Wow, we’ve made it to the 10th episode! And it’s a good one! This podcast is an Part 1 of an interview with Robyn Kass, a Reality TV Casting Director who has been in it since the beginning of Reality TV!
In this episode learn how Robyn got started along with insight into how she casts people for her shows!
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Dan Gheesling: This is the “How To Get On Reality TV Podcast” with Dan Gheesling: Episode 10. Wow…10…already?!
Welcome to the “How To Get On Reality TV Podcast,” where you will learn everything you need to know about getting cast on a reality television show. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where to start OR if you have applied many, many times before. This podcast will help you improve your casting game.
Thank you so much for tuning into yet another episode of the “How To Get On Reality TV Podcast.” This is Episode 10! It’s a big one! I’ve been waiting to share this with you for a while because it’s a big deal. We have Robyn Kass on and if you know anything about reality television or CBS reality television, you know how big of a deal Robyn is. She casts shows like Big Brother andThe Bachelor, and has a long laundry list of things she’s cast and a ton of experience and a wealth of knowledge in the industry. And in this episode I’m gonna talk to Robyn about how she got started in the business and how some of her early days in casting influence what she does now. We’re also going to find out in this podcast about how reality TV casting has changed over the past 7-10 years, because it’s interesting to hear exactly what Robyn says and it surprised me a little bit but it was a good surprise. And then, of course, we’re going to get a little behind-the-scenes look at Robyn’s day-to-day life in casting.
But before we jump into that interview, I wanna take a quick second and thank some people individually who took the time out to rate the podcast on iTunes. So Musclemagic, Catnounts, Kacey_123, TylerF., Steven, Shawn Alvarez, Jimmy+Phil, Senseandrew, and Jared Easley. Thank you guys all for leaving reviews in iTunes, it just so happens that all you guys left 5-star reviews, which I really appreciate. You know, so thank you for taking the time out to do that!
So without any further ado, we’re gonna hop right into the 10th Episode of the “How To Get On Reality TV Podcast” titled “An Interview With Robyn Kass: Legendary Casting Director. Part 1.” I hope you guys enjoy this one.
Dan Gheesling: Alright, so I’m super excited to have with me on the podcast today a legendary Casting Director in the reality TV world, who I’m also happy to call one of my friends: Robyn Kass! Thank you so much for coming on today!
Robyn Kass: I mean…legendary?! Really?! How cool is that?! (laughs)
Dan: Robyn, I mean, let’s call a spade a spade. You are…if not…it’s basically down to you and one other person who is one of the top reality TV casting people in the United States of America.
Robyn: There’s definitely a handful of us on CBS. Yes, there’s probably two of us but, I mean, there’s…you’re right. There’s a small pool, but there’s definitely some other Casting Directors out here who are “legendary.”
Dan: Now, don’t let Robyn fool you if you’re listing to this podcast right now. She’s being exceptionally modest. She’s legendary. She’s casted so many different shows I couldn’t even list them here. She’s got a website, it’s at: KasstingInc.com. It has just a list of things she’s casted for. And you’ve heard of all of them. So Robyn, I’m gonna let you brag about yourself for a second. Just tell me: for someone who doesn’t know who Robyn Kass is, first just let me lift up the rock that they live in, you need to get into the reality TV world. Just tell me some of the shows you’ve cast, Robyn.
Robyn: Gosh, well, I started way back in the day…kind of actually before reality TV when it was all dating shows and games shows. I actually started my career in lots of fun and cheesy dating shows that, if I mentioned, you’d probably half be my age to know what they were. Shows like Elimidate and Change of Heart, a show called The Big Date, which was my first dating show. I think what happened what people in the dating show and game show world…when Reality hit…they came to us because we sort of had real people producing and casting and we sort of developed how reality show casting ran. From there I started on Big Brother 2 was my first really big reality show. And Survivor. I did many years of The Bachelor. I did a show called The Swan. I’ve done a lot of dating-type shows. I did Love in the Wild. I have a big show on NBC called Ready For Love. That’s going to be airing April 9th. I mean, I don’t know, I’ve done so many…any show with like “Love” in it, I’ve probably done it. (Dan laughs) I did some fun kid shows, fun cable shows, I mean, you’re right I have done a lot of shows.
Dan: So essentially who we have on the podcast is the Wikipedia of reality TV casting: Robyn Kass! And you threw out Elimidate, which threw back to late night TV. But let’s take a step back because that was actually my first question for you about how you got your first start. So, comparably speaking, the only type of casting out there was for television shows, non-reality shows, and movies. So it’s very methodical people. So there you are in this industry…and tell me how it started for you. Do you remember the first call you got? Were you like “What is this reality TV?” or when did you know it was starting to happen?
