Monday, September 17, 2012

Casting call: National Geographic's American Preppers

Okay readers, here’s an official casting call from National Geographic’s American Prepper series. Don't mistake this for the Doomsday Preppers; apparently this is a whole new series with a different focus.


I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. My name is Gabrielle Zieden and I‘m working with National Geographic on a new documentary series featuring Americans who have gone off the grid.

Our filming objective is to capture the essence self-reliance in the American wilderness. Our casting call reads:

If you believe society is failing, and you have skillfully prepared to live the TRUE life of an American Prepper, then we want to hear from you.

National Geographic is going beyond the brief, 15-minute glimpse of basement bunkers, and into the wilderness with a true American Prepper family for an in-depth and intimate look into the lives of these brave homesteaders. In this new documentary series, we want to accompany you off the grid and into your world of committed basic survival, documenting and earning an education in what it actually means to be prepared.

Whether you are planning your move into a remote bug-out now or are teaching others how to do so successfully, this season-long documentary series wants to follow you on your daily journey. Do you know of a family or group who is independent of society, honorably existing on the most basic level, and prepared in the event of a major global crunch? Are you part of a devoted prepper community that is thriving? Do you wish you had the platform to break down the myths about preppers, and show the artistry of living in a survivor’s world?

Please include any articles, photos, or videos that can help us gain a better understanding of your way of life. We are sensitive to OPSEC concerns and your information will be kept in absolute confidence.

If interested, please email

If this sounds like something you are interested in, or would like to learn more about the project, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope to hear from you.


Gabrielle Zieden
Casting Associate Producer
National Geographic
(646) 216-9156


Curious, I emailed Ms. Zieden and what follows is our emailed conversation.

Me: While I wouldn't mind posting this casting call on my blog, I'm certain one of the first questions readers will ask (besides the obvious OpSec one) is, what's in it for them? Just the fifteen minutes of fame?

If you'll pardon the crassness of the question (because I can assure you, it will be on peoples' minds) I might post the casting call.

Ms. Zieden:
No problem for the question! We are able to offer compensation to the people who participate, along with the opportunity to help educate and warn people about the need to be prepping. The more people who we can get prepping, the less competition there will be for precious resources when the time comes!

Me: Thank you for replying. I spoke to one of your reps at a Preparedness Expo in Colorado Springs last May [Note: This rep was from the Doomsday Prepper program, not the American Prepper program; at this point in my conversation, that distinction wasn't clear], and she admitted it was an uphill battle trying to find people willing to participate in the show. She said those responding to the casting calls tend to be from the extreme ends of the spectrum. In watching a few of your shows, I'm inclined to agree. Those of us who are not off-the-deep-end-preppers (but who are merely taking sensible precautions against an uncertain future) are a whole lot less likely to bare our souls on TV, so to speak.

Anything else you want to add to the casting call before I post? I'm all ears.

Ms. Zieden: We definitely understand it's an uphill battle, which is why we're excited for our new show, which will be more documentary style and follow people over the course of several episodes. The longer filming time and longer screen time we're able to show people makes for a more natural, nuanced story.

We find ourselves in a bind when the people who are concerned about us not telling the story they'd like to see also won't agree to be on the show, so if you can think of anyone you'd be proud to represent your community, please reach out.

Me: I can understand the Catch-22 (people who are concerned about not telling the story they'd like to see, but who won't agree to be on the show). On the other hand, speaking as someone whom you couldn't pay enough to be on the show, it's too dangerous a prospect. Who wants to lay bare for all the world to see what should be private matters? Also, wasn't there a case where someone who had been featured on the show later had all his firearms removed by gov't officials? I don't know the circumstances but that sounded scary.

Ms. Zieden: We are more interested in capturing survival and prepper skills on camera so our viewers are able to learn along with the subject of the documentary rather than giving away personal info (such as location or family information) but I understand how this could be a concern. I was also hoping that letting you know that while we are looking to shoot over a 6 month period we will only be filming on 50 or so of those days leaving the rest of the 6 months free for our subject to handle any business or family matters they do not want on television would assuage your concerns a little. Again I would really appreciate any sort of direct connections you could make between me and whomever might be interested in participating.

