What is it with reality TV? People watch these shows in mass quantities, even though the shows don’t have a lot of actual “reality” in them. After a show airs, there will be more shows depicting the sorrows of the stars of the show. What isn’t often considered is what it’s like for the people behind the camera. With that in mind, here are the thoughts of one of those filmmakers. Speaking anonymously, he is here to put some “real” back in “reality” TV.
There IS Danger in Some of the Shows
The equipment is heavy. Some cameras weigh 30 pounds and sometimes there are 20 more pounds of necessary gear. Very detailed set-up is required even for shows with the bare minimum of equipment. The cameras need to be out of sight, which can be difficult to position.
The anonymous filmmaker once worked with a camera guy that had 10 years of experience and was 35 years old. But he had the back of a 60-year-old wrestler – and not one of the super-successful ones.
One time they were on a frozen lake, trying to get a tear-inducing shot of someone walking away. Suddenly they heard the ice breaking beneath them. They ran, but the field producer wasn’t running as fast as he needed to and wound up in the freezing lake.
It’s ironic, but some real stuff can happen while you’re filming a fake “reality” show. They had another field producer who was almost attacked by a moose. They had to scare the moose away before it mauled the poor guy.
We like to say that the show should actually be about us, but the poor people filming the people would probably be permanently emotionally damaged.
Shows are Manipulated, if Not Completely Faked
Do you know the shows with some guy that hunts and traps everything? He filmed one of those. He tried to make a compilation of a man’s goofy catches. But the man trapped at night so other animals wouldn’t eat what he caught. If there’s light, animals can avoid the traps. And you can’t film at night without massive amounts of lighting.
They found a middle ground between real and fake by re-enacting things during the daytime. They ordered dozens of frozen animals (the man didn’t want to waste what he caught). People were sent out to stick them in traps at daybreak. Then they filmed the man checking his traps in the morning. Just like reality, right?
The live stuff and re-enacted bits are mixed very liberally. The line between lying and reenactment is very thin and tough to navigate. Operation Repo destroyed that line one episode, as a real crazy man chased a crewman with a real gun, but one sharp viewer recognized that the property was also used on a Jackass episode, revealing that it was really just a set.
The producers decide how the characters are supposed to “develop.” If they capture footage that doesn’t fit their desires, they just have to cut it. There is real gold in some of that footage. One cast member spent two straight nights in a veterinarian’s office, hoping his dog would live through its illness. Unfortunately, he had been built up as a cold, emotionless person, so they couldn’t show him crying. In other words, a human was excessively humanized.
Producers Don’t Care About Cast Members
These woodlands and doomsday prep shows usually have people that make the ugliest people you know more beautiful. On one show, they had one of these outdoors people who was actually very handsome. We’ll call him “Ned.” The producers wanted this super-dramatic sequence where he was on the verge of losing his cabin. He told them he wasn’t doing it. He had never experienced it, so he wasn’t doing it.
Ned was so genuine, he became the most popular cast member. He decided to just be himself while others got more dramatic for the camera. But the producers hate these people.
This filmmaker once worked with a producer formerly of The Biggest Loser. One contestant’s husband had been killed in an accident involving a garbage compactor. They wanted to interview her next to the same type of garbage compactor that had killed her husband. They wanted to turn it on halfway through, so she’d start “spontaneously” crying.
People Believe TV is Real, to Their Real-World Detriment
Some doomsday preppers apparently believe there will still be a demand for “bling” after the apocalypse, so they try to stash as much gold as they can. On their show, they had one such person and they wanted to capture him trying to use actual gold to buy stuff from the grocery store. The problem is that this is very stupid. What 18-year-old cashier is going to know what to do with what you claim are four 20-dollar gold pieces?
They bribed the store owner with regular cash to play along. The cast member wasn’t feeling it but they leaned on him pretty hard. Plus, he didn’t have any gold, so they had to acquire some of that as well. If this makes no sense at all, that’s because it doesn’t.
Of course, the viewers didn’t see any of that. They just saw someone digging up a gold nugget, then trying to buy supplies with it. They kept getting complaints from viewers that weren’t able to do the same thing (because you just can’t do it). And people believed every creek in North America was laden with gold, and when they couldn’t find any, they would complain that it was the producer’s fault.
The conclusion? People think TV is real.