Robyn: Well, you know, I was working at a show called Change of Heart when Real World 1 and Survivor I think were the two beginning, at least what I remember to be the beginning of true reality competition TV. And I remember sort of hearing about it and getting really excited about it. Not really knowing what it was and a little confused. I remember being in casting when Survivor 1 was airing and I was so drawn to it in awe over it and I remember being in New York in the middle of a day of casting when the Survivor 1 Finale came on. I remember stopping my casting, because that was before TiVo, watching the Finale in awe. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I feel like it excited me on a different level, not just as a viewer, but I sort of felt connected to it. I had been interviewing real people since college. That had been my life. What I did everyday was interview hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, ask questions, have them tell me stories about their life. I was always pretty good at drawing out stories and having people feel comfortable. I think that’s something I really pride myself on. And it was right place, right time, super lucky when they took a chance on me with Big Brother and that’s when the ball really started rolling. I was definitely one of the people who was there since the beginning.
Dan: Alright, so you talk about your big break being Big Brother season 2 and so tell me how that went down. You got a call that said ‘hey, we need a cast for this show’ or…cause at the time what were you doing prior to Big Brother 2? You were still doing the dating shows?
Robyn: Yeah, I can’t remember if I was doing Change of Heart or Elimidate. I did those for a long time…for years and they kind of mesh together. But you know what’s funny? It was sort of scary going in. I was excited about Big Brother 2 because I knew it was a big reality show. And that’s where I wanted to go. I was also nervous because, if you remember, Big Brother 1 was sort of a flop. I knew that they were making lots of big changes: how they casted, the producing team, everything about it was going to change. And I think I knew that this could be make or break for me. Like…if this show happens to be a hit after it was a bit of a flop, I could really come out looking great. If this show sort of goes down the same path and no one gets excited about it and maybe it ends after season 2, I could…
Dan: You could get blamed for it.
Robyn: Right. So it was exciting, it was a gamble, but ultimately I want the show. I wanted to cast it and see what I could do with it.
Dan: Okay, so had you established your company at that time?
Robyn: No, no, no, no. Not for years. I mean I worked freelance in casting all the way up until Big Brother All-Stars. And that’s how a lot of reality casting directors work. You get hired by the production company, you work out of their production office, you hire your staff, they work there for the duration of the casting process, and when you’re done with that you keep your fingers crossed and hope that another production company or network will call you and you move to that show and hope that the timing works. I did that for years and I think that I was pretty successful. I never really went without work. It got to the point where I was getting more offers than I could keep up with. And it would get frustrating because I would literally get offers every week for new shows. And since I was freelance and in a production company, obviously I couldn’t work in the Big Brother production office and do a show for another network. So I would turn down shows, I was working one at a time, I was jealous over the other shows, I wanted to work on the other ones, I wanted to work as much as possible. I had it pretty much down where I knew I could handle multiple shows. And, like I told you before, I was the first to sort of take that leap and start the first ever all reality TV casting company. It was super scary and the only way it was successful was I had formed great relationships with production companies and networks to where they were able to take the leap with me. Like, ‘Robyn, we love you and we trust you enough that we’ll do it that way.’ But it was scary. I wasn’t working in the production offices, the producers couldn’t see me every day, I had multiple shows going on at one time. It took time for people to get used to it and I lost show in the beginning because of it. Now, more casting companies like mine have opened so production companies are used to how it runs.
Dan: Okay, so you were the first one to take the leap and have an established reality TV casting company. But I want to take a step back because when you got that first call to do your big show, what sort of skillset did you take from your previous experience with casting dating shows? What attribute did you take when you started to find the first major show you worked for? Like do you look back and think ‘Wow, I really learned <this> from that experience.”
Robyn: There are probably two big things I think I learned from back in the day. First of all when I started casting, and this is going to age me and you’re going to be shocked… (Dan laughs) …but there was really no Internet. There was no MySpace, no Twitter, no social media. No way we could find people for shows. Every night of the week I went out to clubs, bars, and parties. I had my cards, I talked to people, I chatted with people, gained great people skills, how to read people, body language, if they wanted to talk to you, if they didn’t want to talk to you, in they’re interested, if they’re not interested. A lot of those skills, I wish some of the newer people in casting had. We could just go onto a site and be like ‘cute, single people.’ It was like…we had to go out, we had to find them, it was really difficult sometimes. 50 people say no to you before 1 person says yes. It’s about pushing and pushing and finding what’s good for the show. I wish everybody in casting had that skill. Now I hire people who are supposed to be recruiting, but I know they’re going online. There’s just very easy ways. Another thing is: hardcore people skills. I mean, when I was working dating shows, I would interview hundreds of people each week. Way more than reality shows. With reality shows, my staff weeds it down and I am lucky enough to see the cream-of-the-crop. And back in dating show days, I would work from 10:00 to 5:00 and then at 5:00 all the singles would come in and I would start my session from 5:30 to 10:00. And that’s what I would do Monday through Friday. And my recruiters would find, you know, every night I would have a room of 50 people who I would have to get comfortable and tell me stories, laugh, be on, and I think those skills helped me read people now and understand when they’re authentic. Just being able to read people. I think those skills came because I interviewed so many people during that time.
