Barbie Castro is a one-woman dynamo who suddenly decided she would rather create her own work than compete to prove her worth to others. She quit her job and started making films with her daughter Taylor, an up-and-coming actress.
Recently, Barbie and Taylor both won acting awards for their roles in Marriage Killer- Barbie won Best Actress and Taylor won Best Young Actress at the Actors Awards. We invited them for an interview, and met two hard working women who create their own opportunities rather than wait for them. If you need some inspiration today, keep reading.
Barbie Castro (right) and Taylor Castro in Marriage Killer (with Jason London)
Barbie, let's start with you. Tell us a bit about your background as a Miami-Beach native. How did you get into acting and producing?
Barbie: Born & Raised in Miami, FL. I love my hometown. I am the youngest of 4. I attended a catholic private school with lots of extracurricular activities that I loved, such as parades, baton twirling, gymnastics, music, all sports. I had parents that really enjoyed activities with their children and my mom was always registering me in all kinds of things; modeling school, beauty pageants, gymnastics, you name it, I did it. I loved it; I waited for her by the door so she could drive me to whatever activity we had that night.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t seeking to grab the attention of an audience. However, my passion for acting started in Jr High, and continued through college where I minored in Musical Theatre. At that young age I never dreamed of creating a business within the film industry. I was raised to be practical, so I entered the workforce and believed my acting was destined to be only a hobby, so I gave it up for 15 years. Life just took over. I didn’t even think about it.
I then married, had 2 beautiful daughters, and became a Real Estate Broker and Investor. Life was great, is great… all of a sudden, my nephew enters high school, and joins the acting class. Experiencing his success in booking lead roles in all the school plays, my heart was filled with love and pride for him, and a longing for myself to return to the industry that inspires me. I just felt at home, again.
I began assisting my nephew in getting an agent, and in the process of pushing his career forward all the while questioning myself “why did I stop acting?”
It was then that I decided to get back on the saddle, starting with headshots by Bob Lasky. I found a few agents in town, joined acting classes at ActTrue (Marc Durso), New York Film Academy, Lori Wyman, Ray Forchion, Alyn Darnay, Actors Connection etc. My focus was to do whatever I could to sharpen my skills, even included singing/voice lessons.
I happily was booked as the lead in about 30 films, and an assortment of commercials. It wasn’t before long that I realized that the castings were taking too much time away from my family and business, thus in 2011 I decided to narrow my focus, and create my own productions. Concord Films was born, along with the creative platform for my acting and production playground.
Did you go through formal training, or are you mainly self-taught?
Barbie: I have enjoyed formal training within several disciplines for the entertainment industry, combined with hands-on learning while on film set, and an intense passion for the industry. I am grateful to have a wider perspective and knowledge base due to my experiences as both actress and producer.
Taylor Castro in Marriage Killer
Taylor, what makes you passionate about acting, and how did you get into it? Clearly, the talent runs in the family.
Taylor: I think my passion for acting originated from my attempts at fake crying to get what I wanted as a child, HA! All joking aside, though, it was really something sewn into my DNA. Growing up, I always had a certain dominance that projected from my presence despite my preference in seclusion. As a child, it wasn’t very difficult for me to make friends if I chose to and I always craved a moment to speak and be heard in what I can only hypothesize was a product of being the smallest in the family. Similarly, I found human nature extremely fascinating and uncharted. Thus, I fell in love with writing, storytelling, and – of course – acting. My parents inevitable noticed this and had me attend Drama Camp when I was around six-years-old. I still vividly remember my first table read. It was actually on a carpet, though. I played Beaky in the Ugly Duckling Jr. (the role I wanted) and I fell in love with the whole process of putting on a show. Today, my motivations for acting are really still the same. I’m fascinated with every aspect of the human experience and acting offers an opportunity to portray something personal with an extremely public audience and, somehow, still be understood – and heard.