Thank you so much,

Me: I don't personally know anyone interested in participating, but my blog readership tops around 60,000/month, so I'll post your casting call as well as excerpts from our email exchange and we'll see what happens.

Good luck. I applaud your efforts even though we (my family) wouldn't want to participate.

So, dear readers, that was our conversation. If any of you feel you can reveal your prepping efforts without compromising OpSec, then perhaps the extra money offered by National Geographic may be worthwhile, especially if it helps further your preparedness.

I want to make it clear that during our emailed conversation, I was under the impression this was a casting call for Doomsday Preppers, a misunderstanding which Ms. Zieden soon corrected. The focus of this new series appears to be much more skills-oriented and less invasive of privacy.

If you do chose to apply, let me know! (You can email me privately at All other questions will need to be addressed to Ms. Zieden, since this blog post is the extent of my knowledge.


  1. Different stink...same pig. I wouldn't do it for a million bucks.

  2. I think I'd be a bit cautious about this. The contact information raises a few questions. The phone number is a personal cell phone on Verizon Wireless in NY. The email address is the claim to be a producer for National Geographic.

    First, there is not an employee by this name as an employee at National Geographic. All the National Geographic addresses are in Iowa, Washington DC, Florida, and Colorado - none in New York.

    All the phone numbers for National Geographic are toll free except for a DC number for National Geographic Channel.

    A National Geographic email address should be from one of these domains:,, or a free Gmail address should not be used by someone claiming to be a producer at a major company.

    There is some info about a Gabrielle Zieden available, but all of it is in placeholder accounts at places like Linkedin, MySpace, Pinterest, etc. The accounts have been created with no updates, posts, links, anything.

    There is some info linking this name with media, but not National Geographic. Stick Figure Productions and a personal assistant at Crosstown Media are the two that pop up the most.

    There's too many inconsistencies here. Before contacting this person and divulging any personal information, I'd contact National Geographic at the contact info at and confirm this person's bona fades.

    1. Kudos. Well done.

    2. What little bit I could find out about her, she seems to be an independent casting producer/director [i.e. not employed by National Geographic], and not a very good one either.


  3. I hope this is legitimate and not extreme or condescending.

    Perhaps the show can feature people who are living successful, modern lives but who also have the knowledge that (for instance) my grandparents had.

    My grandparent's Missouri farm ended up on the grid, but they were perfectly comfortable off-grid, since cars, electricity, etc. weren't invented until they were adults. :)

    - Charlie

    1. I agree, Charlie.

      When I read things like "Americans who have gone off the grid."

      or "the essence self-reliance in the American wilderness."

      it makes me wonder, does the writer have any idea how much of America is only barely on the grid in the first place? Do they realize how much of the country has become electrified in only recent decades? And how many are in fact electrified but nowhere near the grid?

      Certainly the state of being off-grid does not automatically translate to "self-reliance in the American wilderness."

      These folks have a concept they're working to develop and that's fine, but my guess is they're urban dwellers, which explains a lot.

      I like your concept a whole lot better.

      A. McSp

  4. I am very inclined to agree with Anon 12:05. Different stink,same pig. The first thing you want to maintain is OPSEC. The first thing you are throwing away is OPSEC. I was skeptical about the first call. After seeing the programs, I would not touch this.

  5. In reading this, I too have to wonder about how legitimate it is, given the phone number and email address. I received an official National Geographic casting call for a series they wanted to do on domestic animal shows as did several of my friends and it all came from an official National Geographic email address and also gave out a 1-800 phone number for contact info. I refused to participate for that series and would never want to be on TV, especially for a realty show showcasing my life.