Dan: So let me ask you this in kind of an off-topic question: Do you look at some people you hire, like, maybe they’re young and new in the casting industry and you’re like ‘Back in my day…’
Robyn: Totally! I mean I can’t believe I’m that person. (Dan laughs) But it’s true; I’m totally that person. Back in my day, I mean, our files of people were actual files, (Dan laughs) drawers that you would open with files and Polaroid pictures and handwritten applications. We would go through the files. Now I have a database. Everyone can upload a picture and now I can Skype people if I want to interview them in they’re in a different state. I didn’t have that capacity then so yeah, there totally is some ‘back in my day, sonny.’
Dan: Okay, so we’ve talked about how it has changed for you. Now I want to take a step forward. So here’s Robyn Kass, present day, successful casting company, and clearly you don’t do some of the things you did when you were working the dating shows. You own the company; you’re the CEO, so walk us through a day in your life. What’s a day from like morning to end in your work life? What is that like?
Robyn: Um…you know, I just sit around and drink coffee. (Dan laughs) My workload depends on how many shows I’m doing at once and where I am in each show.
Dan: Okay, so let me ask you this and you don’t have to get too specific if you don’t want: what’s a high load for you? What’s a lot of shows at one time versus like a slower time for you?
Robyn: It’s so tough to say that just because there are shows like Big Brother that have big steps and traveling. There’s pilots that I do that I might only have one person working on it. I could have 6 people in my office or I could have 30 people in my office. And just because I have 30 people, doesn’t mean I have more shows, it just means I could have different types of shows. When a production company comes to me and says ‘This is the show we have.’ I mean, I have a million questions to ask them and then from those answers, I will build a calendar, I’ll build how much manpower I need, do I need travel, do I need casting assistants, is this something we can do home base and I can research online, or is this a show where I need 8 people to scour the country and meet people in person. So it really depends on the size of the show. Some shows take 6 weeks, some shows take 6 months. It’s always sort of fluctuating, which is exciting all at the same time, you know? I’m lucky that since I’ve opened my company 8 years ago, I’ve been really busy and very fortunate. I’ve had maybe a month with nothing and it’s scary. Is reality TV dying? Did they forget about me anymore? What is happening? So it changes a lot. There’s a lot of ups and downs. And really…right before the show shoots, that’s the busiest time for me. So my staff is busier at the beginning. They’re traveling, getting the word out, they’re doing social media, they’re interviewing people, sending information back to me, giving updates. Then towards the end when it’s finals and I’m meeting people, that’s the busiest time for me. It’s best if I can get shows that are kind of staggered. Where, like, this is my final time for this show then maybe the finals for the other show is like in a month or a few weeks. So when I get new shows, Gord who you know very well, my production manager, him and I will sit down and look at a calendar and see if it’s doable. We’re going to be locked in with finals for Big Brother from this date to this date. They have to realize they probably won’t have me during that time, are you able to take this show? Can I do this? Are the finals at the same time? If they are, I’ll have to turn it down. It depends on the size of the show.
Dan: So let me ask you this, Robyn: what determines whether or not you set up a net of traveling versus a show where you need one or two? Is it diversity of cast they need? Is it budget?
Robyn: It’s everything. Of course it’s budget. Everyone wants to do it faster and cheaper. So I do it meet their budget. Maybe their budget doesn’t allow for travel. So I might have to have another game plan where I hire people around the country and then I Skype people interviews. Maybe I post stuff online and see who applies online and do it that way. Sometimes producers want me to meet them in person and put it on tape. Sometimes they’d rather do it cheaper and do a Skype. It also depends on the topic of the show. Let’s say…I’m just going to make this up…it’s like “Family Dynamics.” It’s like a family with feuding kids. They’re half Republicans and half Democrats, kids living in one home. Something like that. Clearly that’s not a show that I could send people out to recruit for. I mean, you can’t walk down the street and be like “do you have a Republican sister?” So that would probably be a show that would be home base, we would do research online, try to find people, go into different forums, talk to people with different views. A lot of that has to do with…we don’t have to leave. And then there’s dating shows where they want hot singles. They do that online, but it’s also going out to bars and nightclubs, you wanna cover the country, see people partying in different areas. So that sort of determines how we structure it.
Dan: Ok got it so, I know it’ hard to quantify but it sounds like if it’s more of a niche based show, like it’s that’s the situation where you wouldn’t cast a wider net. Like, you do specific things to kinda pinpoint finding, is that true or no?
Robyn: Yeah, yeah I mean every, it’s so tough because..
