Matt continued, “I got to work with some phenomenal Directors…I was working for Tim Burton, I worked with Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley and Tony Scott, Burton again and it was even more exciting. I was building my career, building my reputation and building my resume. In about four years, I broke off from Vickie and started a company with my former agent, Nancy Green-Keyes because we love each other madly and Lord knows, she puts up with me and I put up with her. She had seventeen years of being an agent breaking a lot of huge careers and it was my resume that got us in the door and her expertise dealing with agents. I only had four years and she had way, way more than I did, so it made a terrific 'good cop, bad cop' kind of scene.”
Matt stated, “The one thing I’ve learned is that I love actors and I love talent. There’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than to discover new talent. You never know from where, from anywhere. From San Francisco…from Australia. A bunch of us top Casting Directors did a tour of Australia and we were all fawning over these three actors who are just going to blow up! New York…anywhere! I did a film; don’t hold it against me, Good Luck Chuck. [laughter] We all have rent to pay, right? We needed a really, really, really large woman. Our director wanted a 500 pound woman and so I found one on MySpace down in Texas, so you never ever know. But the one thing I love is talented new people and thinking outside the box. I think all Casting Directors are like that. We want to find somebody fresh. We always see the same people. I know it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to get in, it’s hard to get an Agent, it’s hard to get a Manager and it’s hard to be seen…. But if you have talent, I promise you, if you stick it out, you will be discovered.
"I’ve seen it too often. I’ll give you a perfect example. Many of you saw Avatar? The bad guy, the bad colonel Stephen Lang. Stephen Lang has been around since time began! Finally, after beating down the doors, doing all those bad roles and going out on auditions, finally, Michael Mann cast him in Public Enemies…then he gets Avatar, so he’s got two gigantic films and now he’s finally reached that pinnacle in his career that he’s waited all those years for. I’m so happy for him! Those are the ones that stick it out…those are the ones who don’t say, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to happen for me.’ No…he kept at it, he kept working hard. That makes me happy. Only you can decide in yourselves and in your minds, ‘Do I keep at it? Do I keep at it? Do I keep at it?’ I always say, you never know what’s going to happen! When you look at all the Blockbuster films that come out, some of them bomb and some of them are great and then you have something like Paranormal Activity*, right? Who would have thunk? It happened years ago with The Blair Witch Project. Another one…Christoph Waltz from Germany. (Inglorious Bastards) He was a B movie type TV actor who just happened to get a great break and is a fantastic actor. It’s all in here (and pointed to his head).”
Matt also suggested putting names of the [Los Angeles or New York] Casting Directors on your resume and said, “You have to understand that Casting Directors, we all talk, we’re friends, we all know each other and we compete with each other. If I lose a job to Joseph Middleton, fine. At least I lost it to Joseph Middleton. I love Joseph and Joseph’s the same way with me. He may have said, ‘I couldn’t cast My Sister's Keeper. I would’ve f’ed that up.’ But we all talk amongst ourselves and we all are competitive. Show of hands. On your pictures and resumes, how many of you put down which Casting Director you were hired by? How many people are here? One out of seventy or eighty? Who’s the first person that sees your picture and resume? A Casting Director or a Casting Associate, right? If I turn around a picture and resume and I see that you’ve been hired by somebody good, I think, ‘Why do I not know this person?’ That’s a huge advantage. Put the Casting Director down because we’re just as competitive. If somebody has hired you that I like, I want to know who you are. That’s the difference of you getting into my office and not.”
Matt went on to say, “At the most, I can read 60 people a day or if I want to go late, maybe 70, but I think 60 is probably the limit. That’s on top of all the phone calls we have to take from Agents and Managers, the people who are pitching us and all the pictures and resumes we have to go through. Again, that’s the key-your picture and resume. I’m not the first one to tell you that, am? It has to be something that jumps out at us. I see so many pictures where, the photographer that you have chosen, is not somebody that you get along with. Maybe you were recommended by somebody…’Oh, go to Flavio! He’s the best photographer!’ Well, you go and spend $600 to take pictures with Flavio and you don’t get along with him, so your pictures come out like this! (Then Matt made a funny face) That’s what I see and that’s not what’s going to get you in.
