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7 tips for a successful application from the head of American Ninja Warrior’s casting team

Angelou Deign, the head of A. Deign and Co., shared how to stand out from the thousands of applications her team sorts through.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Casting for season 14 of American Ninja Warrior will close in just one month, on December 10, 2021. We know that many of you are out there right now working on applications and submission videos. We want you to have your best shot at success.

We’re bringing you insider tips on what goes into an application that results in a selection for the show. Ahead of season nine, we did a deep dive into the subject with Angelou Deign of A. Deign and Co., the casting company behind the show. Just recently, we had the chance to speak with Deign again to find out what’s changed, what’s new, and what you need to know if you want to be an American Ninja Warrior.

Here are the seven areas we cover in this article.

  1. Submit your application early.
  2. The video should be no longer than two minutes.
  3. The first 30 seconds are critical.
  4. Show your story.
  5. Do not worry about your video editing skills.
  6. Rookies versus veterans. Do different rules apply?
  7. So you’ve applied before but have not been selected. What’s going on?
Elizabeth Morris/NBC

First of all, we need to start with the single most important thing to know if you want the best chance of being selected.

Submit your application early.

We repeat, EARLY. Do not wait for the last two weeks.

The process of casting a season of American Ninja Warrior is a lengthy one. During the submission period, all applications are received by A. Deign and Co. Once the submission period closes, the applications that make it beyond Deign’s team are organized by location (think Northeast, Southeast, etc.). Those groups are presented to the executives from NBC and A.Smith and Co. Productions in the order they plan to record the Qualifying episodes. A lot of people have a say in who ends up on the course.

When we first spoke with Deign ahead of season nine, she shared that they receive about 40,000 applications a year and they watch every single one of them. That number has increased to closer to 70,000 and yet people are still waiting until the last two weeks to hut submit.

Why get the video in early? Because it gives the casting team time to actually help you get selected. Deign’s team watch those videos and reach out to the applicants who need to make adjustments to something; Sound, lighting, story, or athletics.

“The sooner they get their video in, the earlier we can watch it and help in areas where they need help,” Deign told us. “We’re familiar with what the execs say about videos. If it’s at the deadline, there’s really no chance for applicants to go back and re-do portions of their videos.”

The casting team will go all out to put the best applications in front of the executives. So give them the space and time needed to do so. Adjusting your video might even be super easy. Deign said, “We physically can add it to their video if they submit it ahead of time. They don’t have to worry about editing. We can take care of some of that stuff for them.”

Got it? Send that video in early! Read on for more important tips.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

The video should be no longer than two minutes.

During this time, applicants should introduce themselves, share their personal stories, and show off their obstacle abilities. We’ll talk more about the story portion in a second. When it comes to demonstrating athletics, it should use up close to a minute of the video. And forget about the fancy edits and cuts. The producers are interested in seeing consecutive moves to make sure you can handle a course.

Actually, getting fancy with an editing program to jam action more into your video can be a cause for concern. As Deign describes, “We’re interested in seeing a person actually do obstacles all the way through. When we see jump cuts, it does concern us. How far did this person actually get?”

The first 30 seconds are critical.

Remember, the casting team has to make decisions on close to 70,000 applications. Get their attention quickly.

“The most important thing is the energy level because if you’re not excited about your life, why should anyone else be?” Deign shared that quote with us back in 2017, but it still heavily applies.

Keep in mind that every single person applying to be on American Ninja Warrior thinks they are athletic and physically capable. They can’t all run the course. Why are YOU special?

Show your story.

The casting team has to “sell” their selected applicants to the executives. You need to sell yourself to the casting team.

Everyone has a story. It can be funny, sad, motivational, or inspirational. Believe that you are unique and special and make sure you reflect that both in your application’s energy and visuals. Display photos from various times in your life. Find physical items you can show on camera that illustrate the story you’re telling.

As Deign said ahead of season nine, “If you can visually keep people interested then we know you can be on a TV show. You’re going to keep the viewers’ interest.”

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Do not worry about your video editing skills.

You really, really don’t need to stress about making your video flashy. Make sure the important elements are there and get it sent in early. That is so much more important than having a professional put together your footage. If you’re a fit for the show, the casting team will work hard to make sure you get your chance.

Rookies versus veterans. Do different rules apply?

The short answer to that is yes and no.

When a veteran reapplies to be on the show, the producers are already pretty aware of their physical abilities. So that group needs to focus on what’s new in their lives. What has changed for them since the last time they applied? Rookies need to really prove they can handle the obstacles and will need to spend a little more time highlighting that.

In 2017, there was a ratio of about 70% rookies to 30% returning competitors cast each season. Now, it’s closer to 60% to 40%. Deign pointed out something important about those returning competitors. The average viewer won’t recognize most of them.

Many “new” faces on American Ninja Warrior have run the course before and had their appearances cut prior to broadcast. By reapplying, they’re coming back in stronger, with more experience, and with some familiarity with the casting team. Re-applicants, regardless of previous success, are encouraged.

So you’ve applied before but have not been selected. What’s going on?

It happens. 70,000 people apply. About 400-600 get to the course. Don’t give up!

Also, don’t just send in the same application year after year. Think back to this previous quote from Deign, “A lot of times people will try to resubmit most of what they submitted last year that didn’t get them selected, under the guise that we didn’t see it. We saw it. Do better. Do something different. Up the game a little bit.”

Deign’s advice is to reach out to the Ninja Warrior community. Find someone who has been selected before and let them take a look at your application. They might spot something you missed or have ideas on how to showcase your personality in a new way.

Think of ways to break out of the pack. “It could be as simple as a lot of people fit the same profile,” Deign shared.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

The final word

“We still love inspirational stories. We still love people who are kind and embrace the Ninja Warrior community. We still love athletic people who inspire us. It’s a simple formula. We just wish more people would continue to apply and train for Ninja Warrior so we continue to grow the sport.” - Angelou Deign

Feeling ready? Good! Get that application in ASAP! Still have questions? Leave them in the comment section and we’ll see if we can get them answered.