. Hollywood, CA 90028

Anthony Barnao

The multi-faceted Anthony Barnao came to the world of casting after having been an actor, teacher and agent. As an actor he appeared in the off-Broadway revival of Fortune and Men’s Eyes and The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window opposite Mary McDonnell.

He served as head of casting at Empire Pictures in Los Angeles and Rome from 1984-87, as resident casting director of the L.A. Stage Company from 1984-85, and as director of casting for movies and mini-series for CBS from 1989 to 1990.

His work on pilots and series includes Crazy Love, Kane, and Boy Meets Girl. He also cast such movies of the week (MOW) as Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story, Roseanne: Portrait of a Domestic Goddess, Conviction: The Kitty Dodd Story, and Face of a Stranger for which Gena Rowlands won a Best Actress Emmy.

On the feature film front, he’s worked on Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, Doomsday Man, Re-Animator, Tracers and Prison directed by Renny Harlin.

His stage credits include Bermuda Avenue Triangle, Rue Merchants of Chaos and, for the La Jolla Playhouse, in association with Reuben Cannon, War Babies, As You Like It and Big River, which moved to Broadway and won multiple Tony Awards. He is the founder and artistic director of the Blue Sphere Alliance Theatre Company in Hollywood.

Barnao has also directed the feature Annie’s Garden and the play Bull Pen. He currently runs his own Management firm.

Which do you prefer: casting or directing?

Though I really love and enjoy casting, it’s not always a totally creative process. You can’t really see your creative input followed through all the way. Producers and directors edit your ideas. In contrast, as a director, I am responsible for the vision from beginning to end, and that’s very exciting to me.

Why do you think some talented actors succeed and others don’t?

Successful people are no different from anyone else except they are more focused, driven and work harder. They zero in on what they want and stick to it until they get it. They don’t just talk about it. They do it.

Dreaming is fine but it’s nothing without continuous practice and action. You can’t compete for the Olympics and be a phenomenal athlete unless you have been training all year round. Yet some actors think they can be good without constant practice. Ironically, a lot of the great stars still go back and get coaching, while many out-of-work actors stop their classes and workshops because they feel they don’t need any more training.

What advice do you have for actors who choke when they are taken to network?

The keys to overcoming the pressures of going to network are relaxation and concentration. If your instrument is relaxed, your emotions will be accessible. Your body will feel safe and allow itself to express. But if there is tension in you, it will stop your artistic process. Tension chokes the actor by stopping the emotions from coming out. Concentrating on the person you are reading with is another helpful tool. It can turn you into a person who is in the moment, as opposed to an actor who is just reading in a room.

It is also helpful to know that everyone in that room is behind you. Even the network president wants you to be good. They don’t sit there with folded arms and say, impress me. They are happily anticipating that you will be the one who is going to do well for them. You may also make the mental adjustment that everyone in that room is just a human being, like you are, and not a person who has power over your life.

Can you talk about what the different mediums require from the actor?

For the stage, it’s all about craft, while television has an incredible need for likeability. Film demands faces that you can’t stop looking at. These are faces that can’t hide the inner life. Some of the best film actors are not the best actors in the world, but they have this attractive chemistry or charisma.

Do you think that charisma can be taught?

I believe that it can be developed. You can help yourself become more charismatic by learning to become more aware of who you are. The primary thing that the actor has to offer is his essence and his truth. What better gift can you offer to an audience than your true self? So tap into your unique truth and emotions and express them. Even if it is rage and anger. Look at Al Pacino; he’s a master screen actor who uses his anger and power and turns them into pure charisma. Powerful actors are comfortable with their emotions and paint with them in their work.

Can you talk about where this reservoir of emotions resides and how to access it?

Your thoughts have a home in your body and that is in your mind. I believe that emotions reside in the center of your body. For example, when your heart is broken, you feel heaviness in the chest; when you get nervous, you get butterflies in your stomach—also the home of ulcers, etc. In order to open your center wide, however, your instrument has to feel relaxed and safe. Cherish what you have inside. All the experiences that you have lived through are your assets. They are the power you can bring to your work.

Do you have any antidotes for alleviating the pain of constant rejections?

You can’t make your career your whole life. If you do that, you put your whole fate in other people’s hands. And of course, as a result, you feel depressed. Instead, have varied interests that you value, and over which you have some control. In other words, try to live a balanced life.

It also helps to be clearly aware that a career in acting is a very long race. Therefore, know that you may have to persevere for a long time before anything breaks through for you. If you can’t do that, there is nothing wrong with getting out of it and doing something else you love instead. You will not be a failure for having done that; just the opposite.

Any final career advice?

