Understand the Casting Process: The Casting Funnel

by Dan Gheesling

 Important Note: Reality TV casting processes constantly change.  The casting process for the show I got cast on has changed significantly in just a few years.  When reading ‘Understanding the Casting Process’ articles don’t focus on what you should expect “next” in your casting journey – focus on what information you can apply to where you are right now.

Reality-TV-ApplicantsWho Really Applies for Reality TV?

The amount of people who apply to get on Reality TV has changed drastically over the years.  In the infancy stages of Reality TV it is estimated that 50,000+ people applied for Survivor in its prime.

Now with the large number of Reality shows on air, this number has dropped significantly.  The number can only be estimated because most shows never release the true number of applicants.

CBS competition-based shows like Survivor and Big Brother do not release their casting numbers.  Some talent-based shows, like American Idol and X-Factor, will release their numbers, because of the nature of the show.

The Casting Funnel

The Casting Funnel is setup to give you a visual representation of the numbers involved in casting.  Essentially anyone who applies for a Reality TV show is a freak in one way or another (myself included).  It takes a certain level of craziness to actually apply for a Reality TV show, but that’s what makes it interesting.

It is the goal of the Casting Assistants to funnel the applicants down to the freakiest, craziest, and most compelling group possible.  Take a look:



The average number of applicants for a competition-based show will be somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000.  From there, the number of applicants will be reduced to about 800 for the first Semi-final cut.  The 800 applicants will then be narrowed down to the best 40 to make up the Final round.

These 40 Finalists will be competing for approximately 12 character positions for the Reality TV Show.  It is important to understand how the applicants are cut down but do not dwell solely on the numbers.

You are not competing with 10,000 other people.  Because there is nothing you can do about the other people applying, the only competition is yourself.


Dealing With the Machine

Reality-TV-Casting-Process-MachineWhen you decide to enter the pool of applicants for Reality TV, know that you are dealing with a well oiled machine.  The whole casting process has been systematized and perfected by industry professionals since the year 2000.  In the very early years of Reality TV, the casting process was pieced together in a makeshift manner because auditioning on such a wide scale, cross-country endeavor had never been done before.

That was more than ten years ago.   Now the whole process is a machine-like system.

The major Reality TV shows hire specialized Reality TV casting companies (like Kassting, Inc.) to run the machine on their behalf.  Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that unlike a machine, the human element is still present in the casting process.

A machine does not care how many times you have applied for a show, but the casting personnel will remember (if you have a memorable story).  Do not beg and plead to stay a part of the casting process, because the machine will then chew you up, spit you out and forget about you.

You must reject feelings of disappointment by understanding that the casting process is a business run like an assembly line.

I was rejected in casting A TON of times.  It is tough to deal with but once you get over the first rejection it gets a lot easier.  If you are able to do this, you will begin to set yourself up for success.


Know What You Are Dealing With

The Casting Funnel gives you enough insight to understand what you will be dealing with, and that’s it.  Anytime you can gather information on the casting process like in this article be sure to do so, but also remember how the process is always evolving.  If you start to “expect” certain things to happen that is when you will run into disappointment.  Some Reality TV hopefuls will skip entire parts of the funnel and still get cast on Reality TV.

Reality TV shows add twists to keep things interesting and casting companies mix things up so people do not play the system.  Things always change.  Use this information to strengthen your knowledge of the casting process, but don’t let it dictate your every move.

What do you think of the Casting Funnel? Feel free to ask any questions and join the discussion on the Facebook page.  

Also if you haven’t previewed my eBook:  How A Normal Guy Got Cast On Reality TV make sure to do so, it will give you a lot more insight into the entire casting process.

Take care!


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