Robyn: I’ve done so many different shows and on top of what’s on my resume I’ve done hundreds of pilots also and those are really difficult, um and a lot of it is when the come to me with some sort of like this is the show we want to cast. You know first of all I have to ask myself is it do-able; because I don’t want to take a show I am going to fail at. Um, and if I do think it’s do-able, you know I might hire my staff and we might spend first 3 days brainstorming, what are the best ways to find these people? How do we get them interested and involved? How do we coax them? How do we handhold them to make them feel comfortable and safe? Um, so there is a lot of that and a lot of different ideas, some producers might call and say try this, this and this. Um, so it’s a lot of thinking outside the box, changing directions as much as possible. Um, you know if it’s a show about adopted kids, you know, that’s you have to try find different avenues online, people are telling their stories, “I’m looking for my parents”, those kind of things.
Robyn: So, how to approach them in a way where they know we are legit. I mean that’s tough also online. People are like why do you have all this information about me? How do I know who you are? You know?
Robyn: You think a lot of people know my name, not enough (Dan laughs) You know outside the Big Brother Reality TV world, You know, people.. my name is..it could just be Joe Schmo and I could be some scam type person trying to get their information. You know?
Dan: Well clearly you are not a scam artist Robin. I can personally attest to that. (Both laugh) Now so, just there you mentioned a lot of different things that you do, so that’s my next question for you. Like what is your role within the company? Tell me some of the things that you do, you know on a daily basis.
Robyn: Well I do a lot of hiring. And it’s really tough. Every show I do…and because sometimes casting is the first thing in every show, sometimes the production company will call me on a Thursday and say they are starting casting on Monday. And in the next 24 hours I have to interview a lot of people. I mean, yes, I know a lot of people in casting. I try to keep, you know, my crew here as much as possible and working, but sometimes I have larger shows and I have new people. I interview a lot of people. So I staff all the time. And just like in every job market, there are some gems in there and you have to kiss a lot of frogs too. I also would like to think that my office…I love the vibe in my office. It’s fun, we’re a little silly, we might have a dance party, we crack jokes, and I find people who mesh well. Because one shitty person can literally spoil the vibe in my entire office. I like to meet people, see what they’re like, feel their energy. So that is one thing that I do a lot.
Dan: I can personally attest. I’ve been in your office, Robyn, and let’s just say in your office you have a cabinet with a wide variety of drinks, we’ll just put it that way.
Robyn: I do! I’m looking at it right now! (Dan laughs)
Dan: Alright, so…
Robyn: And that’s not to say we’re drinking all the time…
Dan: No, no.
Robyn: But yeah, when you see that I have a bar in my office, it shows that we do get stressed and I like people to have fun. I think if you work in a good working environment with a boss you like; I think you’ll work harder. Hands down. If you yell at your staff and tell them it’s their fault we’re not casting this and why do you bring these people in, they’re going to go home and say ‘screw Robyn. Why do I want to help her out?’ If I’m telling them what a great job they did and that it’s going to be a great season, that’s going to get them pumped and I think that’s really important to have that working environment. So yeah, I would like to think that it’s a pretty fun place. Although it’s empty, everyone’s out. I’m here by myself right now.
Dan: I think it’s great if you look at your staff. And from my perspective I can say that. You have a lot of people that haven’t left you and I think because you must treat them very well on multiple levels. But I want to ask you this, because you said in terms of one of the things you do is hire staff. One thing I wanted to ask you, and this really doesn’t have anything to do with how to get on reality TV but for anyone who wants to break into reality TV casting, what is your best piece of advice or if you’re hiring someone what would your advice to them. So like a young, not that you’re old, but a young version of Robyn Kass out there who wants to get into reality TV casting, what would you tell them?
Robyn: I would say: start at the bottom without complaining. When you start at the beginning doing recruiting and stuff, I know it sounds really fun because you get paid to go out and meet people and it is. Especially if you’re coming out of college, it’s such a fun that’s I’m paying you to go out and meet people and talk to people and socialize. It also takes a certain type of person to do that. I mean, everybody thinks it’s easy to walk up to a complete stranger, you know what? Anyone who wants to get into reality casting, try it! (Dan laughs) Go out on a Saturday, try to approach people, watch them give you weird looks, it’s like you’re soliciting. If someone has a clipboard on a street corner, you’re going to walk around them and avoid them. We are those people. Even though we’re giving complements and tell you you’re cute, funny, this, that. So I would say be prepared to work from the bottom level. Even if it’s interning, even if it’s shadowing, even if it’s just going along and see what it’s like. I think it’s important that people know every aspect of casting and that would be the very beginning level. That’s why if you want to get into casting you want to start when you’re young because it is tough. I have people who talk to me and say they work in scripted casting, they’ve done it for 20 years, they’re really interested in reality casting, how do they make the transition. And it’s like, well, you’re going to have to go back and recruit. I’m not going to hire someone here who hasn’t at least done that and have that experience under their belt. For people who are just starting out, I think that you have to be super spunky, you have to be super likeable, people are going to want to hopefully talk to you. You have to be very open. All the people who are on reality shows tend to want to come into casting, and it is sort of a good marriage because it takes the same attitude to get on a show. You want the openness, you want people to talk to you and watch you, and you do the same thing in casting. I want people to take and good experience and to remember me when they leave. And after I interview them I want them to think I was nice and fun and not intimidating, even though you say I was.
