Hey everyone, Holland, a casting director for Biggest Loser for several seasons now, wrote out a bunch of great tips and advice as a comment in the casting tips blog post. As an expert in the world of Biggest Loser casting (after all, she’s one of the ones you’re trying to impress) she definitely warrants her own post, so I’m re-posting them here! Enjoy!
UPDATE: Holland revised and updated her tips as of October, 2009. I updated this entry to reflect that!
HELLO “THE BIGGEST LOSER” HOPEFULS!! I HOPE THIS LIST OF HELPFUL TIPS WILL BE A GREAT HELP AS YOU BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE LONG, COMPLICATED (BUT FUN), AND SOMETIMES PAINFUL CASTING PROCESS. THESE TIPS ARE FROM SOME OF THE BL CASTING TEAM, REALITYWANTED.COM, PETE THOMAS, MATTHEW MCNUTT, AND A FEW HOPEFULS I FELT HAD GOOD TIPS.
I HOPE YOU WILL TAKE TIME TO READ THESE AND REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM. THIS IS THE REAL DEAL AND IF YOU FOLLOW THESE TIPS THEN YOU SHOULD FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE VIDEO YOU PRESENT TO US, YOUR AUDITION AT THE CASTING CALL, ETC. GOOD LUCK WITH SEASON 10!! HOPEFULLY WE WILL BE SEEING SOME OF YOU AT A CASTING CALL NEAR YOU! STAY TUNED FOR DETAILS ON CC LOCATIONS! IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, ADD MY FACEBOOK GROUP – YOU MUST SEARCH FB GROUPS FOR “HOLLYWOODLAND CASTING” – please don’t try to add my personal page as I don’t usually add those that aren’t close personal friends. I hope you will understand!
Currently, there is no deadline for applications and videos, but we have a strong preference to receive your applications as early as possible so we can watch them before going on the road. Some interviews are scheduled based on seeing your videos if we think you have potential to be on the show. If you send them in after we leave for the road, YES they will still be watched and considered. We often cast people off tapes that we receive once we are back from the road! If you feel you didn’t present yourself well at the CC then make a new tape after the casting call, but please do not send us a ton of tapes, more than two per season really starts to become an annoyance.
Applications MUST be written clearly and legibly or typed (#1 mistake = not including contact information – if we can’t contact you, you can’t be on the show!) and must be accompanied by a videotape or DVD that satisfies the following requirements:
FORMAT: PLEASE SEE UPDATED FORMATS THAT WE ARE ACCEPTING ON NBC.COM. AS OF TODAY (10/22/09) we are only accepting Mini DV TAPE, or Full Size DVD. Important: If you send a DVD you need to make sure it works in ALL of these: a desktop computer, a laptop, and a DVD player – most of the time we try every player we can find, but it helps and causes less frustration if it works on anything we try it on. Mini DVDs don’t always work with our equipment/computers/etc and most people that send them do not realize to be played they have to be FINALIZED while still in the camera or they will NOT work. If you don’t know how to finalize it then don’t use it and certainly don’t send it cause it’s a waste of time. A Mini DV TAPE is NOT an 8mm tape. DO NOT under any circumstances send an 8mm tape – we cannot play them!! If you do not know the difference between a mini DV tape and am 8mm tape then please look up a photo online.
CONTENT: In the allotted time you and your partner need to tell us everything we need to know about why you would be perfect for this show. Remember, personality counts ALOT!
The video will be retained by, and will become the property of, the Producers and will not be returned to you, regardless of whether or not you are selected as a participant.
Applications will only be considered if they are complete and accurate. Complete application packages must consist of the following:
a. Completed application forms (including signed Release and Waiver at the end of the applications), one per person in the team, submitted together.
b. A photo of each applicant and one recent photo of both team members together. Photos should be a good representation of you currently. No sunglasses, No hats. No “in the mirror” shots. If it’s a group shot then make sure we know which one you are.
c. One 5-10 minute videotape or DVD of your team labeled clearly with your names, relationship, city/state and phone number.