  6. I'm sorry, Patrice, but I don't trust these people any further than I can spit. I grew up reading National Geographic every month, because my parents subscribed to it. When my wife and I married, we also subscribed... for a while. But we came to realize the magazine was totally ANTI God and Christ. The idea of a creator of all things is totally rejected by them. It's evolution or nothing. Those running the magazine are total liberal-progressives. Why would Americans who are off-the-grid or partially off-the-grid want to give them any information at all, especially where they live? That would make it very easy for our liberal government to keep track of us and shut us down if and when TSHTF. Liberal progressives are very devious and something I learned long ago: They LIE every chance they get! Thanks, but no thanks!
    --Fred in AZ

  7. I agree with anon 12:40 - that information puts this in quite a different light.
    However, even if it were a 'legitimate' effort, I would want to see the legal contracts that governed how I would be presented before I agreed to the show. To give an example, several years ago I saw a couple episodes of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and "16 and Counting" (Duggar Family). What struck me was the difference in the way the families' views and beliefs were presented - the Duggar family obviously had a contract and a producer who respected and fairly represented their views and showed their family in the best possible light, unlike the notoriety and ultimately dissolution that affected John & Kate Gosselin.

  8. Why don't they just write a script, hire actors and make a show? The producers could then slant the story anyway they want to. No way would I let anyone know what I have and don't have on national TV!

  9. ditto ditto ditto to everyone above. there are plenty of folks and books and videos etc.. that show how to cook on a woodstove, how to cut and store firewood, how to quilt and sew, how to hunt, etc....perhaps this gal should cut off her electric and water supply and try it for herself for awhile..she can learn as she goes! :)

  10. 3 words - "Don't do it"

  11. Note the casting agent says she is working "with" NatGeo (not "for") - My hometown has a strong film industry and the largest film studio east of CA. I'm no film expert but I've had opportunities to participate as an extra several times over the years. Casting calls for non-star talent and extras are usually arranged by indepentdent agents/casting companies and not the actual film producers.

    Most recently we observed the filming of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven - studio is listed as Relativity Media- but the casting was arranged by Vanessa Ncasting, a local casting agent that communicates calls through her facebook page, private cell, and email. (

    Don't get me wrong, In the interest of opsec I wouldn't apply to one of these shows. However don't discount the casting agent's credentials simply because she has a private email and telephone number. My experience is that's typical for the industry.

  12. Just to second the posting by Anonymous formerly of CA - I used to work professionally in the film and TV industry in New York. Casting for a reality series would be contracted/outsourced to an independent casting house, which is often a one or two person operation. It is a fast moving and mobile business, in which casting agents are travelling all over town and taking meetings at all hours of the day. They work off their smartphones and are usually casting multiple projects for multiple clients at the same time. The 646 area code and gmail account are industry standard for casting a reality show. Her title, "casting associate producer" does not imply a title AT National Geographic, but is the way she would be credited on the TV show.

  13. I absolutely would not do this. It hard enough to maintain a desirable level of OPSEC normally, but to put yourself in the DHS spotlight is out right stupid.

    I have heard that several participants in the doomsday program have been visited by multiple 3 initial govment agencies, arrests and property siezures are alleged to be have been made.

  14. National Geographic did a 'documentary' about the Hutterites in Montana. Since airing a few episodes, there is a lot of contention between the Hutterite community and the shows producers. The Hutterite colony is claiming that because their lives were rather routine and therefore less interesting than the producers would like, the producers started scripting the episodes, leading to an inaccurate representation of the Hutterite lifestyle. The producers deny this, of course.

    So, not only is this a bad OPSEC idea, do not expect NatGeo to portray the participants accurately or fairly.

  15. Wow this is fascinating. Really interesting to see what the actual process behind the spin machine that is Doomsday Preppers looks like. Well done by you, Patrice, for taking the high road

  16. The hair on the back of my neck stood as I began reading your post Patrice. I was frightened you'd fallen and hit your head:) & had unknowingly agreed to this sure-as-$hi+ hoax. Call me a cynic or paranoid (actually I prefer paranoid). Big Bro/Sis has already encroached at break-neck speed.

    I believe God gave us a gut feeling in order to aid in our survival. My gut said "RUN! & don't look back."

    What prepper worth their salt would agree to throwing op-sec out the window for MONEY? As for me, not in a million or for a million!