Understand the Casting Process: Casting Personnel Chain of Command

by Dan Gheesling

This is the second post in the ‘Understanding the Casting Process‘ series.  If you have not had a chance to read the first post about the Casting Process (Funnel) I would recommend you do that first before reading on.

Reality TV Casting Personnel HelpMuch like anything in life, it’s not the systems, processes, or technology that makes things work, it’s the people.  Same thing goes for getting cast on a Reality TV show.

It really is all about the people who are involved in the decision making and understanding who they are and what they do.

By understanding the role each person plays in the casting process you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

The Chain of Command

The people who run the machine play a pivotal role in determining your chances of success.  During your journey to Reality TV, you are going to encounter many different people.   As you meet the personnel make sure to identify their role by asking them or observing them.

The Casting Personnel Chain of Command is very straightforward and linear, much like the military.  Everyone reports to someone.  Here is what the Chain of Command looks like:

Reality TV Casting Personnel

Casting Assistant

At the bottom of the chain is the Casting Assistant.  You will encounter Casting Assistants at open casting calls and interviews.  The Casting Assistant’s main job is to get you checked into your interview.

They have no decision-making power.  The Casting Assistant will be the one who greets you, collects your paperwork, takes photos of you, checks you in, and escorts you to interviews.

 

Production Assistant

One half-step up from the Casting Assistant is the Production Assistant.  The main difference between the two is the location where you encounter them.  The Production Assistant (PA) will be located near where the show is filmed.  They will not travel to outside location interviews or casting calls.

PAs can be found near the very end of the interview process and after you’ve made it on the Reality TV show.  The PA’s main job is to watch over you and get you from point A to point B with no problems along the way.

A PA also has little-to-no decision making power. However, they are very different from Casting Assistants in regards to what they know.

When you make it to the Finals, you will spend a lot of time with a PA who will be assigned to you.  PAs make everything easier for you and they do their best to take care of you.  Take care of them by being kind and making their tough job easier – be a low-maintenance applicant.

 

Casting Producer

Going up to the first tier of power, you will find the Casting Producer.  The Casting Producers are in charge of sifting through and interviewing all applicants (as well as watching the audition videos).  They help to make the decision about who advances to the next round (usually a field of 800).

Oddly enough I still keep in touch with a handful of the Casting Producers who rejected me on my journey to Reality TV.  You can watch a replay of a live Spreecast (video chat) of me and one of my former Casting Producers by clicking here.

A Casting Producer has seen it all and is very experienced in the casting business.  Most of the time, Casting Producers start out as Casting Assistants and work their way up.  Casting Producers are very shrewd and know exactly what to look for in applicants.  This is the first person you will actually need to impress and influence.

You will find Casting Producers behind the camera at open casting calls and also in the same position during future interviews (they will also be at the Finals process, but in a diminished role). The job of the Casting Producer during the interview is to narrow the applicants down to the best of the best.  They then present the best applicants to the Casting Director.  Casting Producers report directly to the Casting Director.

 

Casting Director

Reality-TV-Robyn-Kass-Casting-PersonnelThe Casting Director is one of the few major decision makers in the entire process.  Their main job is to run the entire casting operation and narrow the selected applicants down to only a handful.  They present the selected few applicants to the Executive Producers.

Two of the top Casting Directors in the Reality TV business are Robyn Kass and Lynne Spillman.  The Casting Director will be the sharpest and most difficult person you will encounter.

Casting Directors have so much experience in dealing with Reality TV applicants that they can spot pretenders a mile away.  They will also challenge you personally over and over again.  How you react to them will be critical to your success.

Your first contact with a Casting Director will most likely be on the phone (or even on a Skype interview).  Before a Casting Director will advance you to the Finals, they will want to talk to you for the purpose of gauging your personality and excitement level.

Casting Directors sit in on all of the major interviews and help to guide you through the most critical parts of the end process.  A Casting Director has a tremendous amount of power and influence.  They are one of three main decision makers in your casting fate.  The Casting Director reports directly to the Executive Producers of the Reality TV show.