You recently won Best Young Actress at the Actors Awards and Best Young Actress at the Los Angeles Film Awards for your role as Abbey in Marriage Killer. Congratulations on these fantastic achievements! How did you prepare for the role?
Taylor: Thank you! I’m extremely honored to be heard for both Abbey and Mia (my character who won the LA Film Award for Best Young Actress). It says a lot that there is an evenness there in that both characters I portrayed were able to affect a viewer. Honestly, a part of me can’t believe that a group of respected movie critics watched my performance and dictated that it deserved such an honor. These awards are the first I’ve ever won for acting and it makes me glow with happiness in what can only come from the confirmation that something I invested so much passion into has been felt by others. Life is like an echo; whatever you throw into it comes back to you tenfold. Actors throw empathy into the abyss and when it returns to them, there is little more beautifully overwhelming.
I prepared for Abbey by just understanding her character arc and dissecting her every decision (which are always direct results of emotion for everyone) and word. In this, I realized Abbey’s terrible initial insecurity. As the plot progresses, however, Abbey becomes this beacon of knowledge and I really believe her powerful confidence by the end of the film originates in her acceptance and understanding of value in the great intellect she possesses (something I can relate to terribly). To make sure I portrayed this correctly, I had to really familiarize myself with her current position in the story and know where exactly her relevance built and what was occurring within her. Teenagers like me are always meeting new parts of themselves. With Abbey, that was an understatement. The deeper I analyzed her character, the sooner I managed to prepare for portraying her properly.
Did Abbey teach you anything about yourself?
Taylor: I’d sooner say projecting Abbey’s character emphasized parts of myself which hadn’t surfaced in a while. Specifically, her insecurity in the beginning of the film conjured a lot of deeply buried doubts about myself and her rebellion also reminded me of the dominant, restless personality I portrayed quite a while ago. That’s sort of weird to relive, but it reminds you of the parts of yourself you’re ashamed of in a way that gives them a positive value they never possessed before.
What did you enjoy the most about portraying her? And what was the most challenging thing about it?
Taylor: Well, with every character, they usually take on a life of their own and that’s always interesting. Abbey had this sort of prolonged dialect that I only really noticed was consistent throughout the film after the fact, but it was undeniably her. It’s discovering those sorts of little things that are always my favorite part about playing a character along with those intricate, intense scenes that are always so satisfying to play with (especially opposite an incredible actor). Those are always my favorite parts of portraying a character unless they do something super awesome and cool like play air guitar or douse themselves in fake blood. You know, crazy stuff like that; they make a fun story. With Abbey, I surprisingly found the club scenes difficult to perform because now-a-days I’m such a dorky, square sort of girl and felt shy behaving badly on camera while the most fun part about portraying her was probably owning two grown men. I must say that was quite empowering. I like releasing my anger without penalty; after all, that doesn’t happen very often.
Barbie, you quickly gained success, winning multiple awards all over the country. What are some of the most memorable moments / the highlights of your career so far?
Barbie: I appreciate opportunities, such as this interview, that happen on a daily basis. This journey is a creative adventure that invigorates and inspires me to continually create quality, enjoyable films. That said, following are two moments that are memorable and simply make me smile.
1) Winning Best Actress for Conduit at the New York City International Film Festival. As this was my first film, It was exceptionally memorable. The Festival really made me feel special.
2) Watching myself on TV for the first time and every time ever since. I search my name and when I see it pop up on the TV Guide, I get so excited. I will never get tired of that.
Did you ever refuse a role? If so, why?
Barbie: The projects I accept are ones of quality that intrigue my creative self.
I have refused a few roles that did not align with my schedule, or were not a great fit with crew or content.
In 2011, you formed your own production company Concord Films. Tell us more about that. What does the company expertise in?
Barbie: I started Concord Films in 2011 when I produced my first short film, CONDUIT. At the time, I didn’t realize how far I would take it. Concord means, agreement, harmony, unison. I liked the meaning.
Our expertise is in creating films that are simply for enjoyable entertainment, taking the viewer to beautiful locations, talented lovely actors, and suspense stories that offer a repose from the monotony of daily tasks.
Concord Films is an independent film company dedicated to the production of female driven feature films, of the highest quality. Concord Films is comprised of a committed group of professionals who have an intense enthusiasm and devotion to productions, and a passion to tell stories of drama and suspense. Concord Films seeks to create films for entertainment and emotional connection for their demographic audience.
Was the road challenging at first?
Barbie: Yes, my first short film was very challenging, as we often do not know how complicated a new project can be. My friend, Robert Herrick, wrote the script, and I cast the film. Having been a fan of the work of Aly Darnay, I reached out to him, and he agreed to direct me at a time I didn’t even know what the word “producer” meant. Alyn said, “I will teach you.” It has been a valuable and professional enriching relationship.
Taylor, you often collaborate with your mom, Barbie. What are some of the most important professional lessons you've learned from her?
Taylor: I mean, my mom is pretty incredible. That’s something I often forget if I’m being honest. To me, she’s just my mom. I was raised by a woman who suddenly decided she would rather create her own work than compete to prove her worth to others. That was normal to me and it’s just one of the many privileges I have which I’m learning to comprehend on a global perspective. My friends and strangers will come to me and express how impressed they are with my mother and that’s always sort of a wakeup call because, as a kid, I never really realized how much her work methods inspired me. Primarily, I believe in my ability to create my own opportunities rather than wait for them. At seventeen-years-old, I started writing the feature film I’ve been working on for over a year now and it seems completely natural for me to produce and star in it. That initiative wired into my brain is in large part thanks to my mom’s awesomeness. It’s how I was raised.
Taylor, working with family can also be a bit tricky at times... How do you resolve artistic disagreements?
Taylor: Oh, my mom and I disagree on absolutely almost everything. When she directed me on “Dream Killer,” I did my best to respect her direction. Before filming, however, there was a lot of dialogue back and forth about the plot, locations, characters, etc. She handed me the script on our flight back from Italy and I took a pen and marked the whole thing up less than two weeks before filming. What’s great about my mom, though, is that she actually listens unless, of course, she completely disagrees. With most things, she adjusts to my artistic perspective accordingly and respects it. Other times, I’m blatantly wrong and I’m often unable to see that until much later. As far as how we deal with disagreements, we yell at each other across the house as I make dinner and she sits on the rocking chair, working on her laptop and wearing pajamas.
Barbie, as a one-woman dynamo, you must be incredibly busy. What does your routine look like? Can you describe a regular day?
Barbie: I have a great life, enjoying my family, management of our businesses, and also the luxury of embracing my creative side with Concord Film productions.
My days change depending on the stage of production or delivery.
When in development, I work with the screenwriter, giving notes until we have a locked script (this could take 6 months).
Most of my time is spent working on post production of the previous movie, while at the same time planning and working with a current script for the next project. It can be difficult at times as I must compartmentalize tasks for previous film post-production while envisioning the details needed for upcoming productions.
It simply keeps me constantly moving, thinking, creating, and trying to be more successful in the creative process, than the day before.
Script, Locations, Casting, Sag-Aftra Paperwork, Production Schedule, Budget, Hiring Crew, Setting Up Payroll, Travel Accommodations, Insurance, Copyright the script.
18-21, twelve-hour days just keeping a float and making sure we have everything we need to make that day’s schedule; from cast, food, props, sides, equipment, wardrobe, location, vehicles etc. This is handled by the awesome production manager & crew, while I am working on memorizing dialogue and getting into wardrobe for my performance.
Back-Up Drives, Editor, Composer, Colorist, ADR, Sound Engineering, Laybacks, Deliverables, E&O Insurance, Sync Licenses, Copyright the movie…
Each word is a world of its own… for example, the word “casting” is only 7 letters but it takes months of videos to watch, offers to make and bookings to confirm.
I have key people that help during pre-production & production, and could never accomplish what we have without them.
Barbie, Dream Killer is your directorial debut feature. How was this experience different than directing a short?
Barbie: The dedication, details, and expertise is the same for a short film as for a feature film with the only different being the amount of content. The feature films require significantly greater pre-production, production, and post-production editing.
I complete story boards for my films to ensure the vision has been completely planed for best production results.
I was thrilled with both the challenge and the result of directing Dream Killer. Tasks that sometimes seem impossible become so comfortable after working through the process. I love the intensity and creative opportunity that directing offers.
For Dream Killer, I cast talented actors that made the job of directing seem easy, along with a DP, and Camera Operator that were incredibly supportive. It was my DP, Jon Schellenger and his team that insisted I direct Dream Killer. I am grateful to them for the encouragement and push to the opportunity to fulfill a personal dream. I couldn’t have done it without the cast & crew, both production and post production team.
How did you recruit your cast and crew? Have you worked with any of the crew members before?
Barbie: I have spent countless hours watching the performances of a wide variety of actors and keep notes of those that fit the Concord Films production styles. It is a difficult task as there is an abundance of talent to choose from.
I have created a short list of crew members that understand the mood and entertainment style of my films, and book them consistently throughout my last five films.
I am always open to new talent both in actors and crew. The creative process requires an open-minded attitude.
I place the cast breakdown on ActorsAccess and the crew breakdown on ProductionHub.
Taylor, in your opinion, what is the best way to practice lines? Are you ever worried you'll forget the lines?
Taylor: I find the best method to memorize lines is to treat them like an alphabet game: to say it aloud, say the next line, and repeat it in whole to engrain it in my memory. With these films, however, I’m quite lucky because the lines are usually short and there isn’t much to memorize. Also, the film crew is so close that altering lines isn’t a big deal on our sets. My mom does it constantly. With plays, strict scripts, or something like Shakespeare, however, I’ll use those tactics and they’ve had pretty good results that give me confidence in my memorization of the lines. I can still recall monologues I learned years ago word for word.
What is your dream role?
Taylor: I think lot of fellow actors often look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them about my dream role because of how specific it is, but there’s this Disney book series called Kingdom Keepers written by Ridley Pearson and it’s my dream to play the character of Willa Angelo. Simply put, I feel a connection to her. It’s odd to hear, but I have this feeling that it’s my responsibility to bring her to life in this dimension and that I’m the only one who can. Meeting her in the books made me feel like I wasn’t alone during a time in my life when I was very much alone and misunderstood. By playing Willa, I would be able to make other young girls feel that way: like there’s someone else who understands how difficult it is to grow up feeling different and outcast for their effortless intellect and interest in things considered unattractively quirky. Seeing Willa overcome her own dimness in the beginning of the story and meet the other Keepers who respect and appreciate her for what she is would give those kids hope that they’ll not only find their people too, but the understanding that their gifts are irreplaceable and something they should be incredibly proud of. I know it’s crazy specific, but it’s my dream. It’s my dream to play Willa Angelo.
What are your short term and long term career goals? Any plans to move to Los Angeles at some point?
Taylor: On the short term, I’ve been auditioning for roles apart from my mom’s films to gain that essential experience and putting the finishing touches on my feature length script with the goal of producing and starring in it within the year. I realize that, of course, my career will require me to move to Los Angeles at some point in the near future which I’m ready for, but I’m trying to take it day-by-day for now. In the long term (for acting), my goal is to expand my acting repertoire which will, in turn, expand opportunities for me to write, produce, and star in my own films as I grow older and continuously learn about methods to better my work. I want to use whatever platform I create with whatever I do to shed a light on causes I deeply care about like literacy for youth (especially girls), public understanding on the actualities of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (ODC) (a mental disability I am diagnosed and struggle with), and the spreading of grace I have been given by God.
Marriage Killer - Trailer
Dream Killer - Trailer