Find a video recorder to use. Learn how to use it. If you don’t have a video recorder, then borrow or rent one. Enlist a friend’s help to record. YOU should always be IN FRONT of the camera.
Set the stage for your video, making sure that there is nothing distracting or unpleasant in the background. Make sure that there will not be any loud background noise while you are recording your video. You want the casting director’s eyes to be on you and only you when watching your video.
Get the look for your video by wearing nice clothes without any logos or busy patterns. Make sure that your hair and makeup look great by checking yourself in the mirror right before you start recording. 1st impressions mean everything when you are trying to get on TV!
Be yourself while making your video. The honest and direct approach is best. Speak about yourself and why you think you would make a good contestant.
Submit your video by the deadline to the address listed in the video submission guidelines. Follow all rules concerning mailing and packaging.
Open up at the Audition
“Cody-Ann, tell me a little bit about your personal life.”
“I don’t think I’m comfortable talking about that so…”
“There are 400 people behind you that are willing to talk about their personal life. And give it up for reality television, for the viewer. We want to see what’s going on inside your life. You’re not going to be picked because you’re not going to give it up.”
We need to know as casting directors, everything about you personally -so, that I can start to work with you and figure out what your story on the show will be.
Start off by making sure we can hear and see you clearly. It might be a good idea to use a tripod or place the camera on a shelf. Applicants will want to include all their contact information on their video. I have seen some people hold a piece of paper or poster board with all of their information on it at the start of their video. If you send in pictures make them up to date. We want people to be themselves, and if you are trying to Mr. Joe Cool we will see through it. Our job is to judge people. We may just want their personality.
Q. What about people who are really good with graphics and have the ability to add special effects, etc. to their tape?
A. Don’t really need it but you can add them if you want to. We want to get to know you and your personality. Some applicants spend too much time editing a reality TV audition tape and highlighting everything but their personality. If the personality is poor and/or we don’t get to see their personality in the tape it doesn’t matter how much flare they add.
Q. What can you suggest to applicants when they are sending in photos or placing them online?
A. Please don’t send outdated photos. We need to see what you look like today. Don’t send in headshots or photos that are not clear. Some applicants will cover a part of their face or body, and at times they will send in pictures when they are dressed in costume or add visual effects, these are all bad ideas.
Once you apply for a show do not change your look until the deadline has passed and you know you haven’t made the show. Don’t cut your hair, change hair color or grow a beard. Let’s say we are casting clean cut 25 year old guys, review an application, ask the person to come in for a face to face audition and find out he has colored his hair and grown a beard out; we might pass on him.
Q. Lets talk about the Open Casting Calls, can an applicant prepare for one of these?
A. Come prepared. If you can go online and fill out an application prior to attending that would be helpful. Don’t come up to the people working the casting call and ask how much longer it will be. We try and give everyone the same amount of time. You must be patient. Don’t be rude to the people working since it will get around. We like people who are friendly and like to have fun. We need time to find the best cast. Waiting stinks but be prepared to wait, talk to others in line and don’t be nervous.
Q. Another big part of the casting process is the written application. I have heard from some people in casting not to overdo it and others recommend filling out as such information and detail as possible. What are your suggestions?
A. Be straight and to the point. We don’t want to read 6 paragraph answers. Also, please be honest with every question Q. What are some things applicants should stay away from what it comes to applying and communicating with you online?
A. We are very busy, so once you apply we have your information. I know this sounds rough but we are all very busy, so please don’t call us, we will call you. It can hurt your chances and get you kicked out if you keep calling, emailing, etc. A lot of us have FB pages but we don’t always add potential contestants. Most of us like to keep our personal lives private but some of us do have Group pages and will add you there.
The number one thing we can suggest is please don’t try and be something your not. We can see through it and we may actually be looking for your personality, so acting like someone your not will hurt your chances. Lastly, people ask us all the time about what we look for. Many times we won’t know what we are looking for until we sit down with you.
