On 12th St., Learning To Keep It Real

IMG_8089Claire Glass Robert Galinsky, founder of the New York Reality TV School, and Angelina Als, one of the school’s students. Mr. Galinsky’s mission is to teach people to sell their personalities to reality TV casting directors in 20 seconds or less.

Two women linger hesitantly at the entrance to a restaurant on Avenue C. One looks as though she might lose her lunch from nerves as a man nudges her forward into the middle of the dining area. She immediately strikes a mannequin pose and after a brief pause, she glides across through the tightly-packed tables as if on a cat walk. She’s smack dab in the middle of a restaurant performing for patrons who came expecting sandwiches without a side of model.

On its face, the scene may seem unusual, but it’s all in the name of reality TV where these kinds of antics are the norm — so much the norm that students schlep to 12th Street and Avenue C from all over the city to the New York Reality TV School to learn how to be themselves, only better. It’s an education in how to make it in the “real” world we’ve all grown accustomed to on the small screen.

Robert Galinsky, the school’s founder, says that his mission is to teach people to sell their personalities to reality TV casting directors in 20 seconds or less.

“I do lots of things with my students that typical actors do to refine their skills before they ever get a script,” Mr. Galinsky says. He started teaching in 2008, and is the school’s sole instructor. “This is just like acting but you’re the character and there’s no script.”

Mr. Galinsky says his is one of the few acting schools in New York that specializes in Reality TV training, which may be the reason, he says, he gets calls regularly from casting directors. He says there’s even a deal in the works for a reality show about his school, but he declined to offer any details.

Mr. Galinsky’s first student, Jorge Bendersky, a so-called dog groomer to the stars, approached him for audition prep in 2008 and wound up securing a spot on Animal Planet’s “The Groomer Has it.”

Seeking the same reality paycheck, two students Angelena Als, 21, and Alexa Elliot, 19, both signed up for private tutoring for $95 an hour. Ms. Als auditioned for “Bad Girls Club” on Oxygen in August, and has since received a call back. She’s waiting for her second call back, which would mean she’s a front runner, and continues to train in the meantime.

In each season of “Bad Girls,” now in its fifth season, a bunch of easily-provoked women, often with clashing personalities, live together in a house stocked with alcohol. Ms. Als says she was made for the job.

“People tend to either really love me, or really hate me,” she says. “I’ll just sit and chill and people will want to fight me. Once I fought a girl in the McDonald’s on 96th Street.”

Mr. Galinsky’s role, in this case, is to harness Als’s fist-throwing energy to get it across during the question-and-answer period of her audition.

“I’ll spend time with her crafting her response down to 20 seconds,” he says. “If you go to these auditions these people want you to deliver the goods, and fast.”

Mr. Galinsky even stages public exercises to prep his students for their real world auditions.

“We’ll have the girls do an impromptu catwalk in the middle of a crowded restaurant,” Mr. Galinsky says. “I might even have a girl like Angelena start a fight in public.”

He adds that the girls are prepared for the line of fire in what he calls a Reality Show Prep Walk. Students will be subjected to the type of ridicule they might later face in HD.

“We simulate reality show conflict so when you step in front of abusive cast members or judges you’ll have the emotional endurance to deal with it,” Mr. Galinsky says.

Ms. Als says she’s just learning how to use what she already has.

“It’s all about what you do with being on TV,” Ms. Als says. “This is me and this is exactly how I will present myself. I’m being who I already am, just learning how to do it on TV.”