Anyone familiar with Barbara Mandrell will remember her hit “I was country when country wasn’t cool”. Well that’s pretty much how I feel about reality television.
I normally don’t discuss this topic and run like hell when someone mentions my stint on reality television. I am still baffled and amazed at how this spectrum of entertainment took off after the first season of Survivor in May of 2000. After years of MTV running my Alma mater, the Real World, it seems like overnight reality style television became the hottest sensation in our country. It’s as if reality t.v. wasn’t taken seriously until they starved a few people for money.
I suppose for me to not talk about reality t.v. is really to deny my past. I always tell people that what we’ve done in our lives makes us the people we are today. I usually forget to apply that to myself though.
For the three of you that might actually be reading this blog post – this one is for you. Here are the most common questions I am asked about reality t.v. in general – all of which are valid questions that some others might possibly be interested in:
Question #1: Is Reality T.V. scripted?
Yes and no.
In the respect of thinking of it as a script where lines are memorized and pre-written: no. They’re not scripted like that. However, in the sense that story boards are pre-planned: I would say yes in a some instances.
Now, I don’t want to generalize and say that about every show on the air. I certainly don’t hang out on reality shows so I don’t know first hand. I can only tell you from my personal experience that casts are chosen based upon projected outcomes, and they are somewhat coached while filming, even if they don’t realize it. The directors of the show can try to set the right mood at the right time for the most desired outcome, but it is still free will for the cast member to fall into the “scene” arranged for them.
Additionally, in a lot of cases, people are not truly themselves while filming a reality show. There were plenty of times where my cast mates and I sat around reading magazines/books (we weren’t allowed to watch television) when the camera crew would come around staring at us like one giant eyeball. We felt obligated to force ourselves to interact. It almost seemed like we HAD to because it was expected of us. It’s why we were there. Right? We knew sitting around in mismatched pajamas reading Elle wasn’t exciting so we would make ourselves talk about topics or other people that we normally wouldn’t have. It’s the pressure of being expected to “perform” when you’ve been essentially hired to do a job. Then of course there are always those drama queens that literally can’t keep their mouth shut because they want the camera to come around more often. Those people are always fun!
I also believe certain shows have premeditated story lines derived by the collaboration of both cast AND crew so every episode has a very definitive conflict and resolution just like a normal television series. I’m assuming shows such as The Kardashians very much follow this model.
Question #2: A lot of cast members say they were the victims of editing. Does editing play that large of a role in a person’s portrayal?
Oh hellz yes! However, you’ll also find that the majority of cast members saying that are the ones that are upset about how they came across on television. I was certainly miss-portrayed on my shows in a few different ways, but I now understand that is the nature of entertainment.
The bottom line is always this: They can’t air what you don’t give them.
Editors hold a lot of creative power because they can make almost any story out of any situation when they have an excess of footage.
Think of movies, for example. There are extra scenes with alternative endings filmed for almost all movies (maybe even all). Post production crews look at all of the footage, and they can decide from what point of view to show any story in. That’s just the nature of entertainment, and the same principle is applied to reality shows. If two people are having a 30 minute argument and they only have 3 minutes to tell the story, they can get all sorts of creative with that piece because of the excess footage.
So yes, editing can greatly effect how one is portrayed on television, but it would be impossible for an editor to take someone like Mother Theresa, for instance, and edit her to be a villainess mega bitch. Editors can only use what we give them, and we continuously serve it up on a silver platter. Ultimately the fault is with the cast member, not the editor.
Question #3: How can I get cast on a reality show?
Be YOURSELF. I know that sounds lame and boring but trust me..I know what I speak of!
It’s important to stand out in a reality show audition, but what makes you so unique is simply you. You’re awesome, right? So be your awesome self and let your light shine through. Be open, honest and don’t hide anything. That’s what makes reality t.v. so gosh darn good. We watch it because we want to identify with YOU. So be YOU.
Oh! And no weird stunts on your video tapes! Seriously. Jumping off a building or being shot out of canon says one thing to producers: INSURANCE LIABILITY.
Tip: For those of you that will ever be on a reality show in the future – treat the crew with respect!
One of my fellow cast members on Battle of Sexes: Jamaica was so rude and hateful to one of the camera crew that I could barely keep my mouth shut from telling her off on how disrespectful she was being. A few of us were getting fed up. Camera woman (whom shall remain forever protected by me) said this after the last altercation:
“That’s alright. She can treat me like crap all she wants because I’m going to take every opportunity to film her from an up angle so her ass looks huge in every shot!”
Be nice to the crew. They are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.