Dan: You’re like the gatekeeper to get on certain reality shows!
Robyn: I like to think that when I first saw you, I hugged you, I probably had a big smile, probably told you how excited we were for you to be there, that’s a huge part of my job also.
Dan Gheesling: So Yeah no definitely, you definitely were like that but I don’t know if it was so long ago you might not remember but when I first talked to you on the phone, like on the count of our last conversation I could not come out to finals and it was like you weren’t ha I mean I kind of wasted your time more or less you were not exactly happy with me but when we did meet face to face I mean, it was a big hug and but like I knew who you were I’m like this is a big… on my perspective this is a huge deal. So if you are listening to this podcast and you ever meet Robin Kass. it is a big deal so don’t let her fool her you and say it isn’t
Robyn Kass: (Laughs) But she is really nice.
Dan Gheesling: She is very nice and very welcoming and she makes you feel really comfortable.
Robyn Kass: It is a big deal. (both laugh) I mean I need to talk to you every day because you just seriously make me feel good about myself all the time.
Dan Gheesling: But I am being honest though Robyn, it is like for someone to get to a point in a show when they meet you I mean you’re doing something right, because you’re… I mean and I’m not going to dance around words, you are very powerful in the realty TV casting world. I mean you’re the essentially the gatekeeper that lets people in or on, so it is a big deal. But I just want to wrap up the staffing thing with one question.
Robyn Kass: Okay
Dan Gheesling: So you say to someone “start at the bottom”. How would they start at the bottom what that where do they go like what do they do?
Robyn Kass: I would literally go into Google and type up Reality TV casting and probably companies would come up, I would email the companies and I would send your resume and I would also try to be cute and funny a little bit in your email you know I can tell when I have a very standard email that they send to every single person, It is a little bit annoying. It’s a little stiff I would rather have someone send me an email and be like “Hey Robyn! I am a big fan of Big Brother, I love the staff it would be so much fun to meet you. Can I come in? Can I talk to you? I want my chance. What can I do?” I love the sort of energy you know I mean I might, you might be working with me on a trial basis I might say lets see how you do for a couple weeks, umm and then once you sort of prove yourself on one show with one casting director we all sort of know each other we all talk. I mean I get emails from the other casting directors daily like “do you have any great associate producers or recruiters who are…” and I give them names and numbers. I might get emails throughout the week that say this person was great for me if by any chance you are looking for a great casting producer this person, you know trust me she is great. I loved working with her/him. So we are all sort of connected we all talk to each other but it is really important that you have a good attitude and I mean I get reference calls all the time, and I am super honest with people if I did not have a good experience with you, if I thought you were lazy, if you lied to me (Dan laughs)producing, I mean all of those things are important and I think that if you, just like any job, work your butt off at the beginning you will ultimately get in there. I mean there is a lot casting. Reality is big out here but I also think that people need to realize that it is a lot of work. It is not like it is a fun easy gig and you get to go out because if you do go out and you come home with nothing I will remember that and I will get somebody else.
Dan Gheesling: Alright got it. Cool. So thanks for that like cause I know there are some people listen that want to get into reality TV like the business end of it, the career aspect of it, so thanks for answer that. So you said you spend a lot of time staffing, so what else do you do like besides staffing cause clearly you do more then just staffing.
Robyn Kass: Right, I do that’s all I do. Staff all the time. That’s all I do. There are a lot of different things I do right, like right now for Big Brother I am doing a lot of media. So my teams they are out and about and I have radio interviews, TV interviews, Skype interviews, newspaper interviews. I mean almost daily and since I’ll tell you one thing that sort of sucks is since so much my staff they travel in the east coast and ultimately they want me on morning shows, like for the last two weeks I have been up at like 4:15 in the morning doing shock jock radio shows so I’m like lying half asleep in my dark room and I am like,(Dan laughs) “Hey! Woo Big Brother” trying to sound peppy its four o’ clock in the morning and my staff will schedule tons of these. So I do a lot of media, I talk about the show I get the word out tell people to show up answer questions do a lot of social media getting the word out making sure we are updated on my website making sure people can apply answering questions from there I am watching depending I mean I’m taking about Big Brother since it is you and it, you know, and what I am more known for you know watching I go in and I watch a lot of videos everyday and if I see a video that could be better I might call the people and tell them to do it again I might give them advice. I might answer some emails, I will talk to producers and see if they have any thoughts about specific needs or wants and I will make sure that I am checking with my staff everyday and finding out what is going on. People are flaky and people get nervous and we had such high hopes for this person and they bombed and this person was way better then we expected and we want to make sure we have all different age ranges and you know, so it is like when they are on the road which is happening right now on Big Brother it is a lot of emailing. It is a lot of watching videos. It is a lot of talking to my staff. It