I had the pleasure of meeting casting director Darya Balyura at “Casting Access,” an event for actors organized by The SAG-AFTRA Foundation which allows actors to have the chance to take a class with casting directors as well as talent representatives. During her workshop, Darya Balyura shared lots of helpful tips for actors, and she graciously agreed to share more of her advice with us here on Behind The Sign!
Darya Balyura, who has seen lots of success in the entertainment industry – including working as a casting associate on ABC/Freeform’s hit show, “Switched at Birth” – has had an interest in the industry ever since she was a child. She explained:
“My dad was a producer and I got bitten by the acting bug as a kid. I remember being on the set of the Russian movie “KING ARTHUR AND THE ROUND TABLE” and seeing these magical real peacocks and trained tigers on set along with amazing costumes, and it made me believe anything was possible.”
In this limitless industry, anything truly is possible, and there is room for everyone! The rewards that come with working in the entertainment industry are also limitless, including having the immensely rewarding opportunity to meet and work with many incredible artists. As a casting director, Darya Balyura is in a position which allows her to witness the unique work performed by actors on a regular basis! I asked Darya if she would discuss her favorite part about her work as a casting director, and she explained that she loves to see the ways in which actors bring a character to life:
“My favorite thing is when ‘sides’ make no sense as to the character's purpose, and then that one actor comes in, and it is so amazing to see how their choices and imagination give the character life. I also enjoy the freedom of ‘indies’ and anything with kids, since they just make the day more fun.”
Darya points out how amazing it is to see how an actor’s “choices and imagination give the character life.” One of the most wonderful aspects of being an actor is that each one of us is completely different, and we all have something totally unique to offer! At the wonderful workshop where I met Darya, she expressed her support of actors’ being themselves. For this interview I asked her if she could explain why it is important for an actor to be who she/he is, rather than being someone that they think a casting director wants them to be. She said:
“I have witnessed ‘against type’ actors [actors who may not have originally fit a certain role-description] getting cast all the time - meaning producers loved them so much that they rewrote the role just for them. I think some of the greatest actors bring a bit of themselves into a scene, and that is why we love them. It is tough to portray something you know nothing about. You are playing a role, but you are still you - performing as if you were you in another world.”
As an actor, it is very important to embrace your individuality. Don’t do what everyone else is doing; be unique and be you! When asked about what qualities she looks for when casting a project, Darya responded that she looks for “someone who is interesting and different. After seeing the same thing 30 times, it is refreshing to be woken up!”
Most actors would agree that auditioning can be an awkward experience. However in order to enjoy the experience as much as possible, it’s important to let go of anxieties and simply do your best, be confident and have fun! Then once an audition is completed, let it go.
Darya offers the following advice for actors coming in for an audition:
“Go in and do the best you can without worrying about the outcome. There are many politics and other circumstances behind the scenes that you have no control over. If you do your best, then you will be remembered, and you never know what big things can come from the smallest of opportunities.”
After you’ve completed your next audition, actor friend, try not to worry too much about the reasons why you booked (or did not book) a job. As Darya points out, much is out of our control. If you simply do your best, you can take comfort in knowing that in that you tried the absolute hardest that you could! Then, focus on working toward your next opportunity or your next audition! (Focus is extremely important for actors. Here’s why.)
And regarding advising actors on ways that he or she might be able to obtain more auditions, Darya replied:
“Network and do your homework, because you are your own biggest manager and agent. Be ready when opportunity knocks. Don't be snooty, because no job is too small and work breeds work!”
“You are your own biggest manager and agent” - this is a fantastic point. It is absolutely possible to obtain work as an actor on your own! Personally in my own career nearly every project that I have booked – on television, in films and commercials – has been accomplished without the help of an agent or a manager. If I can do it, you absolutely can too! In fact, check out my article about 7 suggestions to help you to find more auditions.
Interested in Pursuing a Career in Entertainment?
Finally, I asked Darya Balyura what she believes is the single most important piece of information that you would provide to anyone looking to pursue a career in entertainment. She said:
“Do it because you can't see yourself doing anything else and not to be famous, because it is a career where you can go from one extreme of success to the opposite before you can blink.”
As Darya said, this is a career that can change very quickly! An acting career is comparable to a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs, but if you enjoy the journey, it will all be worth it! (Always follow your dreams, friends!)
Thank you, Darya, for your wonderful advice and for your kindness toward actors! Your positive attitude is truly an inspiration in our industry!
Click here to read more interviews I conducted with top casting directors!
Jesse Daley is an actor and a writer who lives and works in Hollywood, California.