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How I Hacked An NBC Casting Call Using Copywriting

NBC_Casting_Call

Two weeks ago, David and I were sitting in Los Angeles meeting with NBC executives for a new reality TV show called Bear Grylls Adventure.

We never went to a casting call and we never submitted a video. In fact, their team worked on making an audition video for us to present to the executives. Here’s how it all went down.

 

I. St. Louis

I had just wrapped up co-facilitating an unconference at Beth Chesterton’s house and I was sitting above Jill Farmer’s garage in their guest apartment doing what anybody would do on a Saturday night at midnight: Facebook stalk girls you like or used to date.

I was looking at the Facebook timeline of a girl who I had been thinking about a lot since I totally quit women and I noticed a flyer for a open casting call in Phoenix.

“Holy adventure!” I thought as I read the description for a reality TV show that was basically created for my brother and I to be on.

The casting call was on that Saturday and we had obviously missed it, but for some reason I felt compelled to write them an email. Using everything I learned over the past two years of studying copywriting, email marketing, and influence I crafted the following email.

 

======BEGIN EMAIL======

Subject: Hey! We should really be on your show. Really.

Are you tired of looking through mediocre application videos? Are your eyes burning from hours of staring at your laptop?

Well, look no further, because I have the perfect two guys for your show…

My brother and I!

I’m Mike. I’m 31 years old, I live out of my car, and I travel the country full time. I also run a business doing life coaching for men and I run a blog called Adventures In Personal Development.

My brother is David. He’s 19 years old, a singer/songwriter, and student at the University of Arizona. I was an only child until I was 12, so he’s my only sibling (and best friend in the world).

18 months ago our mother unexpectedly passed away in her sleep.

My brother had just graduated high school a week before she passed. Wanting him to have a good summer before he started college, I flew him out to New Jersey where we started a 4100 mile road trip to spread her ashes across North America. We made a documentary about it to share with our friends and family.

After that experience I started to question life more so six months later, I parted ways from my six figure corporate job. In February I sold everything I own and donated 80% of my closet and embarked on a quest to make every day the best day of my life.

As I was leaving corporate america I started to interview people and ask them “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?” By far the three major buckets were: 1. Travel, 2. Volunteer, and 3. Spend Time With Family So we decided to do all three.

This past summer we decided to honor our mom’s life by driving 12,000 miles across the United States doing volunteer work. We did work in 35 cities and directly helped hundreds of people. We were interviewed a lot for the project. Here’s my favorite one.

I realize the deadline for casting is up, but we are PERFECT for your show.

We’re both great on camera, we are a TON of fun, and I have a strong online presence already.

Give me a call at 520-661-XXXX or email me back at hrostoski@gmail.com to discuss how we can make this happen.

All the best,

Mike

======END EMAIL======

 

15 minutes later I got a call from the casting director.

I forgot her exact words but they were something to the likes of:

“Oh my goodness. I’m sitting in my hotel room crying watching your video. You guys are awesome. I’d love to put you in front of the executives at NBC to see if we can get you on the show.”

I did a touchdown endzone dance and immediately called David. We were going to be on national television.

 

II. Tucson

I got back to Tucson and over the course of the next week we had several rounds of interviews with the casting director. And instead of having to submit an application video, she had her team put it together for us.

Over the course of our interactions, we learned that there had been over 400 couples who came out to the casting call in Phoenix.

So essentially we cut to the front of the line and had her team make our video for us. Life hacking indeed.

She told us we would find out within the week if we made the finals and to wait for her call.

The night before my trip to South America, David and I talked for hours about how this was going to change our lives. We planned spinoff shows. We guessed what crazy things we were going to have to do on the show. We even talked about who our “Entourage” was going to be (Nicky and Dan of course).

 

III. Medellin

The next day I travelled to Medellin, Colombia to hang out with my soul brothers Nicky and Dan for ten days before Skip Winter.

The whole week I was eagerly anticipating the call. Would we get to go to the finals? Will this be our big chance to touch more lives? Will this be our next big travel adventure together?

I got the call from the casting director on Wednesday night, January 30, three days before Skip Winter.

They were flying us out to Los Angeles to meet with NBC…

On Sunday.

The same Sunday that was the start of Skip Winter, the retreat that I spent the past year thinking about and the past six months helping organize.

I talked to David on the phone about it and made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I was going to miss the first half of Skip Winter to fly to Los Angeles for the finals.

 

IV. Cancun

I flew to Cancun with Dan and Nicky to meet everyone in the airport. We grabbed our bags and met everyone who was waiting outside to get on to the van to our private jungle compound.

I gave all my friends hugs, many of them who I hadn’t seen in over six months. I breathed in the warm Cancun air.

Then I told them I was leaving to follow a dream.

I still vividly remember looking at them in the eyes, telling them about the opportunity, and feeling overwhelming sadness for leaving them. I almost broke down into tears, but managed to hold it together to say some last words to them before they got on the van.

I hung out and waited to say goodbye to one more friend and ran to the terminal with minutes to spare before I jumped on my flight to Los Angeles.

 

V. Los Angeles

I landed in Los Angeles around 10:00pm. I had just stepped foot in four countries in one day (Colombia, Panama, Mexico, and the United States).

A driver picked me up from the airport and shuttled me to the hotel, where David had been sequestered in a hotel room since 2pm. At least he got to watch the Super Bowl earlier that day.

We were told that we could not leave the hotel room unless we had an escort and to not speak to the other finalists. Evidently they want all the introductions to be made on camera. So we stayed in our hotel room for essentially the next three days straight.

On Monday evening, we went in front of the NBC executives. Our whole interview was only 5-10 minutes. I remember thinking, “that was it?”

One of the personal assistants actually told us that we were in there for a long time compared to some of the others.

After some medical work, a meeting with a psychologist, a couple breaks to go to the gym, and an epic dinner at David’s first churrascaria, we got the news from one of the casting directors.

We had been cut from the show in one of the last rounds of cuts.

We were sad for around 30 seconds and almost at the same time we said, “Now we get to go to Daniel Jarvis’s 40th birthday party! Woo hoo!”

We packed up the room where we had been living for 22 hours a day for the past three days and got on our respective flights. One back to Tucson and one back to Cancun.

 

IV. Takeaways

Overall, it was a positive experience and we learned a lot of life lessons from it.

1. Get Rid Of The Good To Make Room For The Great

When we found out that I would have to miss the first half of Skip Winter and David would have to potentially miss half of his spring semester, we started to have doubts about going to the finals.

I’ll never forget what David told me though as we debated whether to even go or not:

“Dude, we’ve created these amazing lives by making hard choices like this. We can always take the certain path and enjoy what we’ve created or we can jump into uncertainty and see how far this goes.

You always tell people to take the path that leads to the most growth. I think it’s easy to see what that path is.”

So we leapt.

Because of that decision I missed the first three days of the absolute best week of my life.

I missed being part of 12 amazing people getting to know each other in a private jungle paradise. I missed going to the ruins of Tulum. I missed chartering a 45 foot catamaran for the day. And I missed at least a dozen margaritas and a half dozen quesadillas.

Looking back, I still wouldn’t change my decision even though we didn’t to be on the show. Why?

Because I’d always rather go for something than regret not going for it for the rest of my life.

 

2. For The Love Of God, Never Sign A Reality TV Show Contract

While I was still in Medellin, I received a massive 21 page contract from NBC for going on the show. I immediately had issues with it and had my legal ninja Kyle take a look at it.

Now I’m no lawyer but I wasn’t ready to “agree that I will not cooperate with any other person or entity in the creation, distribution, or promotion of any Productions relating to my Life Story, at any time.”

I wasn’t ready to agree that “I shall not grant any interviews, nor shall I appear as myself or participate in any way in any other television or radio programming, commercials or advertisements, or in any print media, Internet/on-line services, or any other media outlet, whether now known or hereafter devised, in connection with the Series or otherwise, other than on the Network (or any media outlet owned or operated by the Network), without the Network’s prior written approval.”

And I certainly I wasn’t ready to give the “Producer and the Network the perpetual and worldwide right to use my name, nickname, likeness (actual or simulated), photograph, caricature, voice, biographical material and any other indicia of my identity in connection with the production, exhibition, advertising, publicity, promotion, merchandising and other exploitation of any and all Productions, and all rights therein.”

We noted our changes to the contract and sent it back to their legal team.

After we got cut from the show I was talking about the revised contract to one of my friends who used to work in Hollywood and he said, “Of course that’s why you got cut! They don’t want to deal with people who actually know what they’re doing with their intellectual property.”

Evidently big companies don’t like when artists try to actually own their art.

Oh well, their loss.

 

3. “How Can We Make This Happen?”

Did you catch the last line in my email:

“Give me a call at 520-661-XXXX or email me back at hrostoski@gmail.com to discuss how we can make this happen.”

Anytime I’m negotiating anything, this is one of my magic bullet phrases that subconsciously gets people on your side immediately.

“I know the show is sold out, but we’re only going to be in town for one night. How can we make this happen?”

“I realize that it’s against your store policy but I’ve been shopping here for the past ten years. How can we make this happen?”

“I would love to have my event at your restaurant but my budget is $2000. How can we make this happen?”

Try it the next time you find yourself negotiating something. I’d love to hear your success stories.