is a lot of getting the word out and media, so that is sort of like first sort of phase. Now, I might be starting a project on Monday so as that new project starts that will be in the first phase while Big Brother comes back and will be in the 2nd phase so It is about soft of overlapping, making sure that I know what phase I am in and what show what I should be doing for that show, am I watching edits of people they are interviewing once my staff comes home we are watching a lot of their semifinal interviews they will be in my office pitching me people showing me people, showing me we will ultimately pitch people, they will pitch people to myself and to Alison and Rich the EPs of the show, and basically what they will do before we showing them to Alison and Rich, is they will show me a lot of people and say “What do you think? Should I pitch this person? What do you think?” We only are going to obviously, we are not going to sit and watch 30 minutes on each of these people.,
Dan Gheesling: Right
Robyn Kass: We jump to like a 30 second spot where they are funny, or energetic or something cool. So they might comment to me and say “Okay so I have this sound byte from them, watch this” and “I have this sound bytes from him. What do you think is better to show to represent?” So we will kind of decide how we want to paint their picture. We do write ups, like pitch sheets on everybody. We have their picture, you kind of talk about the type of person they are a little bit of their background. Are they married? Do they have kids? Did they have struggle in their life that they have over come? What is unique and interesting about them? What do we think might happen on their show what type of character can they be? Are they emotional? Did they cry in their interview? You know, we try to put all of that down so by the time it is pitch day and they present their people to myself, Alison and Rich, we can in the shortest amount of time, they can let us know about this person they can say this person is “bam bam bam” here are the bullet points. He is 29. He is single. He just got out of a divorce. He is really funny. He is a football coach… blah blah blah… that kind of thing, hey (Dan laughs). He has a hot wife.
Dan Gheesling: There you go
Robyn Kass: Like that is the thing we can sort of decide from there who we want to fly out to Los Angeles.
Dan Gheesling: Got it. So essentially on this pitch sheet is like any thing of interest that you want to find about someone real quick. Here is what it looks like here’s, okay. Got it. Now you mention, I want to ask you because a lot of people are going to want to know this. You said that you watch videos, so I know you have multiple. You have an online casting website where you can send a video in. Are you, do you watch those or does someone screen those and be like “Okay we got a hundred today, these twenty are worth watching”?
Robyn Kass: Both.
Dan Gheesling: Okay
Robyn Kass: What happens is we will kind of divide the country up between my staff. So they say like you take you know these five areas, you take these five areas and when the videos come in we can divide them. We can see like where they come from, what state they are from. So part of there job is to watch all of these videos. If I have a slow day, I will go in and watch videos, if there are people that they have questions about they will ask me to watch videos. If something really funny happens we will all surround a desk and watch videos together. (Dan laughs) So the majority is done by them. I definitely am and if I have down time or I know that they are backed up, or we got hundreds in last night. I will definitely sit through those videos and decide if they go on to the next level.
Dan Gheesling: So you roll your sleeves up and go back to the days when you started out in casting.
Robyn Kass: Come on now, yes I roll up my sleeves.
Dan Gheesling: (laughs) Okay and since the interview is steering a little bit, but can you talk about when you watch a video. Like can you just talk about your thought process when you like setting up shop and you are like “Alright I am just going to crank though these videos”. What is your mindset when you get ready to watch those? Is it just like…
Robyn Kass: I mean, I still after all these years, I mean I still get super excited. I think they are funny. I like it when people are fans of the show clearly. Cause you and I have talked, like I feel like this show is my baby so when people know intercut things about Big Brother, it gets me excited. If they love certain characters if they hate, certain characters. I mean I love that that being said if someone sends in a video and they have never seen the show before but maybe their mom told them they would be good on the show. Like, I just as excited to bring that person into the Big Brother world and hope they get excited because I know they will. If a person auditions for the show who says they have never seen it. If they go on to the next level, they will YouTube it and I guarantee in 48 hours they will have seen 3 seasons. They are sucked in. They can tell me everything about it. They can believe they have not seen it before. They want to see more. So I love that aspect of it. Yeah there is a lot of videos that come in where I am like “What were you thinking? Why did you send that to me?” Like I mean, I just watched a video the other day where a girl was petting her dog for 2 minutes, not even saying to camera. Sitting and petting her dog, (Dan laughs) and I was like does she know that she sent that tape into me? Or I don’t understand why that happened. So some times it is frustrating but it is definitely. (Dan laughs) Yeah I think it is funny that I have a job where I can just sit and watch people do funny stuff and make funny videos there are definitely some that put a lot of time and effort in the videos really fun. And like as whole, my staff and I like when there are good videos that come in. We are always like “Come here, watch this, watch this” and we get excited and stuff. So yeah. I mean I have a good time with it.
