'The Real World' Visits Amherst
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
Despite the chilly wind forcibly entering the Pioneer Valley, over three hundred people trekked to the UMass Amherst Student Union Ballroom on Tuesday, Feb. 12th, to wait in line.
It was there that casting directors from Bumin/Murray Productions, Kasha Foster and Jessica Thompson, held an open casting call for the upcoming 21st season of MTV's longest running show, "The Real World."
"This is the true story.of seven strangers.picked to live in a house.and have their lives taped.to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real." So begins each episode of "The Real World," a documentary series highlighting the lives of seven chosen individuals. A cultural staple for many young Americans, "The Real World" has considerably shaped the rise of 'reality' television.
Applicants, aged 18-24, were asked to bring a recent picture of themselves and a photo ID. Preface was given to Armed Forces veterans; anyone with a military ID at the casting call was given a "VIP Pass," which allowed them to bypass all lines.
When asked about why such a measure was enacted, Foster said, "We're a country at war, but this issue is often far removed from young people. This season we're hoping to get more politically involved people on the show. We hope that this will encourage those coming home from the war to audition."
The open casting call ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The interview process was informal and relaxed. Candidates first filled out applications asking basic questions; casting directors then called people up in groups of ten. Each group was given a titillating topic pertaining to pop culture or politics to discuss. A popular subject was Britney Spears.
Upon leaving, each person was asked to write down an adjective most descriptive of him or herself. Some of the more memorable adjectives Foster recalls were, "argumentative, individualistic, scandalous, cocky."
"We were really impressed with the people who showed up; generally no one made us nervous. We also saw kids from a lot of colleges. A lot of students from the surrounding schools came, including Smith. There were a bunch from Boston who came over." Foster said.
Applicants from Tuesday will be notified by e-mail if casting directors are interested in further interviews. If you couldn't make it to the open call, audition tapes are still being accepted by mail. Visit www.bunim-murray.com for complete details to add "reality star" on your resume.
Spotlight on...Damon Furberg
Supervising Casting Director of 'The Real World'
Because the Sophian sadly does not have enough money in its current budget to fly a representative to California, headquarters of "Real World" Supervising Casting Director, Damon Furberg, I had to settle for a phone interview. An avid "Real World" fan back in the day, I was excited to speak to the person who introduced me to many memorable moments and characters in my otherwise uneventful youth. After the interview, I hopefully asked Furberg if he could possibly hire me post-Smith. He laughed. Then realizing I was serious, he said he only had connections in the technical field. (More specifically, this included operating cameras - and he didn't think that as an American studies major, I would be suited for such a field.) Nevertheless, Furberg encouraged me to continue to social network, as "today, like over 90 percent of jobs come from social networking."
It states specifically that this time around, casting directors are seeking for the show, "activists who are passionate about political, social, or environmental causes." Why the political spin all of a sudden?
Recently, the show has been more about partying and not as meaningful. And we want to address that. We want to make sure that people are idealistic and passionate and not afraid to show up. I mean, think about previous characters like Pedro from San Francisco. Sydney was not that serious of a cast...It was really great though, to have Parisa on Sydney. Most people would agree that Parisa was the one character they really sympathized with. We are really just looking for a mix of really different people - political diversity, geographical diversity.
Is it just me, or have people on the show gotten progressively more attractive?
I think it would be hard for me to deny that looks play a factor. As in, if you are good looking you are going to get a second look. But you really have to bring a lot to the table. The thing about a show like this that's really different is that it's entirely driven by the personalities of the seven people. With the exception of the job they have - which offers narrative structure, if these seven people are not really deep and multi-faceted, the show will not be exciting.
How does the casting team actually pick who gets on the show?
It's a very democratic process. We go through the initial submissions and decide. We vote on the people we like. We go out and interview those people some more. It's not just one person deciding, which is really important. Otherwise, you are not going to represent your audience well. The show only works if every viewer can find someone to identify with.
How did you become the casting director?
I have been working on this show since season 12. I worked on everything except Philly and Paris. I did a lot of shows prior to that; I was in film and video production.
Do you like your job?
I do, I do.
It keeps you perpetually young, yes?
My wife and I just had a child. I talk to her all the time about how I will deal with him... The thing I've come to realize is that there's a couple of really simple thing that parents don't give their kids, like just telling them that they're proud of them. It's interesting because part of what I've come to understand is what kind of life events contributes complexity to a personality. Very often, having some sort of struggle with the family creates that. It makes people look to their peers for things that they would otherwise get from their parents. It has become a bit of a joke that everyone on the show has a weird family back story, it's almost coincidental. We picked the most interesting people, and interesting people tend to come from interesting backgrounds.