Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Just when I think that our free Casting Networks/LA Casting Inside the Industry Seminars can’t get any better with impassioned guest speakers and talented and enthusiastic actors in attendance, the bar gets raised! Such was the experience that theatrical casting director Matthew Barry of Barry/Green-Keyes Casting gave us on March 20. I have interned occasionally with Matt and his casting partner Nancy Green-Keyes for over three years and have tried to secure him as a guest speaker for our seminars since that time, but his busy schedule never allowed until now. Boy! Was it ever worth the wait! At our hour and a half seminar, he wanted to read every single actor in attendance who wanted to read and said, “If I can do it at ActorFest, I can do it here. I read 145 [actors] in the same amount of time there!” Wow! Below is Matt’s bio-
Born in New York – Matthew Barry was a successful actor, best known for starring in Bernardo Bertolucci’s film “La Luna”. After many years of acting, he asked famed Director, Barry Levinson, for a production job and was guided to the casting department. Matthew has since spent the next 14 years directing actors as a Casting Director, working with Directors, Tim Burton on “Ed Wood and “Mars Attacks”, Brett Ratner on “Rush Hour 1 and 2” and “Family Man”, Nick Cassavetes on “Unhook the Stars”, “She’s So Lovely”, “John Q” “The Notebook”, “Alpha Dog” and most recently “My Sisters Keeper”, and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer on “Crimson Tide” (Tony Scott) and “Con Air” (Simon West). Matthew’s ability to spot and work with talent has allowed him to discover and was significant in advancing the careers of James Gandolfini and Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Money For Nothing”), Ryan Phillipe, Steve Zahn, Danny Nucci and James LeSure (“Crimson Tide”), Don Cheadle (“Devil in a Blue Dress”), Dave Chappelle and Monica Potter (“Con Air”), Lucy Liu (“Shanghai Noon”), Dakota Fanning (“Tomcats”), Roselyn Sanchez (“Rush Hour 2”) Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”), and Katt Williams (“Friday After Next”)!
Matt began enthusiastically with, “Hi! My name is Matthew Barry. I’m originally from New York, so f*** you! [laughter] As I said, I grew up in New York. My father is a Broadway playwright. When I was growing up, he ran the Hudson Guild Theatre Company and that was right down the block from my school when I was a kid. After school, instead of going home and doing homework, I used to sit in the theatre chairs and watch my father direct actors. That was my education. By the time I got to be eight years old, I was on stage. By the time I was 13, I was on Broadway. I had a TV series for CBS called IVAN THE TERRIBLE, it was terrible. [laughter] Then at 15 years old, I was cast in famed Academy Award winning Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci’s film LUNA opposite Jill Clayburgh. It was very controversial…it played at the Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Festival…and it got me a lot of fame and notoriety and it was all downhill from there.” [laughter] An attendee chimed in, “I liked the film!”
Matt continued, “At seventeen years old, I decided to come out here because basically that’s where the work was. I worked for awhile. I did some movies and did some television. About 30 years old, I had a one of those crises…’I’m 30 years old! What am I doing?” I was doing some really, really bad television and decided that I had to try something different. I enrolled in UCLA Film School and quickly discovered that I pretty much knew everything they were teaching me, so I begged Barry Levinson who was directing a film called TOYS with Robin Williams at the time, and I said, ‘Do you have a job for me on the set? I’ll do anything, I just want to learn everything about producing.’ And so he said, ‘We need some help in casting’ and I never looked back. I LOVED it…every minute of it! I was recommended by the Casting Director on that film, Ellen Chenoweth to Vickie Thomas, and she had just finished working with Francis Coppola and she had gotten her ass kicked by Coppola. Now she was dealing with a maniac named Adrian Lyne who is wonderfully insane. Vickie said, ‘Look, I can’t deal with this. Can you just hold his hand?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely! Sure, sure! Fantastic!’ and Adrian and I got along like gangbusters because we’re both insane. I think he liked me because he said something to me one day and I told him, ‘If you talk to me like that again, I’m going to knock you the f*** out’ pardon my French. He just looked at me and said, ‘I like you’ and so he tortured me for three months.”
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? (*Editors note- whose lead character was cast through LA Casting) Who would have thunk? It happened years ago with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Another one…Christoph Waltz from Germany. (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) 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 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 Lisa Beach, Lisa London, Debra Zane or Vickie Thomas, I’m going to go, ‘Wait a minute. They were hired by somebody good. 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. 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 and 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.” (*Editors note regarding Matt’s files – Having interned for Matt and Nancy and worked on Matt’s extensive files of actors’ chronological headshots that date back for many years, his actor files are impressive and a lot of work to keep updated!)
Matt gave out sides to the actors that chose to read for him. The females went first and then the males. It was enlightening for all in attendance to see all the reads. Afterward, he said that he would have called back 6 of the 32 females and 5 of the 28 males. He pointed out how especially well the young actors did and gave the group these notes regarding auditions-
“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.”
“If you’re reading as a doctor, take off your hat.”
Also, when you go in for Matt and Nancy, all actors stand during their auditions and “Our office opens everything. That last one will be the diamond.”
Lastly, Matt teaches a very affordable four week class with only 16 students. Matt said, “I do teach a class and I work you really, really, really hard. I tailor my program to you, 18 and older, at all levels. If you’re great, you’ll be outstanding.” Personally, I look forward to taking Matt’s class. I know he’s got “the goods” and I will learn a lot. Please visit his website.
Thanks friend and savvy casting director Matt!