I feel that, during the audition process, actors give away too much of their power. Make the ten minutes you have in the room your ten minutes. You have invested hours preparing for this moment. We are there to serve you by watching your work. Be confident and be yourself. Don’t try too hard to get a conversation going, or try to be a nice person. It’s not necessary. But again, be professional and courteous. Also, don’t ask if you can do it this way or that way. Just do it. Don’t give your power away by asking permission. Yet be respectful of the person and their office at all times.

When you prepare for an audition, put a stamp on your work by playing an aspect of yourself. Anchor the character in yourself, then dress it up, alter it or mask it to fit the role. It has never made sense to me that actors want to lose themselves in a role. As brilliant as Brando is, have you ever seen one of his movies where he wasn’t himself? You can’t lie to the camera. It looks right into your soul.

The Barnao Company


Deborah Barylski, csa

Deborah Barylski got her start in casting working with Eileen Knight on the series, Lou Grant. As a casting assistant and then associate at MTM Television, she also worked on St. Elsewhere, Newhart and Remington Steele. Barylski has done many series and pilots since then but is best known for her eight-year stint casting Home Improvement, including the pilot episode in 1991. In 1997, she added the pilot and series of the NBC hit, Just Shoot Me! to her plate and ABC’s The Middle. Other TV credits include Dirty Work and Arrested Development.

A few years ago, an actor who did feature films would never think about doing television. Now it happens all the time—Just Shoot Me’s George Segal and Laura San Giacomo being prime examples. Do you think that the television versus film chasm has closed completely?

People are discovering that doing television does not necessarily ostracize them from working in features. Or vice versa. It’s a much more open system than it was a few years ago. I think one of the reasons a lot of actors have gone from film to television is that they’ve discovered that the half-hour format allows for an incredibly livable life, especially if they have small children. The actors are at work Monday through Friday from ten until six and in town instead of on location somewhere. They can send their kids off to school, go home and have dinner with their family, have the kids on the set.

What does the schedule of a sitcom workweek look like for the actor?

Day One is the table read. It’s usually the first time that the producers, writers, director and company have heard the script out loud. The network is sometimes there as well. That takes about half an hour. Then, depending on the show, you might be released for the day or have a short rehearsal. The producers take the script and do rewrites that evening. On Day Two, you come in and there are new pages. You read through it again. Then you rehearse it as if you were doing a play. Some simple blocking. You try not to set it too much. Then you show the producers and writers a roughly blocked run-through so that they can see what needs to be changed. At the end of Day Two, the writers do the major rewrite. You sometimes come back to the table on the third day with a brand new script.

During those blocking rehearsals, do the actors get to contribute their suggestions?

That depends on the director. But basically the blocking for half hour sitcoms is very simple. It’s entrances, exits, and a few setups so the camera can help tell the story.

Some actors new to sitcoms say that they have problems playing to the camera and to a live audience at the same time. Do you have any advice?

They have to play to the camera. There are microphones above the actors and monitors for the audience so the actor doesn’t have to worry that the audience is going to be left out. The audience can and does feed the actor. But actors can’t act as if they’re playing to the last row in a theatre. Anyway, on Day Three you show up on the stage and usually there is another read-through since the writers have made the biggest changes in the script the night before. Then you rehearse and adjust the blocking. At this point, there are still no cameras on the set. It’s like rehearsing a play.

At what point do actors start to memorize their scripts?

Starting to memorize any time before the second day is not beneficial because so much changes. But most everyone is off-book (has memorized their lines) by end of the third day or beginning of the fourth.

As the director is blocking, he’s also got the camera angles in mind. He knows that if someone goes two steps too far, they’re going to be out of frame. On the third day, the director sits with the associate director to plan all of the shots. Day Four, cameras come in. It’s called camera blocking day. The camera operators are given the choreography that the director has worked up the night before. Then there is another run-through, sort of like a final tech dress rehearsal. They’re adjusting positions as they go along, seeing what works and what doesn’t on camera. The fifth day is opening night.

Home Improvement tries to shoot as much as they can during the day. They try to get a whole show in the can without an audience there, then they take a break and do it just once with the audience present. Just Shoot Me does some pre-shooting but the bulk of the filming is done in the evening in front of the audience. If there are big wardrobe, makeup or set changes, they try to shoot those scenes on Day Four or on the morning of Day Five, so they’re not holding up the audience for three hours for major shifts in wardrobe or set. After you shoot the show on the fifth night, your week is done.

Is it stop and go during shooting or do the scenes play straight through?

They try to play the scenes all the way through and they do each scene a few times.

What happens if an actor goes up on lines?