 

4. I’m Going To Have Do This On My Own

People get book deals.

People become reality TV show stars.

People get signed by major labels and become famous rappers and musicians.

But who really gets to keep all the money? Who gets to really say what goes into their books, music, or programming? Who’s really calling the shots?

I’m on a mission to make the world a better place one man at a time. It’s already happening through my coaching practice, men’s groups, speaking engagements, and workshops.

Going on national television would have helped take my work to the next level. But would it even be my work anymore?

We can expect someone to do the work for us or we can just do it on our own.

Macklemore is doing it on his own.

AJ Leon is doing it on his own.

And I’m going to do it on my own.

Bitches.

  • Kenndjones

    Mike-

    Awesome – continue to push the boundaries. New word = #lifehack.

    Ken

  • Ramu Tremblay

    Mike,

    Some wonderful takeaways. I specifically appreciate: “How can we make this happen? Thank you for sharing… Keep going!!!

    -Ramu

    • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

      David and I were just watching that video of you when you got into state and ripped a giant tree branch off that tree. Awesome, haha. Keep rockin it yourself brother.

      • Ramu Tremblay

        Great times! Remember how minutes before our tree branch ripping session we:

        -Got the rope wrapped around the boat prop
        -Cut the rope off the prop
        -Left Winnie on the boat dock,
        -Almost had a flying wakeboard behead one of the passengers

        What an adventure!

        Love you guys!

  • Drew Grub

    Excellent. “how can we make this happen?” is the non-skeezy version of “what’s it going to take to get you in to this deal today?”- The old used car salesman close.

    And I agree with your Hollywood friend. You quite literally would have had to sell everything you are to them. And not just your artistic work would be owned. Your identity in the public eye as well. From then on you’d be “Mike from the Bear show who got high on nutmeg and ate the live snake” instead of “Future President of the US Mike”.

    Also, I love “Thrift Shop”, but have you heard the rest of his stuff? It’s quite well done and occasionally really profound.

    • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

      Yeah, his stuff is great. Something like a yoga teacher, philosopher, motivational speaker, and emcee. Really authentic, really good. My type of guy.

  • DJ

    Don’t worry, Nicky and I will still be in you entourage. And you’ll be in each of ours.

    • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

      We’re going to be Entouraging it up in Berlin soon brotha! Woo woo!

  • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

    David isn’t making it out to Berlin. At least not at this moment. He would miss like a fifth of the semester as we are already going to SXSW and NYC for Dan’s Birthday Blowout Part I. TBD soon…

  • Nathan Agin

    great article, Mike. and that contract stuff hit home. perhaps it’s a blessing i don’t have a big network calling.

    i agree that producers/networks want the easiest fit, and people like you and i, who actually read contracts, are not usually what they are looking for. the real path is to become so undeniably good and in demand, that *they* have to agree to *your* conditions. i see that as a reality for both of us. :)

    LOVE the “make it happen” line – definitely going to use that. you know i’m a big fan of tha Mack – and thanks for linking to AJ’s project – such authenticity!!

    • Nathan Agin

      oh – and this totally reminded me of my GoDaddy Super Bowl spot. When I arrived on set, that’s when we were to fill out all the paperwork, and after 4 days of shooting (I came in on Day 5), I was the *FIRST* actor to notice that the contracts stated the incorrect year (for the previous Super Bowl). gah! The on-set producers looked kinda dumb-founded, like “how the hell did this happen—and why is this actor the one who found it?” :)

      Just goes to show you how much people read these things (and how much they expect others will read them)—even quote-unquote professionals.

  • http://pursuitofeverything.com/ ajleon

    I love this article, Mike. Incredibly well written, and love the narrative wrapped in sage advice. And thank you for the shout out, my friend. :)

    • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

      Thanks brother. Keep crushing. I have a feeling our paths will cross in the near future.

  • http://jasonsadler.com/ Jason HeadsetsDotCom

    Inspiring and awesome post Mike! Now I’m off to write a blog post about an experience this reminded me of :)

  • Mo Chanmugham

    Mike glad to see it all worked out and you learned a hell of a lot about doing business with media companies. Let me know if you are ever in Boston!

  • Marcus

    Hey Mike, I stumbled onto your blog from an NBC article about how you gamed Expedia. Inspiring stuff, since my website is about frequent flyer miles.

    This was a great story, especially with good lessons about artists’ rights. Really relevant, since I sent in a submission for a reality TV show a little while back. On the chance I do get any follow-up from the production company, I’ll be sure to read the fine print. Look forward to reading more from you.

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  • Shyloe

    Nice! Great story :) And I use that sentence all the time… How can we make this work? but I like your use of the word “happen” instead. I’d say that’s even better. Booyah!

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