From our staffer: Knowing that I am always on the search for quick ways to make some cash, a family member forwarded me a casting call she came across on the internet. It was for a reality TV show on a major food network. The post didn’t give much detail, but asked to send your name, age, phone number and a picture of yourself. “Easy enough,” I thought. Although I didn’t know what is was about, being paid to be on TV would be a fun experience and maybe even something to put on my resume. While completing the quick application through email, I wanted to make myself standout over others. How did I do that? At the end of the email I wrote, “I’m your girl!” It was short, sweet, and to the point. The casting guy sent me a reply a few hours later asking if I was available the day of the shoot and then called to give me all the info. I would get $60 cash to be on “Restaurant Stakeout.” From that $60, I would have to pay for the meal I would be ordering on the show as well as pay for transportation to get there.
To be honest, my initial thought after accepting the job was which outfit I would wear and what to do with my hair for my possible 5 or less minutes of fame…
Step 1: Getting there. For those of you interested in doing something like this one day, I hope you learn from my mistakes. That means planning your transportation in advance. If you’re buying a train ticket, buy it ahead of time. For me at least, I spent a little too much time brushing my hair in the morning than worrying about making it to my train to NYC on time. I made it to the platform about a minute before the train came and accidently bought an on-peak roundtrip ticket instead of off-peak. This cost me $21; $5 more than it would have cost if I was paying attention. That may not sound like much, but as a Recessionista, my first thought was that my $60 quickly turned into $39. Once I got to the subway station to get to my final destination, I used my nifty Embark NYC app to find the right subway train. Seemed easy, but after I bought my ticket, I went to the uptown train instead of downtown, costing me $7.50 total in subway tickets ($2.50 per ticket). Slowly but surely, I got to the meeting place, after a grand total of $28.50 in transportation costs. Moral of the story: take the time to figure out and plan your most cost-efficient transportation, whether it’s taking a train, bus or driving.
Step 2: Making the most of the opportunity. By this point I was pretty bummed about my travel expenses. But my main incentive was to experience something new and to have a good time. So, if you are going to look for quick jobs like this, go in with an open mind. There were fourteen of us to go in groups of two throughout the day and cause havoc in a restaurant. Until it was my turn, I had to sit in a room with the other extras along with the casting guy coming in and out. Of course, no one finds it fun sitting around all day, but in this situation, it is important that you work the room. Who knows what careers these people may be involved in aside from their one day of being on a reality TV show? It’s a great opportunity to network with people; you never know whom you could be speaking to unless you ask. I found it really interesting to speak with the casting guy about his previous work experiences, what this industry is like, and even some background on his personal life. I also met two male models and a young woman very involved in a PR company. We all became very friendly by the end of the day and I even got a few numbers out of it!
Step 3 Making yourself shine. It was finally my turn to go into the restaurant. What I learned from this reality TV experience is that you can’t be nervous. Just wing it, be yourself, and have an amazing time. My job was to ask the new waitress as many difficult questions about the menu as I could think of. If you want to shine, you’ve got to show some serious personality and spunk and push past your limits. Most likely, you’re not used to having a mic in your shirt and hidden cameras focusing on you, but this is your one chance to rock it, so don’t pass it up.
Bottom line: Between transportation and food, I went home with $11 bucks in my pocket. Was the $11 dollars worth 9 hours of working? Probably not, but the experience and networking opportunities were invaluable. Of course, if I planned my transportation more carefully I could have came home with a few extra dollars, but if I had to do it all over again I would. Every casting call you apply to will offer a different pay and request different requirements. You just need to do the proper research to find an opportunity that is perfect for you. If you are looking to apply for a casting call, always calculate your expenses subtracted from your pay before you commit to anything, and think about what the pay and experience is worth to you.
Check out these sites to find other casting jobs: