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Do Your Own Thing – Casting Director Jamie Carroll sheds light on Hosting Gigs

“You have this dream,” you want to host a show…

“But you can’t go to Barnes and Noble and learn how to be a successful host,” says casting director and lifestyle expert Jamie Carroll who casts for HGTV, FOOD NETWORK, MTV, the TRAVEL CHANNEL and more!

“That’s why I offer to help, why wouldn’t I,” Jamie says with an energy that refreshes the air. SECRET REVEALED…

Jamie Carroll WANTS you to succeed. (As do most casting directors! It is the truth… and so helpful to believe).

Starting out as an intern in a casting office, Jamie, “was lucky enough to work with someone who took her under their wing.” Soon, her career took off. She worked at MTV casting contestants, then experts and hosts.

To succeed as a host, it does take hard work. It takes a unique idea, a treatment, some sizzle and the guts to pitch it! But don’t get overwhelmed because Jamie Carroll breaks down every step in clear terms that make you feel at home.

Get ready NYCastings!!! For these sound, bites of advice from host & lifestyle expert Jamie Carroll…

Q: What makes a great host?

Someone very aware of themselves and very aware of their strengths.
I always say, “I look for a stronger personality than me in the room.” I want you to come in and take over. Don’t wait for too much direction from me because it’s all about you in that moment.

When you walk into that room you’ve got to trust that you are unique, that you are interesting and that you have a lot to say – because everyone does. If you sit in a room with ten people, they will all have interesting stories and interesting hobbies, which is what makes everyone unique.

Q: You’ve worked on a number of HOME shows, why the influx?

I think people are investing in their homes and with that comes a wave of experts that know how to make a nice home. It may not have been considered an area of expertise fifteen years ago but it is, it’s a valid level of expertise. And there is something about going behind the doors of where people live. There is an amount of voyeurism. It’s all about getting closer nowadays and you can’t get much closer than in a person’s living room.

Q: Do you see an uptick in the jobs for hosts?

No. And you never will because most people package the shows themselves.  For the most part, it will always be about the same.

Q: Is there a different type of host for a HOME show versus another type, like Dirty Jobs?

The skill set is the difference. Every host, from shows like Dirty Jobs to design shows, has something extraordinarily accessible about them and there has to be. They are working alongside people who are not scripted, who are not professional actors, who are there because they want a makeover on their house or because they have a sad story. A person who warms up to these people, and can basically help produce the story alongside the participant, is what we look for

You’ve got to be able to connect with another person, in a moment to moment setting, who has no training and no experience speaking in front of a camera, in full sentences or in sound bites. You’ve got to be on your game, ready to go.

We can tell when someone is very present and not afraid. It’s all about working together and creating that synergy.

Q: You mention, “speaking in sound bites.” I don’t think everyone knows about this, tell us more!

I know! People don’t know about this. I’ve done classes on camera and I ask, ‘tell me something interesting about yourself’ and they do… but it takes them thirty minutes to get there. The problem is, I am going to cut the tape down to ninety seconds and that sound bite has got to be there. You’ve got to start, hit the climax and get the heck out of there really quickly. You can see the difference when someone does that. It means everything. Sound bites, talking television, is everything… and I think you can learn it.

Q: What other questions / answers should actors prepare sound bites for?

Tell me about yourself and where do you come from are often asked.

But, with any question you should throw in the word ‘interesting,’ in your brain . “Tell me something interesting about you” or “Tell me something interesting about where you are from.” Because no one wants the longitude and latitude, they want to know something personal about you.

You walk in the door fully aware of yourself but we only have a couple of minutes to try and get to the heart of you. So if you can help us get you there – we can help you get on the air.

Q: How can an aspiring host, find the ‘expert’ within themselves?

That is a lifetime process (Jamie laughs).

I think… we become so ingrained with our hobbies that we think everyone does them. One of the most helpful things you can do is sit down with a friend, not a close friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings but a friend you can trust, and ask them, “If you had to pitch a TV show for me, what would it be? What would I be the host of?” See where they go.  Because you can’t be objective and you shouldn’t be. You need to have someone you trust, who looks out for your feelings but says the things that need to be said.

Q: For aspiring hosts, why is blogging so important?

You have got to show up online, you have got to show up everywhere.

I love the things you can do in a moment. You can start a blog in three minutes.
You’ve got to start blogging. You’ve got to develop yourself as an expert and you have to become an expert in a field that you are probably already closer to than you think. I know people who have been involved in environmental protection companies for years and also happen to be interested in hosting and acting. They are already close to an expert status and just have to throw themselves out there as one.

Don’t create something for you to be an expert at, that’s not cool, that’s not what we are looking for.  Nobody should become an expert in vodka, just because. You have got to love it.

Q: Once you hone in on your expertise, how do you create a treatment?

A treatment is basically a summary of your show… what it is going to look like, how it will break down and how to sell it. Those are the three main points to hit. It is helpful for a potential host to write this down for themselves as a treatment  because it helps for you to pitch yourself so you understand how your show will work.

Think about your show, your blog, and how you will tie it all together.  What is unique, what is your selling point, how will you make it all happen and how it will translate on television? Because it is TV… and it has to be active. It can’t just be talking heads all the time.

And then go into an act by act breakdown… This is the cold open, this is where we start, this is all the things we establish in the first act.

If it is a travel show, establish the location, the background and the first place of interest that you are going to go. For act two, you have the meat of the story. It will be activities one, two and three. Maybe an interesting on the street, off the cuff interview. And in act three you basically wrap it up.

Q: Does there need to be a high arc or conflict?

You don’t need to add moments of crisis because it is a Docu series. But if your passion is interviewing people who went to prison, then you may want a big emotional arc in there. I have seen people go down that route.

Q: How many shows should a person create for the treatment?

I always say do three segments, five if you can. It is harder to narrow down than you realize. I bet the first time you sit down to write ideas you will think, ‘I just wrote a novel.’ That is where the editing process comes in and you take out what is not necessary. If you can get by without it, leave it out.

Q: Are log lines important?

That is a very personal matter of opinion. Some places say yes and others say no.

Q: Once you have your expertise, a blog and a treatment… is that enough to pitch or do you need a sample show?

I always say go with the sizzle reel.  The sizzle reel is something they can watch. It is three to four minutes max, like the Cliff Notes version of your show where you can get at least one segment from start to finish on it. Most segments will be about four minutes. The quality does not have to be  killer. We are not looking for festival quality, as long as the sound is good. 

Write up a script and make it happen. Just start putting it out there. Put it up on your blog, your website, send it out to production houses. You have nothing to lose. You may not hear back… but you may hear back from one person and really all that matters is that you did it.

Just by putting things out there you gain confidence and you realize it is not as hard as you thought.

Q: What sound advice do you have for aspiring hosts?

The piece of advice I always give is, ‘Do your own thing.’

Just do the thing you can do today. I know it is a disheartening business and I have so many good friends who are actors, who get down – but that’s venting. At the end of the day, that will not get you your next job.

Take the action into your own hands, get out of the passenger seat, do the blog, create the sizzle reel and make something happen. And you know what, you might really surprise yourself.

Up next, Jamie Carroll is casting a web series with Al Sharpton on Education and Dear Genevieve for HGTV. Thank you, Jamie, for sharing your lifestyle/host expertise with NYCastings!

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