Yesterday I posted in the IAmA section of Reddit opening up the lines of communication for anyone on there with questions for a Reality TV Casting Director. I got some really great questions, so I thought I’d post some here.
Q: If your last name is Hantz do you automatically get cast?
A: Basically. (No. But nepotism is pretty big right now. A recognizable name can get you pretty far.)
Q: How many Survivor’s are recruited versus people who sent an audition tape in?
A: Here’s a little history – the first season of Survivor yielded a few thousand applicants. Season two – 100K. Now, it gets up around 10-20K or so, depending on the season. Moral of this story – don’t apply for season two of a popular show!! (Here’s more on that in a video Q&A.)
Q: Got any juicy insider stuff from American Idol? It’s been a huge part of American TV for so long, gotta be some doozies.
A: Idol.. oh Idol… it’s such a strange beast. I never cast the show, but I have had friends that have auditioned… and it ain’t pretty. I have a friend who auditioned for the show in Pasadena at The Rose Bowl one year. He is a really good singer. Trained. Degreed. The works.
He waited over 12 hours in the hot sun for a chance to sing. When it was his turn, he got about 15 seconds in front of an Intern or PA (Note: a “PA” is the lowest rung on the television production ladder you can be. These people are hired at a day rate to keep the “cattle” in line. They have no eye for talent. They are just bodies paying their dues to learn something about the business.)
When he started singing, the PA’s phone rang and the PA picked it up, proceeding to talk through Mike’s entire audition. Do you think my friend got through to the next round? Hell no! The next five people in line had the same fate.
Q: Do you outline set of roles that you want to fill before you begin casting (ex: instigatory religious nut, competitive asshole, relatable family man etc.)
A: Depending on the show, we have an general idea of the types we are looking for. We start with broad strokes and then narrow them down as we start cobbling together finalists. You always need a hero and villain – often multiple. But the type of hero or villain often depends on the pool of applicants – so that’s where we get the extreme peeps – and then we try and find their opposite to create drama.
Q: Do you try to portray the people differently based on editing to enhance your show and if so do you try and make people look worse than they are?
A: Editors are gods in reality TV, they can make or break ya. But… the person being edited is giving the editor all the fodder they need. So if you’re Crazy, you’ll look even crazier once they add the music and the reaction shots and such. It just depends on the show. People generally end up looking worse (or at least different) from what they thought they would be. When I was on a show – they REALLY wanted me to cry – but I wouldn’t do it. So what they did was during a break in shooting I was sitting on a couch looking off into the distance pondering life, wearing my natural expression – a frown. They secretly filmed that and, during editing, added all the sappy music in to make it look like i was the verge of tears in the final edit.
Q: The people on Cash Cab aren’t ACTUALLY picked up on the street? They’re CASTED?!
A: Yup. We cast them… but it was STILL a game show and they still had NO IDEA that they were getting into the Cash Cab, so we had to be sneaky. We cast people because the Qs are SO HARD that we needed to vet them first to see if they could handle them. Basically the people thought they got cast on a totally different show and when we would meet them to film that show, we’d be like “Oh, we changed locations, get in this cab and we’ll meet you up there. and BAM. the game began.” And, sometimes, randomly, they would just take in regular peeps off the street.
And last but not least, one guy thought I might know the answer to this quandary:
Q: Is it wrong that I get an erection while pooping?
A: It would be wrong if you didn’t.
Hope that was helpful!
P.S. Have you picked up your copy of Me On TV yet? For shame! Get it here.
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