TV & Film    6 Tips from Legendary Casting Director Twinkie Byrd

6 Tips from Legendary Casting Director Twinkie Byrd

SmilingTwinkie2AimerAmour had the phenomenal opportunity to participate in an acting seminar with legendary Casting Director, Twinkie Byrd. Over the course of two hours, Byrd shared her personal experiences from being an intern collecting garbage and getting coffee to casting some of the most renown music videos, television shows and movies including Stomp the Yard, Jumping the Broom, Being Mary Jane and Fruitvale Station amongst many others. Byrd has such a wealth of wisdom that it’s almost impossible to decide what tips are more important than others. However, AimerAmour has compiled some of the highlights of the casting seminar and an interview with Byrd below!

…On the talent pool being a talent ocean:
Acting is the new rap. Rap was the new NBA. The NBA was the new NFL; everyone wants to do it. People that were in a church play are now calling themselves actors. And I get it. You have every right to feel that way. However, it’s up to you to do the business part of your show business, which is to keep in touch. I should never receive an email without a headshot attached to it. That should be apart of your signature as an actor so that I will constantly remember you. [Also] keep me updated, let me know what’s going on. It is not your job to send one email and say ‘Keep me in mind for future roles that you think I’m right for”. Then you’re putting me to work! Once I meet you, stay in touch.

…On staying current and not becoming complacent as a Casting Director:
I do student films in between feature films and television. I’ve worked with AFI, USC and I’ve been up for NYU Tisch projects. I do student films so I can stay up on who’s hot and who in my opinion is ready to be brought into the room. Sometimes it works out fabulously and sometimes it does not. The waiting period is a waiting period for a reason in order for you to be ready to stand opposite of some of these juggernauts that are the Denzel’s or the Morgan Freeman’s. Morgan only does two takes. And if its Morgan and Clint Eastwood, one take. That’s how serious they are.

1tb…Educate yourself without making excuses:
Stay present, stay in class and continue to educate yourself even if you can’t afford it. Can you afford to make coffee or make copies? There are other forms of currency; blood, sweat, tears, pick one. I emptied garbage’s and got coffee. I learned more during that time in my life than going to any school for broadcast and communications. I read everything before I had to put it in the garbage because I wanted to get it. There’s a method to my madness. And if it was an invitation for my boss, I was RSVPing. I needed to get my education from the pearls that were dropping from the mouths of folks; I need to get it from my community from actors, classes and workshops.

…Acting roles going to recording artists and celebrities:
I hear this a lot. Actors think they are missing out on a role because a recording artist or someone [famous] got the role. Let me give you a short story; Stomp the Yard. Who’s the lead in that? Columbus Short but why did people go see it? Chris Brown. That’s the end of my story. Be happy that Chris Brown was in that movie. There surely wouldn’t be a Columbus Short without Chris Brown. It was an awesome thing to do.

Be clear that this is a business. A lot of times the appeal of the recording artist is being used to get people in seats so that you can see all of the other brilliant actors and actresses that are in that production. So it’s not about someone getting the role that you may have had it’s about standing next to that person and shining. Do the work so you can then stand out and be seen. You had Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls but it introduced you to Anika Noni Rose, how great is that? For those recording artists that continue to act, that’s a gift. You want those people to fulfill their dreams just like you want your dreams fulfilled.

…The proper way to use social media:
Each Casting Director is different. And it’s important for you to know the differences and to be able to adapt because some Casting Directors are using social media and they’ll want you to send monologues etc, I’m not one of them. I’ve been bombarded most recently by young women and their family members while I was casting the Aaliyah biopic. It behooves you to pay attention to people’s demeanor and how they react. If there’s a conversation that starts join in with something great to say.

1tb copy 2If it comes down to having all of your friends and family say “Tweet Twinkie every five minutes so she can see me…” I will block you. This is not American Idol. Votes don’t mean you’re talented. Not where I come from. I’ll warn you and let you know that’s not the way. Be in places like [Twinkie Byrd’s casting seminar] so you can learn how to use social media properly and find out how to get in touch with people. It’s really not that hard to find us if you’re a real professional in your field.

There are times when there are roles that are hard to find, I’ll put them on twitter and that role may be for you. I found Imani Hakim on twitter. A director she had worked with said she’d be a great Gabby Douglas. I looked her up and found out she was the little girl on Everybody Hates Chris. She’s 4’11, and Gabby’s also 4’11. I brought her in and she ended up being perfect for it. She did an awesome job [in The Gabby Douglas Story]. So social media can work to your advantage.

Interning and volunteering in an office can also help to dispel myths. My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz and it [volunteering/interning] pulls back the curtain so that you can really see who’s working the controls. It’s good to come in and donate your time as a volunteer and find out what’s really going on in the room.

 1tb copy…Her transition from music videos to TV and film; the importance of remaining humble:
I cast for everything. The music videos I’ve done are pretty iconic. I’ve worked with Jennifer Lopez to Nine Inch Nails to Metallica and 50 Cent. I’ve cast Sanaa Lathan in a Brian McKnight video, I’ve cast Barry Pepper in a video directed by Forest Whitaker. I’ve cast all little kid look-a-likes for the Sky’s the Limit video for Spike Jones who is now a huge film director. There was a little Snoop Dog, little Faith Evans, little Biggie, Busta Rhymes and 112. I had to coach these kids onset on how to be these adults. Those were some great days and I remember them fondly.

Making that transition was very challenging. One of the things that I noticed for younger people, there’s a lot of ego involved. They want to be recognized and they want to be a star right now but they don’t even know what being a star means. I always hear, ‘I want to go to the next level’ but in order to do that, you have to get rid of the ego. If you want to go to the next level sometimes a lateral move is a vertical move. I worked for free to show people I could do it and the next time they would hire me. Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.

Special Thanks Lynn Jeter!

 

 

1 Comment

  • Twinkie is brilliant and knows what she’s talking about!

    July 10, 2014

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