Part two of Steve Moses’s interview with Kassting Inc.’s senior casting producer, Christoper Catalano.
Steve Moses: There’s an important difference between lying like Derrick did where he mentioned in his written bio that “I’m a cop, but I don’t want to tell anyone so they’re not threatened by me” versus someone just trying to prove they can be manipulative.
Christopher Catalano: Exactly. We’re not playing the game currently. We’re finding people to play the game. Anything outside of taking privately to a casting person can be your made up story, but when you talk to us, it’s your real story.
Steve: Separate from this, there’s a different type of casting call, the CBS affiliate call, like what I attended. I still had to fill out the half-page bio, but instead of an interview, I had a monologue with a camera for two minutes. No casting producers were present. What should an applicant do differently at these calls where it’s a monologue instead of a conversation?
Christopher: You should expect all the same as when a casting producer is there.
Steve: I wasn’t interviewed with other people. I wasn’t even talking to a person. I was talking to a camera.
Christopher: But didn’t somebody tell you to talk to that camera?
Steve: Yes, but it wasn’t a conversation. It was a monologue.
Christopher: Well, no. Somebody always asks them to tell a little bit about themselves. You never got stuck on yours. They gave you energy. It was funny. I heard them laughing at you. So they gave you energy. There was someone responding to your monologue. It’s the same as talking to a person. You should approach both kinds of calls the same way. Even though you’re talking to a camera instead of a person, it’s the same vibe and you still have the same goals you’re working towards.
Steve: The other major way to apply is submitting an online video. I know you watch some of the videos, and your team watches others. How is that distributed?
Christopher: We separate the country by region. They don’t cover everywhere, so we then just each pick certain states. There’s not too many of us in the team that watch all these tapes. I keep calling them tapes. Online submission videos. That’s how long I’ve been doing this.
Steve: Big Brother 6! (Christopher’s first season.)
Christopher: Everybody had to submit a home tape, no matter if you were recruited or not. It became a whole production of getting all of those big tapes. It was a nightmare.
Steve: If I wanted to make a really good tape, what might I include in it?
Christopher: It’s people who just captivate. Captivate in their own way. When people are laughing – for some reason, smiling people that are talking and laughing – it could just be them sitting in front of the camera being just silly. Telling their funny stories. Bloopers always get me going. If you want to start your tape with bloopers to show how silly you are, or how mad you can get, or how goofy, or dumb – whatever it is, just the bloopers first. Then go into the actual content. That’s fun. That’s interesting. That’s somebody who knows how to make fun of themself and not be so serious. That’s why editing is important. If it’s done well, you can see when someone cares.
But then there’s also just people who are just natural in front of the camera. They’re able to talk about nothing, but it doesn’t matter because they’re just… talking. Like Da’Vonne just captivates you when she talks. You just want to hear what she has to say no matter what. That’s someone who can just talk in front of the camera.
Then there’s people who are just so serious, and they’re getting important information to us. That’s always fine, too.
Steve: What are some common mistakes in the bad tapes?
Christopher: Avoid whispering or not being able to talk loudly. You’re trying out for Big Brother. Some people have their husband in the other room, and they need to be quiet. They’re whispering, and we can’t hear them. Wait until the morning when you can talk and do a real audition tape! We want to see your energy! Again, I hope people watch the show because the house is full of people with entertaining personalities. The whispering only happens because they’re playing the game when they’re in the house. They’re not trying to get on the show when they’re whispering.
It’s also annoying when you say the stuff you already typed in the online application. It doesn’t help us get to know you.
Steve: You don’t like it when the bio and the tape have overlapping information.
Christopher: Right, because we want to get new information. If you fill something out online, that’s something we can ask you, so that’s more information we have about you. Then there’s stuff that you say on your tape. It should be additional information. We can make better choices when we know more about each person. If they’re going to rehearse something, it needs to be something different than what they wrote. Sometimes it’s the same exact thing I’m reading, so they’ve obviously rehearsed it. Rehearse something new.
Steve: Another topic you briefly mentioned is people who are recruited. I know someone can’t plan to be recruited, but I would love to know more about how it works.
Christopher: Recruiting works in several ways. You can’t really be prepared to or plan on being recruited. Recruits can be anybody at any time. I cast year round, mostly for Big Brother. When I’m not on Big Brother, I’m thinking about Big Brother, just like you and everybody else who’s going to read this.
I’ll use Meg as my example. I’m at a restaurant, and it’s my very last day in NYC before heading up to Boston. I was actually in the city for a casting call. We wrapped our cameras away, we did our New York interviews, and our semi-finals were done. It was our last dinner, and we had our flight in the morning. We’re in Times Square, I’m wearing my pajamas, and we’re going to grab these burgers. It’s just down the street, and Meg is our waitress. We sit down, and right way there was something about Meg – her hair, her look, she’s so bubbly, and immediately I asked if she had ever been on a TV show. Her best friend was on Survivor, she loves Big Brother. I told her “We just finished here, I’ll check in with you when I get back.” She was recruited. There was something about her look, her personality, whatever it was. She wasn’t expecting to ever interview to be on Big Brother, but she was great. There was no reason we were in that restaurant. There was no reason for us to be working. We were off. We were trying to just finally take a break, but when you cast for reality shows, you never take a break. Ever. Any person you meet could be perfect for a show.
I remember Laverne Cox. I recruited her for season nine. She’s a huge actress now, but she comes from the reality world. She was one of my semi-finalists, I pitched her, but she never became a finalist. I brought her over to “I Want to Work for Diddy,” and they loved her.
Steve: After someone meets you through one of these methods, the next step is to interview them at semi-finals. Can you tell me about that?
Christopher: It’s Skype. We do most of them on Skype now.
Steve: Even if you just met them in person at a casting call?
Christopher: Yeah. We only have a certain amount of days in the cities. We turned to Skype so we can cover the whole country in that sense. Most of our BB19 semi-final calls are on Skype.
Steve: What should someone expect or prepare for in a Skype semi-final interview?
Christopher: That’s discussed with the individual and casting producer for that area. Always just be yourself and have fun, but look into what we’re asking of you. Everything is given to you once the producers have decided you are a semi-finalist. I really can’t tell you anything about that.
Steve: If I submit a tape or attend an open call, how long do I wait to hear back if I’m a semi-finalist or not?
Christopher: That’s tough. If you submit right when casting opens next season, you could wait three months before we even start casting. Towards the end, we always clear up the tapes so we’re ready for the thousands that come in during the last three days the submission is open. They’ll hear back in less time.
Steve: Is it a good or bad idea to submit during those last few days?
Christopher: There’s no wrong time or right time to submit. The only wrong time is after we close it. It could be the first person I watch that ends up on the show. It could be the last person I watch. It makes no difference at all. You went to the very last open call your season, I got your submission the very last day of being able to Skype you. You were my last semi-finalist.
We also don’t make people semi-finalists just because they did a good home tape. We call first before we even mention semi-finals. You know why? Because we’re still trying to decide if you’re good enough. We want to know if you’re really as interesting as you were on the tape.
Steve: So getting a call doesn’t automatically mean semi-finals?
Christopher: No. A lot of people don’t know that. You’re always being tested by us. We can change our mind at any time. If it’s that day you’re really tired, and after we say “Big Brother” you don’t wake up and get excited and say something or show that you care, you might as well not pick up the phone ever. I just don’t get it. Some people will be really low-key or boring or bland on the phone, and they make themselves a reject in that moment. Always – when you hear Big Brother is calling you, have your personality. Anytime you meet us, have your personality. Your personality.
Steve: Do you have any tips or advice for someone who really put a lot of time and effort into their application, but didn’t hear anything back?
Christopher: Keep trying. Anybody can improve. Just keep trying. I don’t think anybody should give up their dream of being on the show.
Steve: Awesome! Thank you for your time, Christopher.