Posted on 01/08/2009
In the 10th installment of my interview with a reality TV and game show casting director, I spoke with Jonathan Tanzman. Jonathan has cast shows like CW’s Crowned, NBC’s Clash of the Choirs, Sci Fi’s Estate of Panic, and currently working on an exciting new dating show called Perfect Partner and ABC’s Wipeout Season 3. Jonathan took a few minutes out of his day to chat with us about reality TV casting and provided some great casting tips.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Jonathan, what’s up buddy thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Tell us what show you’re currently working on.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Right now I am looking for men and women who want to be in a relationship. The new show is like a live Match.com or EHarmony, The best thing about the show is that we do all the work for you. It is hard to meet someone in Los Angeles and we are doing all of the weeding out and match people with the people they want to meet. There are no eliminations and no competitions. This is a real dating show.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Sounds like a good gig for people who want to find the perfect match. Let’s talk about the casting process now. I typically see four parts; the written application, photos, a video, and open casting calls. Talk to us about the written application.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: The written application is so important, it’s frustrating when applicants tell me they want to apply to a show and then tell me they don’t want to take time to fill out an application. The application is how we get to know who you are and it follows you throughout the entire audition process. Take time to think about your answers and don’t ever use “I don’t know” as an answer.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: I filled out a few applications way back in 2000, and I remember using the margin to fill in additional information, is that a bad idea?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Not at all! Remember many shows offer huge cash payouts, so why not take an hour or two out of your day answering these questions properly. It’s worth it.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Lets talk about photos, I ask every casting director about photos applicants should use.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Please send us photos that look like you. Do not send us a photo from 8 years ago or a photo when you had red hair and now it’s black. Say we need to find one more person with blond hair and then you show up with red hair , it automatically ends the process, and it wastes our time and yours.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: As you know we look over every photo our members place online and do our best to weed out photos we feel won’t work. I sometimes see members who use photos with their head cut off or wearing sunglasses.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Don’t ever wear sunglasses in your photos, we need to see your eyes and your face. Also, think about the show you’re applying to. If you were to apply to an upscale dating show, wear an elegant dress in one of your photos. If you’re applying to a racy dating show you may dress down a bit. Your best bet is to grab your digital camera and take a headshot and full body shot.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: It sounds like everyone in casting has similar wants when it comes to submitted photos, what about the audition video?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: I don’t want to see videos of people sitting on the couch by themselves talking to the camera for 5 min. I want people to be creative with their videos.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Creative as in editing or cool special effects?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: No, creative as in show me who you are and show me your personality. If it’s a cooking show be sure to show yourself at work. If it’s adventure show you may want to show me a clip of you rock climbing, biking or whatever hobby you have. Your being cast based upon who you are, not how well you can edit a video or how good you are with editing programs.
Mark, RealityWanted.com: It sounds like all videos should be what Lynne Spillman, casting director for The Amazing Race and Survivor, said. “A slice of life videos.” A slice of life video is one in which we see the applicant at work, maybe later with friends, participating in their favorite hobby, and so on.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Exactly, but be sure to also tailor your video to the particular show you are applying for.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Should someone attend an open casting call if they have already sent in an application and video?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Yes! Nothing beats getting in front of the casting director live and in person. I have actually had people call and tell me they only want to send in a tape even though there was an open casting call the same week in their area. If you really want it and have a passion for it you won’t gripe about waiting in line and meeting with us.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Do you get people who gripe or complain about waiting?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: We do and what many fail to think about is the fact we are working just as long, if not longer than you are waiting in line. Here is the deal: we want you to do well when you come see us. If you do well, as casting directors we do well, and we get raises.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: What if I attend an open call and I hear you ask someone to come back but you don’t ask me, does that mean I am out of the running?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Not at all, we are calling people back right now that applied to season one or two of Wipeout and didn’t make it, but they will be on season three.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Not only do you call people back for second or third seasons of shows they didn’t land a role, I have heard you call them about other shows.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: One hundred percent. Especially at companies I have worked at like MysticArt, or Scott Salyers Casting. We keep huge files on applicants we like and if we think they may not be a fit for a certain show we will call them a week, month, or year later about another show.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: A friend of mine made it to the semi finals for a Fox Reality show but didn’t make the cut, a year later the same casting director called him about a game show and he won $10,000.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: What many applicants aren’t aware of is that just about every casting director and associate in the business works on several shows for several networks a year. We freelance. Once the casting is complete on one show we move on to another.
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: We covered the open casting call, photos, videos and the all important application. What about the fact that many, not all, casting calls ask that someone live in California or New York?
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: I work on plenty of shows that allow participants to live anywhere in the US. However, there are some that require people to live in NY or CA. Most production and casting offices are located in NYC and CA and the best way to answer why some shows want you to live there is to ask another question. Why do actors move to Hollywood?
Q. Mark, RealityWanted.com: Makes sense to me. Before I let you go, tell me about your experience with RealityWanted.com.
A. Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: Every casting producer and associate I know uses RealityWanted.com. We have certain sites we are asked to use by those in charge of casting and RealityWanted is one of them. It’s an awesome site, very personal, and I have had success, finding people for every show I have worked on. It is very user friendly for those of us in casting and we get a chance to see people before we place a call to them. I even pop on to read some of the reality recaps and the uploaded videos.
Mark, RealityWanted.com: I can’t thank you enough for your time and I am sure the readers appreciate your tips.
Jonathan Tanzman, Casting Associate Director: I am happy to help. If anyone is interested in applying to Perfect Partner email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to apply to Wipeout Season 3 click here