Monday, September 27, 2010

True Story: I Was Cast on A Reality TV Show

This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is Sarah's story - of how she auditioned for (and was cast!) in a reality TV show.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I didn't do much theatre until I was in college. After college, I did a lot of community theatre, improv, and indie films in my town. Other than that, I don't have a huge theatre or acting background.

What was the premise for this reality show?
The reality show was like an American Idol for actors. We were supposed to be competing against each other for a role in a movie.

How did you find out about the audition?
Craigslist! (I know, right?!) I found it about two days before the actual audition. Most audition stuff on Craigslist is crap (“adult” actors are always being sought), so I was a little skeptical, but the audition was in my hometown, the requirements seemed easy enough and I decided to go.

What was the audition process like?
For me, the audition process was a blast (but then again, I'm one of those weirdos who enjoys auditions, interviews, etc.). We didn't need headshots or resumes. Instead, the Craigslist ad had given twelve movies that we were allowed to do two minute excerpts from. I looked through the movie choices and the only one I was remotely familiar with was "Basic Instinct." But—and this choice really paid off--I decided to do it my way: I memorized the famous leg-uncrossing scene, affected a hideous Southern accent, and donned my Halloween costume...which just so happened to be a "Pregnant Redneck." It’s safe to say that I was one of the only people at the audition who was in costume.

At the audition, there were probably a few hundred people there, and there was no "pre-casting" like what they do on American Idol. They lined us up, and we went in one by one and auditioned for the celebrity judges: Morgan Fairchild, Adrian Zmed, and a personal hero of mine, Joe Piscopo. I walked in dressed in that costume and the room sort of fell silent. After a bit of chit-chat, though, I got to do my scene with Joe Friggin’ Piscopo (augh!) and at that moment, I knew that whatever happened, this audition was one of the coolest moments of my life. Fortunately, I got all three judges to laugh, and they unanimously sent me through to the "next round."

How did you feel when you got the call that you'd been cast? Did you feel like you'd been cast to fulfill a certain "role"?
It was SO cool to hear I'd been cast, mostly because I had gone into the audition with nothing to lose, and I’d already been able to meet Joe Piscopo (who is probably one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people ever). Plus, I got a free trip to New Orleans where we were shooting, so I couldn't complain. I didn't feel like I was cast to fulfill a certain role until I met the rest of my castmates, when it then became abundantly clear that I was cast as "weird white girl." Ha!

Sarah (on the right in the brown sweater) with the other cast members

Tell us about filming the show.
We filmed for just a week in New Orleans. Unlike reality shows like The Real World, where the cameras are on all the time, we only filmed in pre-set situations, like a coaching session with Zmed, or a group tour of Bourbon Street. We actually spent a huge amount of time off camera memorizing lines and rehearsing. Like So You Think You Can Dance, they paired us with a scene partner and then assigned a scene we had to perform in front of a live audience. We would only have ONE chance to get it right, so we wanted to make sure it was absolutely perfect.

Since we weren't filmed all the time, the whole week felt sort of like a fun but stressful mini-vacation. However, it was strange to go into situations where you know you'd be filmed...and you'd (mostly) get no second takes. So if you say or do something stupid, it's ON FILM. And you cannot take it back.

What were your co-stars like? Did you get along with them?
For the most part, my co-stars were awesome. My scene partner and I are still great friends and one of my other castmates is from my hometown and she and I hang out all the time. Most of the people in the cast were regular people who saw the show as an opportunity to grow as actors. There were a few in the cast that were your "typical" reality show types (the super-hot-not-so-smart chick, the model-actor who loved to name drop), but the rest of us actually just had a good time hanging out and getting to know each other.

How did it end?
Well, the outcome of the show is still somewhat secretive since it never aired! That lesson was one of the most interesting things I learned about the reality TV game and television in general. There are shows that get produced that will never, ever see the light of day. Apparently, they're still trying to shop the show and the movie out to networks and studios, so we'll see! It would be strange if it ever does air since we filmed almost three years ago.

(Side note: One CRAZY thing about reality TV is that when you are done on the show, you are DONE on the show. They are not kidding around, and they will pack your ass on a plane outta there ASAP. As the "talent" you are costing the production team money for every minute you're there, so they don't want to keep you around if your mug isn't going to be on camera anymore.)

Did you make any money? Did the experience open any doors for you?
We all made a small per diem, and they fed us regularly and paid for our hotel, but other than that, we worked for free. Since the show never aired, it didn't necessarily open any doors for me, but I did find the whole experience fascinating. When you watch a reality TV show, you only see the final product. The truth is, there is a TON of behind the scenes work that goes on. Also, don't believe everything you see. Some reactions can be filmed two or three (or four!) times until they feel it's "right." The best part of the whole situation is that I did meet a ton of cool people so I'll have a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Any advice for someone interested in auditioning for a reality show?
Absolutely! Here are a few tips:

* Be memorable, be YOU, and remember they are casting a TV show. You might be the most talented person there, but if you don’t fit the show or character they’re looking for, you won’t be cast. In other words, don’t take anything in the process personally.

* Remember that at the end of the day, producers view reality TV as a product that has the potential to pay off big for very little money down. If you're cast, you'll be the “talent,” yes, but you're just part of the machine. And last but not least...

* Go with it, have fun, and never, ever be one of those people who says, "I'm not here to make friends." Life is too short, and the odds are not stacked in your favor that the show will be your “big break.” So make friends...they will be the best thing you can take away from the whole situation.

Have any of you ever auditioned for a reality show? Would you? Any questions for Sarah?

6 comments

  1. That's very interesting. I hardly ever watch reality shows myself, but that seemed interesting. Sarah, I've got some questions: what was your reaction when you learned it's not going to be aired? Would it change your life if they'd aired it after such a time? Does your family know you took part? If yes, how did they react?

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  2. Karolina--At first, I was really frustrated when I figured out it probably wouldn't air, especially since we'd hear different stories from the producers all the time. ("Probably in two months. No, maybe in four months. Wait, it's on hold for now!") Now, though, if we happen to hear news on it, it pretty much just garners an eye roll and I move on with my life. :)

    I don't know that it would change my life now, though it might have three years ago. I feel like now, I understand the difference between dreams and opportunities, so I've had lots of opportunities since then to do the things I love. I realized that the show wasn't my "last chance". If it did air now...who knows? I'd get some attention, I'm sure, but I know I'd still continue working hard and plugging away to get what I want.

    My family did know I took part after I auditioned and was cast. They weren't super supportive, but only because they are very "practical" folk and they don't like the idea of their daughter pursuing something that doesn't have a guaranteed payoff. That's fine...I learned long ago that my family will not be my support system, so while sure, it sucks, it's not devastating.

    Thanks for your questions!

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  3. Dear Sarah (aka TNRH), thanks for your answers. I'm still looking forward to seeing you on TV;) I'd like to thank both of you, Sarahs for this post, it's about something that seems so popular, but few know how it really works.

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  4. I loved this interview! I really hope the show airs sometimes, it sounds like a fun concept.

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  5. I would totally watch this! And I usually only turn on the TV for Rick Steves... Heh. The only reality show I would consider (and have considered) auditioning for is The Amazing Race. Though I would prefer that it never aired or was filmed at all...
    I would totally be there to make friends. :)

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  6. what was the name of the show?

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