Are You Ready for Hollywood?
A Chat with Casting Director Matthew Barry
The realities of acting and the obstacles and hurdles.
Matthew Barry is one of Hollywood's top rated casting directors. In fact, he is not only a successful casting director, he's a successful actor. This has awarded him a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge by working both in front of the camera and behind it. His familiarity of the inner workings of this industry makes him the perfect acting coach. If you are interested in acting and learning what it takes to be successful in this business, be sure to check out Matthew Barry's "Are You Ready for Hollywood" acting course. This traveling acting class may be coming to a city near you.
General Acting Advice
Acting is like any other profession. You have to learn the basics, then expand your knowledge. Too often I hear "I can do that." Yeah, well, have you ever tried hitting a golf ball? It ain't easy. Neither is the craft of acting. It is a "craft." Just like carpentry, being a lawyer, or even working in your local 7-11. You have to know what you're doing BEFORE you do it.
Classes and Instruction
Each actor has his or her own "method." Some are stronger in improvisation, some are stronger in comedy, others in drama. The best in Los Angeles I've found for Drama is Leslie Kahn, the best for Comedy is Margie Haber and the best for Improv is Second City (many think Groundlings is the best, but it has become too much of a machine over the past few years). BLATANT PLUG: If you're out of town, come take my affordable ONE DAY course. It will teach you everything you need to get started.
Schools or Colleges
UCLA is aces. Carnegie Mellon and Yale back east.
The Realities of Acting
If you're acting to become a "movie star" then continue doing what you're doing now. You'll be a lot happier in the long run. If you're becoming an actor because you love acting, then you've just taken the first giant step. Like everything in life, acting is a struggle. But don't give up on your dream. Work hard. As a successful actor and now a successful casting director, I'll pass along a piece of advice given to me a long time ago: "Every year 10,000 people come to Los Angeles to act. After the 1st year, 1,000 are left. After the 2nd year, 100 are left, and those are the ones that don't give up and work. You have to understand something. There are 15 Networks (Fox, UPN, WB, CBS, ABC, NBC, HBO, Showtime, FX, TNT, USA, Lifetime, Oxygen, MTV, VH-1) who all cast original programming and many others as well. They need GOOD actors and they are ALL competing for the same talent pool. As casting directors, we WANT you to be good, we WANT you to be the next star. But it all starts with you!
Acting Obstacles and Hurdles
Finding an agent, getting the job, keeping in shape - all things you have to do. Mentally and physically. You're creative, right? Figure out a "creative" way to get yourself noticed. But you had damn well better be sure to have a good product. Once you have a bad reputation, you're done. Casting directors keep meticulous notes. One agent said "you LOVED them the last time you saw them," I looked in my computer database, and my comments were "can't act. period!" - Do you think that actor got another shot in my office?
Please be aware of scams as well. There are TONS of people who claim to be "producers" or "managers" and most of them either want your money... or your body. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!! They've gotten you THIS far, why stop now???
Child Actors and Parents of Child Actors
Personally, I've seen THOUSANDS of parents who all say "my child wants to act." NO THEY DON'T!!! The problem is THE PARENTS want them to act! My opinion is, let a child be just that. A child. Don't do it. Your kid will be happier in the long run. Just look at Michael Jackson.
When in doubt - contact a lawyer.
Work Averages and Payment
SAG daily Scale rates are around $630.00 per day and weekly is slightly under $3,000.000 per week (check www.sag.org for proper rates). Non Union pays less and who knows what those rates are.
The Casting Process
We send out a "breakdown" which tells the agents what we as casting directors are looking for - we've consulted with the director and producer so we know who to cast. Then the agents submit who they think is right based on what we've asked for. Then we'll weed through all the pictures and resumes and choose the ones we "think" will be able to do the job - then we call them in to audition. If we like them, most likely they'll get a "callback" for the producer and director. If they like you, a deal is made through your agent, and you're on your way!
Acting Technique and Warm-Ups
Get together with friends. Read plays. You can buy plenty on www.samuelfrench.com. Hey, if Tiger Woods can hit 500 golf balls a day, you can read and perform plays with your friends.
Be prepared, or you will die!!! ASK QUESTIONS!! So many actors don't and I wish that they would. BE PREPARED TO ADJUST - This biggest mistake actors make. My partner and I always have our actors stand (the energy is better), but many of them have rehearsed SITTING DOWN! Guess what? If a producer does this to you and you can't adjust, what makes him think that you can adjust on the set? Say "thank you" and leave. Don't be insecure and say "can I try that again?" or "that was awful" - Do the job. Leave. It's like ANY job interview. Oh, and PLEASE show up on time. In our office, if you're late, we re-schedule you or let everyone else go ahead of you. Don't waste our time, we won't waste yours.
Cold Reading Instruction
I have the single best exercise, but I can't do it in written form, you'll have to take one of my classes, but I guarantee, you'll be 250% better at cold reading than you were the hour before you did this exercise.
You do NOT need to dress like a doctor when playing a doctor. However, if you're a gang dude, don't wear a suit.
Fun Acting Stuff
Hell, you're acting for someone today! You SHOULD have fun! Learn IMPROV! Many comics are landing lead roles in films and the other actors had BETTER be able to IMPROV. I do it in my office as well. The scene may be over, but I'll keep going just to see what you can do.