Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd is the famed and well-respected casting director behind such Hollywood projects such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Being Mary Jane”. Her complete work can be found at: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1359173
I first met Twinkie a few years ago when she came to speak to students at the Richard Lawson Studios. Since she was the guest speaker, we wanted to screen a reel of her casting work before she spoke to the students. Richard put me in charge of finding examples of her casting work and cutting it together to form the reel.
When we played the reel, Twinkie was thrilled and overjoyed. I even remember her turning to me at one point and saying, “Oh my God, where did you find that? I’ve been trying to find that movie!” My detective work, and the fact that we were both from Brooklyn, began a journey of mutual admiration and respect for one another. I’ve also had the honor of auditioning a couple of times for Twinkie and she has praised my acting abilities.
So when I discovered that Twinkie wanted to take the Professional Development Program 1.0 class at the Richard Lawson Studios, I was thrilled! I interviewed her and I asked her why she wanted to take the course. She told me that she wanted to take her career to the next level by incorporating directing and producing into the mix. I knew that PDP 1.0 would be perfect for her because she would have to write, film and edit 10 short films over the course of 16 weeks.
It was also great to see Twinkie, a casting director, have to do auditions in the PDP 1.0 class. She got to be an actor and audition in front of the camera. And because she had been casting for years, she instinctively understood acting. She made wonderful choices as an actress and knew how to work in front of a camera.
Richard and I both taught this class and it was great to see her growth and wins, as well as the growth and wins of other students. For the Final Film project, Twinkie and fellow classmate, Ashley Jackson, collaborated to create a project called “The Counter: 1960”. Their short film looked at the segregation that existed in America during that time. It was a powerful film that utilized a number of Richard Lawson Studios students in front of the camera and behind the camera. It was cast well (of course, Twinkie’s a casting director!) And Twinkie directed it.
The first cut of “The Counter: 1960” was really well done. The story was incredibly impinging. It was ambitious in concept. Richard gave his notes in terms of how they could elevate their film to the next level. They took their notes like pros and their excitement grew.
Twinkie and Ashley decided to reshoot the film from scratch and gave themselves more time to carve out the film (In PDP 1.0, you only have one week to conceive, shoot and edit these 10 short films)
They reshot the film, with Twinkie staying on as director, and ever since they released it to the world, it has been killing the film festival circuit! “The Counter: 1960” has won awards in Cannes and Hollywood and has also screened in Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, Atlanta, India etc.
Twinkie recently posted a message on Instagram that thanked and acknowledged her PDP 1.0 teachers. I was moved because it’s these moments that remind me why I love teaching. As a teacher, I love seeing the numerous and diverse wins that my students have. Whether it’s a student booking a job or finishing a passion project or having a positive shift in their personal lives, it brings me immense joy.
As much as I love acting and writing, I also love giving back as a teacher and knowing that I had a meaningful impact and contribution on my students’ lives. That I had a hand in bringing out their full potential and talents.
And I love that Twinkie acknowledged the people who played a part in her current success! It’s so important to acknowledge the people who contributed to your journey and success. Your acknowledgement will come back to you a hundredfold. I taught the Audition Bootcamp class this past Friday and I said that more often than not, people only acknowledge the new friends who conveniently show up at their new level of success. I told my class to acknowledge the people who were there from the start. The people who were there when you weren’t a household name. The people who were there when you didn’t have money. Or when you didn’t have a meal to eat. Or when you didn’t have a place to live in. Or when you wanted to quit and they convinced you not to. The list goes on and on.
So thank you Twinkie for your acknowledgement. I am so proud of your success. You postulated at your interview that you wanted to be a director and now you are experiencing déjà vu! You saw it in your mind as a foregone conclusion and now you are experiencing it again in a realized, tangible way. You are such an example of what we teach at the Richard Lawson Studios!
Below is Twinkie’s Instagram post: