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The Heart of Parenting – My Interview with Casting Director Barbara Barna Abel.

January 2, 2014

After the great response to my blog post featuring Joy Dewing, I thought I would follow it up with an interview with fellow mom/casting director Barbara Barna Abel. Months ago, Barbara gave me wonderful parenting advice and recommended the book Raising Cain to me. (She is also a 80s Britpop fan so we are clearly kindred spirits!)  In a perfect example of parental multitasking, Barbara wrote her post while at the Hockey Ring for her son’s game.  The interview is fantastic – chocked full of great advice, practical tools (which I implemented immediately) and humor (some of her responses made me laugh out loud.)  Connect with Barbara on twitter and sign up for her monthly newsletter to find out more about castings and classes.

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How do you juggle being a busy casting director and being a mom?

Like every working mom I just do. My daughter was born in 1997 and my phone then was a jumbo gray thing with an external battery the same size as the phone. The development of the SMART PHONE has been a game changer and I am eternally grateful (see sitting in hockey rink above). I am no longer chained to my desk, can attend school events and doctor’s appointments  and integrate a lot more work/life. It’s obviously a great organizer and now I can’t imagine life without DROPBOX – I have every file I could ever need wherever I go. With that said…we have a good old fashioned CALENDAR on the fridge which is easy and helpful to everyone in my house.  Like everyone I make LISTS and yes, keep them in the NOTES section of my phone.

Not tech driven but no less key:

CROCKPOT – I plan meals in advance and 30 mins of prep in the morning pays huge dividends in the evening.

Always have CAKE MIX, CONFECTIONERS SUGAR and MUFFIN CUPS in the cupboard so you are never caught out on a classroom celebration. It is homemade frosting which wins raves (I use Martha Stewart’s recipe which reminds me always have BUTTER too, even if you don’t eat it, it keeps for ages and freezes as well).

CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES – this is hard, but take the long view and decide what really matters to you and your family. Rudeness is not okay but weird outfits and not-my-idea-of-breakfast sometimes get out the door.

And most importantly, I am lucky to be able to INTEGRATE MY KIDS INTO MY WORK. These apples didn’t fall far from the tree and are voracious consumers of media and act as a focus group and street team who keep me up on trends, people to watch, viral videos, new social media platforms, bloggers, music, etc. it gives us lots to talk about and they are a tremendous help.

How do you navigate balancing work and family? Is balance possible?

Hmm…how do you define balance:)  I do believe balance is possible if you take the long view and accept that the ratios are not necessarily equal and are always shifting. It’s about making choices – and the choices don’t always feel easy or good at the time. I went to my first college meeting 2 weeks ago and can confirm it gets easier as they get older a)because you are generally better rested and b)you can run out for an emergency manicure without worrying about who’s watching the kids.

Your favorite parenting advice?

Practical advice: before baby comes practice doing everything with one hand – buying groceries, cooking dinner, putting on make-up.

Figure out what works for you. If it’s working it’s the right way for you.

How does being a mom inform/feed your work as a casting director? And vice versa? 

Yes! Working with talent and high maintenance bosses absolutely prepared me for parenting. Now when I see a celebrity meltdown I think “are you tired?” “is your blood sugar low?” I have KIND BARS with me at all times.

Also that it’s never one size fits all. My kids are very different from each other in personality and learning style. They respond to different motivation techniques. I understood this from coaching talent pre-kids but having children has taken this to a different level. More nuanced. One of my favorite parenting books is THE HEART OF PARENTING and it could easily be called The Heart of Being A Good Boss because it helps you understand your parenting style while understanding your kids individuality. This same thing applies to working with talent and understanding two talented actors may need different direction to get to their best work.

 Any other advice/tips for new moms?

Cut yourself slack!

Thanks so much Barbara! You can connect with Barbara on her website on Twitter or sign up for her monthly newsletter!

Barbara Barna Abel has a reputation for recognizing new and emerging talent and has cast over 100 unscripted/alternative projects since launching her company in 2001 finding Adam Richman, Bert Kreisher, Carson Kressley, Clinton Kelly, Ted Allen, Thom Felicia and many others along the way.  Barbara started in the business during the last century as music director of her college radio station (KSPC, Claremont, CA) and making tea for powerhouse 80s musical acts like Culture Club and Human League as the first college intern for Virgin Records UK. After stints in music management, Barbara gained her comedy chops at APA in Los Angeles working the phones for the legendary and visionary Marty Klein before merging her backgrounds in music and talent at VH1 where she ran the Talent Development department in New York.

As a personal coach and corporate trainer, Barbara believes everyone has a story to tell and is committed to helping people find their authentic voice. Her clients include television networks, pr firms, celebrity chefs, models, business executives and young creatives.

Outside of the office, Barbara is a high school mentor through iMentor.org and has so far raised funds to start five banks through FINCA’s Village Banking program. Barbara is passionate about her family, the beach, grosgrain ribbons, reading cookbooks in bed, 50s fashions, 60s soul music, 80s Britpop, peonies, dry martinis, spy novels and the New York Rangers.

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