Dan Gheesling: (laughs) Now do you have a threshold of like did you watch that entire 2 minute video of the girl petting her cat. Like do you have a threshold for pain? I mean like…
Robyn Kass: Yeah I mean, I sat through it because I was waiting for “Okay there has to be a grand finale. I mean there is reason why she is doing this, right? I have to see what is going to happen.” But yeah, I mean sometimes I think we are frustrated and like what like yeah why did you waste my time? People also… (sighs) They’re just jerks. Some times they will submit videos like they are animals or videos for like their kids ” I know my son is nine years old but…” and like its (sighs) delete and no, I cant.. I’ll see in eleven years I mean I am not going to do this now. So some of that is frustrating, but believe me I remind myself a lot how grand I have it that I have a cool job where I am able to.
Dan Gheesling: (laughs) So essentially, to put a light spin on it, you are getting paid to watch a girl pet her cat for 2 minutes.
Robyn Kass: That’s it. I get paid to watch the girl pet her dog or cat or whatever for 2 minutes, like I don’t know the breakdown of it or how much I got paid but you are right. I am sure a lot of people would trade in their job for a job watching her you know pet her dog or cat or whatever.
Dan Gheesling: (laughs) Alright, so to kind of wrap up your background before we get into some of the fan questions, because there are a lot of Robyn Kass fans out there. Can you tell me like what kind of big changes have you seen in casting, even with your company and the reality TV world. How have you have seen it change since 2007? Cause that is when you opened your doors.
Robyn Kass: The difference between now and then is the savviness of the people auditing for the show and this is where clearly you and I differ in ways of getting reality TV. I don’t want people to try and fool me. I don’t want people to be prepared me a story that they know is going to get me excited and then I put them on a show and now I am like “That’s not the person at all that I interview”. You know, people go in and saying “I need to be like Evil Dick. I need to be like Janelle. I need to be like this person. I need to say I am supper competitive.” There is definitely catch phrases on especially on Big Brother. (Dan laughs) Are you outrageous? Are you competitive? Are you outgoing? Fans of the show know those words and it is important that they think it is important that they come in and they have to say those things. You know I’ll tell you. If I had a freaking dollar for every time somebody has said to me “You know, I am really nice on the outside, but if you piss me off … the evil person will come and get you.” Its like no, that is not true. You are just saying that cause that (Dan laughs) is what you think I want to hear. So then my follow up question to that would be like “Oh great, so tell me a story about a friend who pissed you off and how deceiving you were.” “Well um… well, uh..” That is the thing. It is like don’t come in and tell me these catch phrases that excite me. Because, it is not authentic and it is not unusual and it is usually not backed up with any bit of substance. I don’t want people to try to make themself a better version of themself because that is when I get though casting and I just get them on the show. You know, I want to see and you know during casting during finals I spend a lot of time with the people It’s not just interviews like I hang out in the hotel, I try to sit with them when they are out having dinner, or having a drink, or by the pool, or at the gym… just to sort of see what they are like in their everyday life and not either the heightened version of them or the nervous of them, which i understand there are both of them. I don’t want to see that person. You know what I mean? Like, I want to just see what they are like. What they are going to be like. Especially on Big Brother because they are not editing around. I mean the whole thing is out there. So you’re a wallflower. You know. finals people are not allowed to talk to each other and that it is a very weird environment. But I like to, there are different things that I can do and say talk to people to get them away from who they are in front of the cameras and in front of Alison, Rich and I. Somebody can leave the room and we can look at each other and be like “Wait a minute … are they really like that? I don’t believe them. Robyn go have dinner with them tonight and see what they are like. Go over by the pool and see if they are talking the same way and what they are saying.” So I don’t like people to think too much, I don’t want people to over prepare. I just want them to have a conversation with me.
Dan Gheesling: Yeah I think it is really interesting that you say that the savviness of people coming around, cause clearly you know you and I are on two different sides on the coin. If I were to ask for your best advice for someone to get on reality TV. You are going to tell me just be yourself. Right?
Robyn Kass: Yourself, right.
Dan Gheesling: And like obviously we are not here to argue that point. I respect tremendously what you do. You know but obviously you are picking up on the savviness of people coming in very contrived and you have years and years of experience to see through that. So I think it is still a valid point but I think we take a stand and I agree to disagree with you on that point but you know that is not what we are here to talk about, cause ultimately you make the decision. But so you think that’s one of the main ways things are? Interesting. So you are seeing things now in casting that you haven’t seen in terms of level of savviness from like ten years ago. Is that fair to say?