If you are filming on a sofa, at a kitchen table, etc. in then don’t film yourself against a window since you will end up looking like a shadow. Make sure you have balanced lighting on each side. It’s a good idea to have someone else film you since they can view audio levels, zoom in and out, etc. If you’re shooting a scene outside you will want to do it during the day so we can see you. Don’t film yourself in a loud environment such as near a street with car noise in the background. We have had tapes with people on the beach and we hear too much background noise from planes, the ocean, and other people talking.
What we really want to see from an applicant are different looks and a day in their life. We like to see where they work, where they live, who they live with. It’s great to see a shot or two of an applicant doing one or two of their favorite hobbies.
At casting calls people have to realize that they may have only 60 seconds during their first interview. We want to see who they are. Are you the former cheerleader, the funny guy, the ex-athlete, the single mom, the soccer mom, the successful businessman, etc?
Don’t lie about things like your height, weight, etc. especially for a show where that info is pertinent. If you are a finalist, we’re going to be meeting with you in person at some point. We will also conduct a background check if you move further in the process. People need to remember that if we don’t use you for the show you applied for, we do call strong applicants back for other shows we work on.
You should only apply online once. It’s a good idea not to harass the Casting Directors on Myspace, Facebook or send multiple emails and applications. I have seen applicants who have posted Casting Director’s email addresses and phone number online asking their friends to call and vote for them, when there isn’t a voting system in place. This is a quick way to get eliminated. Once you have applied we have your information and we will call you if we are interested. The best rule of thumb, apply once and follow the application instructions.
This may sound harsh but don’t call us, we will call you. We are usually very busy and under very short deadlines. Just make sure as an applicant you place all your contact information on everything you send to us.
Make sure you know that if you make it into the finals, that you’re not necessarily on the show. You should be 100% committed to doing whatever it takes and withstanding all of the steps you have to go through to be selected. If you think something will come up during interviews or taping, please be upfront with us so we don’t spend time and money flying you out to the finals. Most likely, there will be time you’ll need to take off from work or life to meet with Producers, network executives and to undergo certain checks and balances to make sure you’re right for the show.
Some Great tips from Matthew McNutt (former BL contestant, as you all probably know) with some additions by me.
- They’ve usually decided if they’re interested in you within the first 30-60 seconds of your video, so frontload it with your best stuff. Make it interesting! Start off with something funny or exciting!
- Keep in mind, if you’re going to be cast, your video is going to be watched several times by casting directors, producers, executives, etc. If it bores you or your friends the second or third time watching it … put some more time into it!
- Special effects? Not necessarily needed! Most of us have video editing software with all sorts of bells and whistles on our home computers, but fancy transitions are not going to sell you if you don’t have an outgoing personality in the first place. In fact, it can distract from who you are. Matthew is a video editing nerd and didn’t use any special effects other than putting my name and contact info on as a subtitle at the beginning.
- Don’t bother talking about why you need to lose weight. When I first started filming my audition video I started descibing all of my health reasons for losing weight – but when I was watching it back, I realized … they don’t need to hear it! One look at me was all they needed to know I needed to lose weight! Show them why you need to lose it; I said I needed to lose weight for my kids, and then I followed it with a minute or two of the best footage I could find of me with wrestling with my three boys. We probably filmed half an hour of that insanity and I grabbed the cutest, loudest, and funniest few moments for the audition video. Your physical need to lose weight is not nearly as interesting as who or what your losing the weight for.
- Live loud! Reality TV is over the top, dramatic, and filled with loud personalities. They need to see that on your video! I wanted them to know that even though I was morbidly obese I was up to the challenge of the crazy competitions and workouts – so I threw on a bunch of clips from my different youth group activities; me getting slimed, snowtubing, playing paintball, screaming at events, being on stage, running around … you get the idea. Other contestants did things appropriate to their lives; Tim from Oregon had himself spinning out on his Harley, Tim from Deleware recruited his elementary school class to do things with him, Heather Hanson filmed herself running around in a sports bra all day doing her household chores and errands. The less talking and more action you can have, the better (in my opinion)!
- If you have footage or photos of yourself thin, include those at some point on the video. If you can show them what your after will be, then do it!
Tips from Pete Thomas (BL2 at home WINNER) – HE HAS A LOT MORE GREAT TIPS ON HIS WEBSITE SO BE SURE AND CHECK IT OUT! http://www.winningman.com/category/biggest-loser/casting/
How to Absolutely Blow the Open Casting Call The following stories and examples may or may not be exaggerations but are all based in reality.
“The Casting Call Is When? I have an appointment at Supercuts”
You must show up. This sounds obvious but so many people have emailed me that ‘this’ or ‘that’ ‘came up’ and they ‘could not make it’ and ‘is there anything’ I can do to help them blah blah blah. There isn’t. If changing your life is not worth the time to show up then I can’t help you.
“Why the h*ll is this taking so long?”
Don’t complain about the wait. Enjoy it. Some people are going to talk in the line and get to know everyone around them and others are going to clam up (see Erik’s interview) but complaining about the wait is stupid.
I had one lady tell me she had been there standing in line for 4 hours and had borrowed someone’s car to get there and had to get it back to her friend and that she had driven 20 minutes to get to the casting call blah blah blah. I’m typically never rude to people who stand in line but I was definitely stern with her. I explained to her that A) the first person in line had taken a plane from Seattle, Washington on top of a 1 hour cab ride to get there. Someone else had B) driven 12 hours from Georgia AND someone else had C) driven the night before in the snowstorm traveling along at 35 miles per hour on the freeway from Columbus Ohio (which is normally a 4 hour drive at 60 mph). Someone else was D) moving their daughter from Chicago back somewhere down south and decided to take a 4 hour detour, swing by the casting call and stand in line for 8 hours before getting back on the road. Yes the moving truck was in the parking lot! PS – They got a call back . The lady I was stern with stopped complaining and ended up staying at the casting call.
“I am going to wing it!”
Don’t be a dumb dumb! Do your research or ask for advice in advance. Winging it might work by there is a scripture that says – In the multitude of counselors there is safety. So get some counsel. I have had friends and acquaintances (at least 5-7) come to the casting call who never even got in touch with me to ask me what they should expect, even though they saw me weekly. Ask people – email folk, read our blogs, etc. etc. etc.
“My favorite hang out is the library.”
REMEMBER YOU ARE AUDITIONING FOR A TELEVISION SHOW. IF YOU ARE BORING YOU WILL NOT GET ON THE SHOW! You must have personality and you must speak up. The open casting call ( cc ) is not a manners competition. You will not be guaranteed your ‘day in court’. So speak up when the opportunity presents itself. You will only have a couple of minutes in a group of other people so make sure you are at least ready to get your point across.
Here’s a tip. Watch a few live interview style political news shows (Meet the Press, Fox and Friends etc.) and watch how the hosts of these shows interject questions in the middle of the sentences of the person answering. If you are not heard you will not get a call back. Don’t be obnoxious but practice how to be heard.
“I think that Rosa Parks should have kept quiet.”
You must stand out! Typically, standing out comes natural to those who are the highest of type A personalities. For example; At one table there was this guy and every time he spoke the rest of the table just stopped and listened. I mean it was amazing. They just stopped and listened!! He could have spoke for 10 minutes and no one would have interrupted. It was natural and he just commanded attention. Perfect. BTW – He got a call back.
“I think Jackass The Movie should have been rated G”
Don’t be obnoxious. There is a fine line here I know. Sometimes people don’t have anything worth saying so they just say dumb stuff. The casting directors are professionals. They know when you’re a dumb, dumb and are just repeating non-sense. Be confident and speak up but don’t stir up a bees nest by saying something dumb. Stirring up a bees nest is good if you have a good argument. Actually that is great! If you are opinionated you had better speak up!
“My personality is all I need.”
Don’t forget to bring pictures. Do not bring poor pictures. Pictures do not have to be originals and they can be on regular paper but at least make sure they are GOOD quality and can be left behind. Make sure you have at least a good picture that shows your pretty hair, face and smile (well groomed of course). Bring pictures of you and your partner together if you are trying out as a pair. Bring pictures of potential partners if they cannot make the casting call. I know someone that got a call back and eventually made the show just from a PICTURE! No LIE! They never even came to the casting call but were in someone else’s picture! Full length pictures are fine. Pictures with other people in them are ok. But just make sure we can see your face. Heck speaking of pictures, it is ok to take pics of the contestants in attendance, the CD’s etc.
“They will remember my name and my pretty round face.”
Most people don’t do this but it is a GREAT idea!!! Don’t forget to write your name and contact info on the back of all pictures. What happens if your picture and your application get separated? You just missed your opportunity to be cast because the picture/application will go in the trash. ‘Why is this picture here by itself? Wow they would be perfect for the show. Oh well, in the trash it goes.’ It has happened! Paperclip your photos to your application!
“I think that all Personal Protection Orders should be ignored.”
Don’t be a stalker! One would-be contestant was in line early and was seen early by the CD’s. Hours later we looked around and literally saw her sitting behind us. She sat around for the entire casting session and then congratulated us for seeing everyone. Note: The casting people do not take kindly to stalkers! They are regular folk and get weirded out like everyone else. From my (Holland) personal experience – I have had to delete potential contestants off of my personal page because of the rude, uncalled for and unkind remarks to myself and others. Unfortunately this caused me to have to delete some harmless people because of a few bad eggs.
“My small friend believes that all Personal Protection Orders should be ignored also.”
Don’t bring along a friend to be a stalker. There was one particular young lady waiting in line who was there with her small friend. The stalker friend asked questions in advance of the Casting Directors. Then stalker friend asked questions immediately after her friend made it into the interview area and was seen by the casting directors. Then stalker-friend went and started bothering one of the casting directors when the CD was trying to take 5 minutes and eat lunch. This does not help your friend’s case. If you don’t have the personality to stand out on your own then having a stalker-friend tag along will only hurt your chances. After all you can’t take stalker friend on tv to help your personality can you? To be clear, having friends and family come along is fine! It is going to be a long day. I enjoyed meeting many people who were not trying out but were there for support. But having them bug the CD’s is dumb ..
“I have inner-beauty.” (Pete this is my favorite tip from you!!!!! Xo-Holland)
Don’t do this – Clean the dog kennels, change the oil in the pickup, drop the transmission, feed the dogs and then come straight to the casting call without changing clothes. You must dress the part. You are not trying out for a part on The Biggest Sloppiest Nastiest Loser. I have seen people wearing dirty black sweatsuits with cat hair on them. Why would you come out of the house looking like you just rolled out of your brother-husbands trailer and are trying out for a character on Earl or as Eminem’s moms love interest in the movie 8 Mile? Even the people who drove very long distances looked nice and clean.
“Forget you Pete – I saaiidd I have inner beauty (neck roll)”
HEY! Pay attention to that last point again! I said dress nicely! This is a TV show about weight loss. Not a weight loss show that happens to be on tv. Personally, I always tried to look my best whenever I was in public – granted it was hard at 416 with a 60 coat size but still I tried. I dressed nicely when I had my own computer consulting company and as a Real Estate Investor. Erik Chopin, Season 3’s Biggest Loser said he bought a new leather coat and jeans to wait 8 hours in line in Manhattan. Don’t forget the makeup and grooming people!!
“Why are they taking so doggone long in there?”
Don’t be rude! This didn’t happen in Detroit (I love my hometown) but I was told about a time when a lady actually took time to measure how much time the casting directors spent with each group and gave the CD’s ‘lip’ because they took too long with one group and took for lunch blah blah blah (here in Detroit the CD’s took about a 20 minute standing lunch – that’s 10 hours of interviewing and a 20 minute break). Come on! Shoot the decision maker why don’t you. You would probably curse out the head of NBC because the casting calls are not in every city if you got the chance!
“Fat March, Celebrity Fit Club, that new show with that lady on it – You are all basically the same right?”
It’s called The Biggest Loser. 10 million viewers per week. Watch the show. You are going to be asked some general questions about the show. At least know who the main people on the show are. At least have a working knowledge of the show even if you don’t watch it every week. Know the main 3 characters and the last few winners. That should take you all of 15 minutes to read up on. But don’t feel too bad, the Sunday morning news anchors on our local NBC affiliate, WDIV, didn’t even know who Bob was – and this is one of the best shows on their network!
“I need to go prepare dinner”
If your in line then stay until the end. At the very end of the day we only had approx 2 minutes to look at 10 people at a time. Even then, there were a couple people that stood out above the rest and were considered for call backs.
“Ba Ba Junior!! I told you to get off that ceiling fan and get back over here!”
Don’t bring your bad kids. They distract everyone including the Casting Directors and mess up your chances of making it on the show.
“I don’t need the show to lose weight.”
If you can lose weight without the show and you don’t really need the show then don’t show up for the casting call. What’s the point?
“Pete, I could crush you when you were your biggest!”
You can be too big. Yes it is possible. One day I am sure that there will be a 600 pounder on the show who is tall enough and ‘healthy’ enough to be picked for the show. But until that day comes you need to understand that even a show called The BIGGEST Loser has its limitations. You have to be able to ‘do’ the intense exercise required.
“I am just going to give up!”
Bill and Jim Germanakos interviewed 3 times/seasons before making it on the show. Send in your video, go to the next casting call. Don’t give up. But let’s be honest, if you’re the type to not give up your not going to wait around for some dumb show to lose weight are you? One caveat – do you qualify for the show? Are you what the show is looking for? More on that in another post.
- No need to dress for a wedding but Erik from Season 3 bought new clothes. listen to his interview.
- Your Team – Think about this; Who has a stronger team ’story’ – Two Fat Camp Counselors or Two Third Cousins? Get it? How you ‘relate’ to your teammate makes a big difference since this is part of your story. If you’re an individual don’t worry about this since even on ‘team’ seasons there may be some twist that gets you on the show (think Bernie and Brittany from Season 4). Quick thought – Why haven’t I ever seen a team of 3 or more on the show? 4 fat family members maybe? Hmmm – sounds like an option for someone out there to try!
- Your Job – Assassins need not apply. Interesting or regular jobs only please.
#1 TIP: KEEP A COPY OR TWO OF YOUR TAPE/DVD!! SOMETIMES THE MAIL GETS LOST OR SOMETIMES THE TAPE DOESN’T WORK. IF WE HAVE YOUR PAPERWORK BUT YOUR TAPE DOESN’T WORK THEN WE OFTEN CALL TO TELL YOU TO RESEND IT!! KEEP COPIES OF YOUR ORIGINAL “UNCUT” FOOTAGE TOO IN CASE WE EVER ASK YOU FOR IT!!!! Just ask Tracey from Season 8 how many times I had her resend her tape and raw footage!
OH AND I FORGOT ANOTHER PET PEEVE OF MINE…
DON’T EVER JUST “THROW SOMETHING TOGETHER” – THE SHOW IS A BIG DEAL…IT IS A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE FOR ALL PARTIES INVOLVED…IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE TIME OUT OF YOUR LIFE TO PUT TOGETHER A NICE, WELL THOUGHT OUT VIDEO THEN YOU PROBABLY DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO BE ON THE SHOW. WHEN PEOPLE JUST THROW SOMETHING TOGETHER THEIR VIDEOS ARE USUALLY TERRIBLE AND THEY END UP WASTING THE $17.50 OR WHATEVER IT IS TO MAIL IT IN LAST MINUTE.
ALSO, IF YOU CAN ATTEND A CASTING CALL THEN DO!! YOU CAN SHOW US IN PERSON WHO YOU ARE! WE USUALLY LIKE FOR ANYONE THAT DOESN’T THINK THEY SHOWED THEIR TRUE SELVES AT THE CC TO MAKE A TAPE AFTERWARDS TOO SHOWING MORE PERSONALITY, ETC. YES, YOU CAN DO BOTH!!!
DO PEOPLE REALLY GET CAST OFF OF TAPES, YESSSSSS – ALL THE TIME!
Please be sure to check the following often for up-to-date casting information and tips:
www.youtube.com/hollywoodlandcasting (work in progress)
FB fan page: Holland Master Caster Striplin
FB group page: Hollywoodland Casting