Then they have to start over. But the rule of thumb for actors is that you never stop until the word cut is yelled because they can always do pickups. A series regular might be able to say, You know what, I have to stop and do that again, but not a guest player. A guest player is a hired hand. You go in there and do what you’re told. Don’t stop the action. There might be something in the reaction of the people around you that could be perfect and if you stop it, you’ve ruined something that could’ve been used. So you never stop. If you go up, try to recover and keep going and let the director decide if he or she wants to stop.

So, do you think improvisation skills are important to actors?

Absolutely. Taking improv classes stimulates the creative process and helps keep you inventive. But some great actors are really bad at improv. And not all people who are good at improv are good actors. There are some improv people who are hysterical with their own material but can’t seem to make the transition into making someone else’s words funny. There are actors who I think are doomed forever to be what I call sketch actors: they’re funny, clever and witty . . . but shallow. But improv training is always going to be a great acting and learning tool to open up the heart and soul and get the juices going.

What are some things that you don’t like actors to do at auditions?

I hate it when actors come in and aren’t prepared. Also, people who are late for appointments piss me off. An actor has a lot of jobs to do. One of them is to be well trained, to take classes and do plays to keep the instrument in tune. That’s the artistic side, the part many people love. But then there is the business side and that involves getting enough sleep before an audition, finding out its location ahead of time, being on time and coming prepared. That’s the business side of it. You have to be good at both sides. There are thousands and thousands of actors in Los Angeles. If you do not handle yourself in a professional manner, I may not call you in again. There are many other actors who could come in and fill that slot.

Do you think that there are good actors who are not particularly good at auditioning?

I know some people who have that problem. There are people I love on stage but every time I bring them in, it’s just like a flatline. They’re not being real or they’re wooden or theatrical. Even with adjustments, they still can’t seem to nail it. I eventually stop calling those people in because I can only give someone so many chances over a period of time. I’ll try them again after a year or two but if they’re not delivering two or three times in a row, I’m not going to be able to call them back in.

No matter how gifted they are?

No; because television is essentially about time. Producers want to audition someone, plug them in and have them be as low maintenance and as low profile as possible. In and out, no rocking the boat. They can’t risk putting the technical crew into Golden Time (double their hourly wage) because they’re waiting for the performance that you haven’t given them yet.

What do you mean by low profile?

When you come in on the set you have to realize that it’s not about you. You’re a guest star or a co-star or a featured player on the show—you might even have the biggest part—but it’s not about you. It’s about the series regulars, it’s about the producers, it’s about getting out of there at a certain time because they’ve got to do publicity pictures. It’s about everything but you. That’s why, if you can’t come into an audition and nail it, you’re not going to get cast. That’s why producers really want to see the performance in the room. They want to make sure that you can get there by yourself just in case the person directing can’t help you. There might be refinements but basically, they want to see what they’re going to see on film. We don’t have four weeks for you to rehearse it and get it in shape.

Any final tips for actor?

Get out of yourself. If you find yourself with extra time, instead of going to the beach, volunteer at a retirement home. Keep yourself well rounded. Acting is what you do, not who you are! Enlarge your perspective as a person so acting is not the only thing that gives you joy. Figure out something else you can do that feeds you, something you can do while you’re waiting for the phone to ring. Whether or not you have success, you must figure out why you’re in this business. If you’re in it because you must act, then you’re going to get pleasure from acting classes and auditioning. You’re going to get pleasure every time you do it. If you’re in it because you want fame or attention, you’re going to have a lot harder time. You have to decide if acting is your career or your avocation. If you’re in it for the long haul, you have to look at the arc of your career. But define yourself by who you are, not by your career alone.

Deborah Barylski

Lisa Beach, csa

Lisa Beach received her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard University. She worked as a researcher before coining to the world of casting as an assistant to David Rubin. Her work for Rubin includes the features War of the Roses, Men Don’t Leave, Scrooged, Less Than Zero and others. She went on to become an independent casting director as well as a casting executive. As vice president of casting at HBO (1992-1994), she supervised the casting of such features as The Burning Season, Tyson, Witch Hunt and one of her favorites, ...and the Band Played On which won both an Emmy and Artios Award for casting in 1994.

Her features include We’re The Millers, The Wolverine, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Identity Thief, About Schmidt, School Ties—for which she was nominated for an Artios in 1993— Citizen Ruth, Richard III and the mega-hits Scream and Scream 2.

What are some of the things you learned while working with casting director David Rubin?

He taught me everything I know about casting. Not only the logistics of office management and list making, but also the more subtle intangibles. I worked with him for about two years and learned how to be with an actor in a room and get the best out of them. I also learned to quickly put faces

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