I’ve been working in documentary and reality TV for several years now, doing everything from casting to shooting to editing. My least favorite part by far is casting, and right now I’m in the middle of a big project and becoming a bit disgruntled. Most people who apply to be a reality tv contestant or “character” seem to have no idea what I’m actually looking for, so I thought I’d offer a few tips (and vent some of my pet peeves).
A reality show casting is the opposite of a job interview.
One of the hardest parts of casting a reality show is dealing with applicants trying to look good and cover up their flaws. This is totally counter-productive: if you want to look good, get a modeling contract. Reality TV is about human drama, which cannot occur if you’re not willing to let your guard down. Think of it as the anti-job interview. For once, you can tell the interviewer about all your flaws, your shortcomings, your insecurities. It’s like a therapy session without the “helping” part. Don’t try to look good. I repeat, trying to look good will get you nowhere.
Experience is bad. Just like pornography.
Casting directors want to feel that they’ve discovered new talent. That’s what we get paid for. If you’ve done Bad Girls Club or Extreme Couponing or whatever, keep it to yourself. If you’re already a reality TV celeb, we’ve heard of you. Just let us know why you’re fresh and unique.
Be relevant to the show or don’t apply.
If the show is looking for people with crazy parents, but you have a crazy dog instead, don’t write in. No matter how awesome you are, we aren’t going to change the topic of the show.
Don’t tell me how young you look. I have eyes.
If we’re casting people who appear 21, and you’re 31, don’t try to convince me that you look like you’re in your early twenties. It’s just sad. Instead, send some pictures and let me judge for myself.
Written applications should be neither novels nor tweets.
Don’t send me 10000 words. Likewise, don’t send me a link to your website and expect me to investigate your awesomeness. Just write a good paragraph or two that fulfills every requirement of the casting call and makes it blatantly clear why you’re perfect for the show. And use proper grammar, even if you don’t speak it.
Don’t apply if you don’t actually want to do the show.
Believe it or not, I get a lot of applicants who write long email applications, then disappear once I’m actually interested in casting them. My theory is that they want to vent their life issues to a stranger, thinking nobody will ever respond. But I read every. single. application. If you’re good, you will be contacted. So think it over thoroughly before you apply. Don’t waste my time or your own.
Do tell me your reality show idea
Just don’t expect to get credit when we use it.