Robyn Kass: Yeah, I also think people want to impress us and by trying to impress us, they screw up the audition. You know I mean, we might ask a question, you know we are obviously here in liberal southern California and maybe we ask a question about gay marriage. Lets just say. What we do, where we live, people know we probably… I am not saying that we all are but we are probably pro gay marriage. Probably, and I think that people will come in and we might ask a question. The process in their head, I don’t want them to hate me because I am against it. I have to make sure I agree with what they are going to like me more if I agree with what they say. And we see a lot of people stop and backpedal because they are nervous about insulting us. They are nervous about saying something that we don’t agree with. Which in reality the complete opposite, I mean I would rather have someone tell me I am wrong. I would rather have someone stand up to me. I would rather have somebody stick it to me. You know like “Jerk!” At least you got a reaction out of me an authentic reaction out of me. On the other side of that I do not want you to disagree with me just to get a reaction out of me because I can read right through that. You know. But I think it is important that people stick their guns, stick to their beliefs, tell us what they truly think. I mean there is nothing better then a person coming to finals and insulting the entire room and I have seen that happen many, many times and leave the room where all of us, Alison, Don, Rich and I like “The guy is a dick”, that is awesome. You know, “I can’t believe that I look fat in this outfit”. You know or whatever it might be. “I can’t believe he said that he was the smartest person in this room.” Clearly that has happen many times. Maybe that person is correct. I don’t know, but like to sit in front of Don Walman, Alison and Rich and say that I am smarter than you guys. I mean it is ballsy and like I like that. I like it when people are willing to push the envelope a little bit and say something that they believe in, not just what they believe we want to hear.
Dan Gheesling: So you like that when it fits the person too. When you can tell that they are not just saying that to say it, or cause a reaction. And you brought up an interesting thing about being in a specific religion. So like in California, you are going to generally have more liberal views then say the Midwest. So like for example if they show on Big Brother when you go to determine the locations that you are going to cast, or send casting people out to, like is that decision comes from the needs of the producers or how do you… is it just to get new people in the mix like… you know, how do you decide to set up shop?
Robyn Kass: Yeah I mean we try to switch up those cities every season. Of course we are going to always go to like Chicago we are always going to go to Boston or Philly, we are always going to go to somewhere in Texas, Los Angeles… but besides that I mean especially this year. I tried to choose places we have never been to before. We are going to Anchorage, Alaska; we are going to Portland, Maine. We are going to Fargo. We are going to the cities to get different accents, different views, different flavors, different thoughts. Now remember and I can not stress enough, that it does not matter where you live you can always apply online and I always want to tell people I don’t care if you don’t live in those areas, go online and apply. But yeah, the best Big Brother house I always say is a group of strangers who would never hang out together in the real world, locked in a house together. It is always great if we can get people with opposite views and it does not mean those views are going to come out. It does not mean that you are going to talk about politics when you are in the house but at least we know you are one different sides of the coin and if something like that happens to come up in conversation. It will be a good conversation. It wont be every single person on the same side. It will be the country saying “yes I agree with him”, “no I agree with her” that kind of thing. I think that we try to get people with different viewpoints from around the country. It doesn’t always work. We try to get out to areas especially this year with just different viewpoints. My viewpoints are different then yours, I am not saying mines right or yours are right. but if you and I were to have a conversation about politics it would at least be interesting because clearly we have different view points.
Dan Gheesling: No that is like a really honest assessment because not to go way back but you cast me on a reality show and I look back at Memphis. You and I and Memphis had Dinner and it still hits me to this day like when would Memphis and I ever meet each other or even get along? But you did that, you know?
Robyn Kass: It is usually the people who have the most sort of opposing views at the beginning for some weird reason end up bonding more in the house and have sort of have a deeper connection after the house. And I think that is something really cool about Big Brother. To open people’s eyes to see different viewpoints and not to change anyone’s viewpoint but at least to get people who are like “I get it”, “I understand it”, “we can talk about it”. “we can live in this house together and you know survive even though clearly we are different sides of gun control”. Which is obviously a super heated topic right now.
Dan Gheesling: Right
Robyn Kass: And we can survive in this house with these other views and I can still vote for you at the end thinking you were a good game player, even though I am on the opposite coin when it comes to gun control.
Dan Gheesling: Got it. Okay. Now I want to ask you. This is probably a really highly contested question and I am glad you’ve agreed to answer it because I know some people have a poor view on it, but I am going to ask you about the role recruiting takes place in reality TV casting.
Dan Gheesling: Okay I’m sorry to cut off the interview right here but I had to chop this podcast up into two parts because the interview ran over. Which is a good thing. There is a lot of content and in the next episode is going to be the conclusion of this interview with Robyn Kass. She goes into detail to talk about recruiting in reality TV and as well as she answers some of the questions that you guys submitted directly to the podcast, and to the Facebook page and to the email list. So in the 2nd part, all of those questions are going to get answered and much more. And real quick I wanted to take a quick second to let you guys know that as of the time of the release of this podcast also is the release of the “How To get on Reality TV: Video Bootcamp” Is now available for sale and you can check that out at howtogetonrealitytv.net/VC. So if you want to access the “How To get on Reality TV: Video Bootcamp” or any of the other links that were mentioned in this podcast. You can go to the show notes at HowTogetonRealityTV.net/episode10 where everything we have talked about on this podcast. All the links are there, for easy access for you guys to find out. So with that being said, I hope you guys enjoyed this episode of the “How to Get on Reality TV Podcast” and I will see you guys soon. Later.
Oh. And One more thing….. Robyn and I have one strange thing in common. We both have dogs with human names. So… Frank and Kevin. We love you guys. See ya!