I’ve worked on a number of reality television shows, so I’ve seen how things are manipulated and what it takes to put together and episode. So here are some things you might not realize while you’re enjoying your favorite guilty pleasure.
1. Things that happened over 5 minutes probably happened over 5 hours
Something as simple as a lunch date can take up to five hours to shoot. That’s including the crew that has to arrive before the cast, shooting the actual lunch, and then filming the cast leaving. And you’ll only see ten minutes out of that two hour lunch we filmed because only ten minutes of it was interesting. The same goes for parties. I’ve had to go to nightclubs with cast members and they would spend four to five hours there but when I watched the show you would literally see three minutes or even less of it!
2. Everything is planned out…sorta
There’s one thing you have to understand about reality TV. In order for the show to be entertaining there has to be some sort of storyline in each episode otherwise the episode will make no sense, and it would be pretty boring. Think about your life for a second. Do you fight with someone, go out to lunch, and run into your ex all in one day? Or even in one month?
That’s why producers are responsible for setting up lunch dates and making the, “celebrity” actually do something. No one wants to watch Snooki sleep all day and watch TV, that’s why certain days of the week the cast has to go out, it doesn’t matter if they don’t feel like it, the producer tells them where they are going and it’s up to the cast how to act when they get there.
Now let’s say the cast wants to go to a different bar than what’s planned, they’ll be allowed to go if we have permission to film there and if we don’t already have something planned at the first location. The cast can pretty much go where they want within reason and do what they want. That’s what the producers want as well. No one made the cast of The Jersey Shore drink until they fell down on the boardwalk, that was entirely their decision.
3. A Lot of it is Fake
Now I can’t speak for every reality show out there, but there are a few that hire actors to pose as everyday people. For example, if there is a contest that the cast is competing in in public, the show will hire all of the people the cast is competing against to pose as contestants that lose. Why do they do this? Because they want the cast member to win the prize! Especially because they made the prize especially for them! The contest was our idea! Duh!
Some of those hidden camera prank shows you see are especially notorious for hiring actors, or more likely just throwing a PA in front of the camera. It doesn’t mean the prank is fake, just the reaction if that makes you feel better.
You know the parts of the show where it’s just the person in a room by themselves talking about their day? For example, on Project Runway when a contestant is in that white room talking about the challenge they have to complete? Or on Sister Wives where the wives are sitting on the couch together talking about their day and how they feel? We call those interviews because they’re not actually alone. There is a producer standing next to the camera prompting them with questions.
Again, this goes back to trying to make a story out of their life. If the person was left alone to talk about their day they’d probably say, “Uh, not much, just went out.” People don’t naturally talk in complete sentences or even make sense half the time, that’s why the producer is there, to make sure they say things that pertain to the episode and help make it interesting.
But I will say this, sometimes the producer will tell them what to say verbatim. It’s because they need that perfect sound byte to go with that awesome clip. Sometimes the producer will try to get them to say something they don’t want to, and the cast member will push back. On one show I worked on, the cast member was talking about how she missed her husband because he was on the road a lot. The producer wanted her to say that she was unhappy in her marriage, but the cast member felt that was untruthful, so they discussed what she would be comfortable saying and she said that instead.
And one other thing, those interviews usually take ALL DAY to film. We don’t make them recount their day every day, so depending on the schedule, at least once a week the cast member has to come in and talk about their week for about five to ten hours. Sometimes they come in months after the show is wrapped and have to pretend everything just happened.
5. It’s not as easy as it looks
Everything becomes ten times harder when a film crew gets involved. Shopping is never as easy as walking in and walking out. We have to make sure whatever public place the cast member wants to go to will allow us to film there.
Also, if we film in a public place, we have to try to get people to sign a release if we see them on camera. The release allows us to use their image on the show. Whenever you see a blurred face, that means that person didn’t sign a release, and therefore, we have to blur them.
If you have any questions about current or past reality shows post a comment and I’ll try to answer!