Want to get on American Ninja Warrior? The entire ninja community was surprised when season 12 applications opened up weeks prior to season 11’s finale. Historically, this is way earlier than applications have ever opened up before. Given the number of applications to sort through, it’s not entirely surprising that the casting team needs more time to make their decisions.
Ready to apply? Read below, then use the link at the bottom to submit your application!
American Ninja Warrior Application Process
The application is rather straightforward, but it can be time-consuming and at times tedious. It consists of 2 parts: the written application, and the video application.
The written application is simply a series of questions, designed to give the casting team a more in depth understanding of who you are. Unlike the video, you are given free rein here to talk all about your past, future goals, hobbies, friends and family, and anything else you feel defines you.
The video application is much more limited in time, but it’s also where you get to showcase your personality. This is of the upmost importance. When it comes to being chosen, all that matters is how many viewers you can attract. That means your video needs to focus on much more than just athletic ability.
What are the Odds?
Various reports and word of mouth claim Deign & Co received anywhere from 70,000 – 100,000 applications for American Ninja Warrior season 11. Since season 7, there have been 6 qualifying cities. Roughly 80 – 100 athletes receive the call in each of those cities each year. Don’t forget to factor in an average of 30% regular fan favorite ninjas per qualifying region who are more or less guaranteed to be called back every season. That means somewhere between 336 and 420 applications from “rookie” ninjas are chosen each year. Put all of that information together, and roughly 0.34% – 0.60% of applications from athletes who have never been on the show are accepted each year. And with more applications coming in, the chance of being selected only get lower with each passing year.
To put that into perspective, for every “rookie” that gets the coveted call, another 200 or so are left disappointed. And that doesn’t even factor in your odds of actually getting any air time. Keep in mind, in the recently aired season 11 finale we saw a number of ninjas have their stage 3 run fast forwarded.
So what does all this tell us? It’s partially about athletic skill to be certain, but that’s just one factor. It all comes down to who can bring in the most viewers.
What Goes in the Video?
The video can be up to 3 minutes long. However, in an interview with Angelou Deign, the president of the casting team said 2 is enough for them to decide whether they are interested. There are 3 focus points to consider.
- Athletic Ability – This is what people tend to focus on the most. They assume because your skill as a ninja determines how far you can make it on the course, it is the most important part of their video. This is not necessarily the case. Roughly one minute should be spent here. The casting team also wants to know that you have the talent to string multiple obstacles together. So while showing them clips of your most impressive feats is tempting, try to include an uninterrupted course run.
- Personality – Regardless of your athletic ability, you won’t get chosen to run the course if you have a bad attitude. Think of all the big personalities on the show. Grant McCartney, Jake Murray, and Neil Craver just to name a few. I’m not saying they aren’t talented ninjas, but the reason these guys will always get called back is because they dance, smile, laugh, and just act straight up goofy in the spotlight. At a bare minimum, you have to smile and speak with enthusiasm in your video. If you are willing to take it a step further, write yourself a comedy script and have some fun with it. Lest we never forget Jake Murray’s season 7 submission video.
- Story – If they do choose you, they need something to talk about in your promo (should you be one of the lucky few rookies that gets a promo).
- While it may seem like ANW runs a lot of sad stories, keep in mind they’re almost always stories with happy, or at least hopeful endings. If you’ve survived a tragedy, highlight how it’s changed your outlook on life for the better. If you’re running for a deceased relative, tell the producers how you want to make them proud as they watch you from the afterlife.
- Don’t have a story? Get creative! There’s no treason you can’t claim you start every training session with a stack of pancakes and call yourself captain pancake. Teach yourself how to ride a unicycle and tell the camera how you regularly ride it to the gym. If these things sound ridiculous and gimmicky, it’s because they are. But hey, that’s what sells. If you don’t believe me, go rewatch the promos of rookies in season 11.
What NOT to do
It goes without saying, but don’t altogether leave any of the previously mentioned 3 main points out of your video. With very little exception, ninjas aren’t chosen based on athletic ability, personality, or story alone. Rather, it’s a combination of the three that will get you selected.
Don’t put music over your talking. While award-winning visual and audio are far from necessary in the audition video, the casting team isn’t going to struggle to figure out what you’re saying. If you want music, play it while during a training montage.
Don’t resubmit the same video that didn’t work last year. If it didn’t work then, it won’t work now.
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit. In order to get through all of them, the casting team begins sorting through applications as soon as they start to come in. This explains why the submission site opens a little earlier every year. It’s also why you should submit earlier in the process rather than later.
The Walk On Line
Since this is an article about how to get on American Ninja Warrior, I would be remiss in not mentioning the walk on line. If you don’t get the call, but you can’t bare the thought of waiting another year for your shot at the big time, the walk on line is for you. Starting with season 11, the walk on line adopted a lottery system. For better or worse, this is your last chance at getting on until next season. For a more in depth understanding of the walk on line, check out this post I wrote when I tried the walk on line in Oklahoma City last season. And if you aren’t lucky enough to make it, there’s always testing to look forward to!
The casting team has tens of thousands of applications to go through. If you wait until the deadline, odds are it won’t get much attention. Begin thinking up your video now, and head over to https://www.anwcasting.com/ to begin filling out your written application! (The page still says season 11, but according to American Ninja Warrior Nation, there is indeed confirmation that submissions made now go toward season 12.)