We’re all creative people. We grew up creatively. That’s why you are here today. That’s why you are in this industry because you are creative, so you have to start thinking creatively. A normal picture and resume....it's fine. In a class that I teach, I start out by having a book of 40 pictures and resumes and say that you have 60 seconds to go through all forty and pick out two. That fast. What’s it going to get you to look at the picture and turn it around? If you have a great resume but a terrible picture, I don’t get a chance to turn it around because you haven’t grabbed me. Again, I’m not the first Casting Director to tell you this. It’s got to be something that speaks to us. That says to us, “Turn me around. See who I am!’…. ‘What if we don’t have anything on our resume?’ Well we all got to start off from somewhere.” He then showed us a resume with one credit on it, then turned it over revealing a black and white headshot. He said, “Here’s somebody who got in my office. It’s Charlize Theron’s first picture and resume. Show and tell, right?” He then showed us Jennifer Garner’s old black and white photo and said, “She was seventeen years old and all she had done was theatre. That’s her first picture and resume and she was with a little, teeny tiny agency in New York.”
- “Trust your natural instincts.”
- “If you think you’re prepared, be more prepared.”
- “Understand which mediums you’re reading for.”
- “Don’t change the lines with three lines. Even with three lines, you’ve got to make a choice. What are your thoughts behind what you’re saying? Keep it simple. What you think, may not be what you’re saying. These are those teeny, tiny moments. Those delicious moments!”
- “Be prepared to adjust.”
- “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”[Wow, if I had a nickle for every time I tell someone this!!]
- “If you’re reading as a lawyer, wear a suit. If you are reading for a doctor, take off your hat. Also, don’t wear a smock. It stinks of desperation.”
Also, when you go in for Matt and Nancy, all actors stand during their auditions so an actors’ energy does not dissipate.
Matt also cited the power of actors’ hard copy postcards and told us that he likes them. He then told the story of an actor who sent him frequent postcards, so Matt knew who the actor was over time. Matt said that this actor also postcarded other casting directors which resulted in being booked in a role in the film Titanic that he worked on for three months. Matt told us that actor’s first residual check from Titanic was $155,000, to which Matt commented, “Not bad for the price of a few postcards!”.
Matt closed with, “Again, you all spent your time with me, so I really appreciate taking your time to come down. Bringing your kids. It’s a beautiful day. If you have any questions, ask. It might take me a couple of days to answer. I’ll try to answer as long as they’re not long winded. Hopefully, you had fun. It’s an organic way of thinking. Here’s the thing. You’re going to notice this for the next few days and you’re going to laugh… ’Oh that Matt Barry!’. Every day and every place that we go and with every person we meet, we judge them. That’s just what we do. It’s human nature and how you talk to these people is based on what you’re thinking. If you go to Subway, you’re not just ordering a ham sandwich. You’re looking at the guy or girl going, ‘Did this guy wash his hands?’. You’ll say, ‘Ham sandwich?’ (in a questioning tone), or if it’s a Playboy Bunny behind the counter, it’ll be ‘Ham sandwich’ (in a flirty tone) [laughter], it’s all based on what we’re thinking. I want you to start being aware of your thoughts and what you’re saying to people and how your thoughts dictate what you’re saying. We do it every day of our life but yet we don’t do it in our craft. To me it’s asinine because when you’re in a scene with somebody and you’re reacting to somebody, there should be thoughts there. It’s not just about lines.
"It’s never about lines! Yes, the lines are important but when we act every day, there’s always a thought behind something. When you walk into a casting office, don’t pre-program everything because anybody who has something pre-programmed in my office, I’ll say, ‘Let’s do it again. Let’s change a few things.’ It’s like the robot. They come unglued… 'That's not how the coach I trained with told me to do it.' No… because I’m trying to get you to be more natural. Those are the directors that I work with. Those natural reactions. Those real life reactions.”
Based on Matthew Barry's monologue and experiences as a Casting Director, what do you see about your own efforts as a talent that you can change to be better received in the casting room?