 

Executive Producers

How-To-Get-On-Reality-TV-Executive-ProducerThe Executive Producers are the people in charge of the Reality TV Show.  They make every major decision regarding the show, and most importantly, the selection of the cast.  Everything from the theme of the show, profiles of ideal cast members, story lines, and everything in between is decided by the Executive Producers.

Executive Producers can be an eclectic mix of people who all bring different talents to the show.  Most of them have a long history in the business and have wide ranges of experiences.  Some of the Producers strictly handle personnel and others only deal with the creative aspect of the show.

Executive Producer provide a wide range of talents to the Reality TV show.  It will be extremely difficult to identify which Executive Producer has their expertise in casting, so it is best not to try.

You may encounter the Executive Producers once or twice throughout the casting process.  Your two biggest interviews will be with them.  When meeting them, your only goal is to invoke strong emotion from at least one of them.  The Executive Producers report directly to the Network Executives.

 

Network Executives

The slang term “suit” for corporate people certainly applies to Network Executives.  These people are the figureheads and final approvers of the show’s cast.  They control whether or not the Reality TV show will air or even get renewed for another season.

For mainstream Reality TV shows, the Network Executives are often in charge of the entire TV Network.  They are the final gatekeeper in the process of becoming a Reality TV contestant.

You may or may not see the Network Executives during the casting process (remember the process always evolves and changes).

If you do, there will be several of them present.  Not all of them will speak and none of them will introduce themselves.  Their main task is to approve the decisions of the Executive Producers.

The Network Executives are the most powerful people in the entire process.  They are the also the least accessible and they report to no one.

 

Using Personnel Knowledge to Your Advantage

Understanding how the Chain of Command works and who does what, gives you vital information about the entire process.  Any knowledge you can collect along the way is power.

How you leverage this information can give you an advantage over the other applicants.  As you progress along the way, make sure to identify the roles of the people you encounter.  Identifying the personnel allows you to determine who you need to impress.  It will build familiarity with who you need to ‘amp up your energy level’ around and who you can relax around.

 

What do you think?

This is a lot of information to take in but if you can visualize the Chain of Command it will help keep things organized for you.  You may not always be able to identify the role of each person you meet in the casting process, so don’t be afraid to ask them what their job is.

I’m sure there are many ways to leverage this information to help increase your chances of getting on Reality TV that I failed to mention.  How else can you use this information to help your casting chances? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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!

-Dan

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt March 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I think this is your best article so far. I think articles that delve into structure/format of the casting process are particularly helpful for preparing candidates.
As an aside, when it gets close to the deadline for the first step in casting, will you then focus more of your content on the semi-final process?

Reply

Dan Gheesling March 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Thanks Matt – I agree that looking into the structure of the Reality TV casting process can help. One thing that is important not to overlook is that the process is ALWAYS changing. The checkpoints that I went through to get cast on Big Brother will not be exactly the same as someone today. It is a good idea to have a general knowledge of it – but if you dwell on that information as you go through the process and one particular checkpoint doesn’t happen – it doesn’t mean you are doing poorly. Basically don’t freak out if your process was different than someone else’s. :)

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Kailey Petrus September 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Dan! I too have grown up around the reality tv world. I have been watching Big Brother since i was 7 years old. My cousins and I so badly wanted to be on the show so we could pick out a houseguest & pretend to be them. I used to walk around my house acting like Lisa (Big Brother 3 winner) and over course was bragging cause I had “won”. I am FINALLY 18 years old and able to send in my audition tape. I am a tad nervous being that I am so young that I have less of a chance of being casted! Is there any key advice you could give me? Thanks, Kailey.

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Pokey August 31, 2012 at 1:19 am

Hi Dan,

The picture for your chain of command is off: you say that casting assistant is at the bottom and one step up from that is a production assistant, but the bottom link of the chain in the picture has these two out of order. You’re a little busy now, being on TV and all, but just wanted to send a friendly editing message. PS: It’s my personal opinion that YOU are the king of big brother, not Dr. Will ;)

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fernando February 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I wonder where I can submit casting directly with the producer, and also agencies charge you take pictures and charge. I wonder producers and casting directions that are being made now esn london.

thank you very much.

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