Twinkie Byrd | Casting in the 21st Century

LEAVE IT ON THE COUNTER

If Twinkie was on Twitter, Tweeting about Tweety in Twenty Seventeen, you might think she was attempting to grab a seat at The Counter Burger in the Twitterverse now that “The Counter 1960” is in the can.

No… that’s not it… Not writing a tongue twister voice exercise for actors, nor an article about dreaded Tweets full of propaganda conjured up by politicians of today’s society in Twitterville. What this article is about is casting in motion pictures, and a short film project called, The Counter 1960, no offence to The Counter Burger, it’s a great burger really.

But you might think a Twinkie is the name of a famous hostess snack. Yeah, no. We’re not taking about that, and yes Tweety Bird is also the name of a famous Looney Tunes/ Warner Bros., character but were not talking about that little dude either.

This is about a Casting Director I met in 2003 or so when I was a courier delivering breakdown material. I believe she was somewhere in Marina del Rey, California off of Redwood Ave. Being a former actor, I was always taught to make a lasting impression on Casting during an audition, but she flipped the script and made a lasting impression on me.

The Motion Picture industry has witnessed her work for some time now, and without the audience ever seeing her lovely face, but the faces of her cast members remains in the hearts and minds audiences world-wide.

Were talking about Tracy Twinkie Byrd, CSA, and she has been the Casting Director of many feature-length film projects that many audiences have grown the love. Films such as, Stomp The YardStomp The Yard: Homecoming, NotoriousJumping The BroomFruitvale Station, Blood And Bone, and Southside With You just to name a few.

Twinkie’s In the Twink of an Eye Casting is on the west coast, her former partner Wendy Mckenzie of In the Wink of an Eye Casting is on the east coast, they were once an effective team tasked with the difficult process of casting the biopic film Notorious back in 2009.

It’s great to see that she remains friends and often keeps in close contact via social media with her casts of talent for her projects, such as the beautiful cast member Antonique Smith, of Fox network’s “Shots Fired”. Her most notable role was her playing the part of  Faith Evans in the Notorious film.

Now taking on a new direction, promoting her new film “The Counter 1960“, which is Twinkie‘s directorial debut, she also co-wrote with Ashley Jackson, daughter of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, requires the entire set of skills within filmmaking. This period short film has integrity major, and with an incredible distributor like Warner Bros., for instance they surely wouldn’t want to pass if given an opportunity.

Just know if this film hits the LA Film Festival, Pan African Film and Arts Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, or Cannes Film Festival for that matter, it will sure to pick up major distribution. That’s if these lovely ladies choose to go in that direction. Nowadays there’s plenty of options for filmmakers such as the more popular internet streaming companies like, Netflix, YouTube Red, Amazon, Hulu and many more.

This film is inspired by the Woolworth‘s Lunch Counter Sit-Ins of 1960, and deals with the controversial Jim Crow era. During these tumultuous times, black men and women were not able to sit where white men and women were able to sit in public places, as well as drinking at the same public water fountains. There’s also a lot to be said about peaceful resistance taught by James Lawson and the Freedom Riders, which was depicted in the film The Butler.

Blacks in this time period were also told to sit at the back of the bus, and when a Lady named Rosa Parks refused to move, she was arrested, and later became the catalyst for the entire civil rights movement.

Both Twinkie & Ashley went to Richard Lawson’s Professional Development Program (PDP) and learned how to make the films. On Popcorn Talk, the New York Film Academy hour, they talk casting, filmmaking and their short film, “The Counter 1960”. We hope this filmmaking team will create many other compelling films about the black experience that will enlighten, entertain, uplift and  teach us all a message concerning humanity. No doubt this is the reason African-American female filmmakers are on the rise, with Ava DuVernay making a big impact with her debut Selma and critically acclaimed 13th documentary.


The creation of films with afrocentric nostalgia will breathe fresh new life back into black cinema, films such as the much-needed biopic of Bill Pickett, (written by Shaunti Griffin) one of many black Cowboys of the 1800s that was never a slave, and one of America’s first black actors. Pickett, also credited with inventing Bulldogging, and starring in a film of the same name, later became a very popular event in most modern-day rodeos called Steer Wrestling.

The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, created by the late Lu Vason 33 years ago, also known as the black Rodeo, pays homage to the sprint and strength of black Cowboys all over, as well as Bill Pickett himself.

Many film projects like “The Counter 1960” and the Bill Pickett biopic are so important for today’s society, as they teach lessons of history, strength and dignity for all to see. Let’s just hope Socialbilitty can join the team of  Twinkie and Ashley with writing and producing unique and original films and biopics with major distribution such as Warner Bros. Until then, keep up the good work ladies!

Actors don't forget to soak up this knowledge of the industry and book that audition!

“And my last question was, who get empties garbage and gets your coffee, and she said no one, and I said I want the job”. – Twinkie Byrd

The irony of it all is that most people wouldn’t even consider to taking on odd jobs within the entertainment  industry, because there too proud to work in the mailroom, or take out the trash while learning hands on behind the scenes. Their ego gets in the way, and they say I wouldn’t do that. This is why most people fail. Because there not willing roll up their sleeves and get dirty. If you want be in wardrobe, then try going to the garment district with the production company’s petty cash and get the tread, patterns and fabric. If you want to do hair for film and television become the top designers assistant and stay humble. You will become successful with the relationships you build through trust, integrity and good work ethic. Becoming an Actor is no different, build meaningful relationships that will last over time.

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Article Written by Shaunti Griffin

Entertainment Equals Diversity is the formula.

“Be prepared and try to give as much in the session as you possibly can”.  – Twinkie Byrd

People who come to Los Angeles from other places in search of an Acting career, are often not prepared for their own craft. Remembering lines, bringing sides, giving your all to an audition are all important tools to bring. However, many don’t know that after you book the job, everyone on set has a conversation about the industry that could possibly lead to more jobs.  The networking and social atmosphere never stops when you’re inside, and knowing your stuff can set you apart from the norm. For example, I had a conversation with an up and coming  black screenwriter. It was about the documentary film 13th, Co-written and Directed by Ava DuVernay. He said he never heard of her. I said you’re kidding me, you know the one who did the movie Selma, the story of Dr. King. He said I never saw it.  I sad she’s gorgeous, and showed him a picture online on instagram. He replied she’s not all that.  The fact of the matter is you never know who you may offend and miss a golden opportunity.


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