APRIL 25, 2013
DR. MEL'S WEEKLY MESSAGE
WHEW! This week has been crazy. Lots of activity and lots of fun news; especially when it comes to my film A.D.A.M. So, let me begin.
|Stephen Beal, DH Lewis, Jamie Alyson with Gary Sievers|
1st Day of filming A.D.A.M. EPK package
Of course, none of this can happen without the cooperation of the cast and crew. And, on board for next week for shooting these scenes are some new crew members including Roger Molina Jr., Chip Carierre, and Andy Sparoca. And, for the Los Angeles crew, Ivan H
oey Jr. returns with us as he is now back in New Orleans. All of these members bring with them a certain professionalism and point of view.
|PHOTO STILL FROM DARK BLUE|
NEW GUY FILMS AND ON THE LOT PRODUCTIONS
PRODUCERS: DAVE KIRTLAND AND MELISSA CAUDLE
WATCH AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. MELISSA CAUDLE
FOR THE FILM DARK BLUE
Also this week I got a great surprise when my daughter, Jamie, flew in from Los Angeles for a three-week visit back home to New Orleans. We pulled off the prank of the decade as no one knew that she was arriving to town, not even her sisters. My husband invited the other girls over to the house for a family meeting. Rumors went around between them as to why "Dad" called a meeting. The moment met with joyous tears as my three girls re-united for a family dinner.
Now, the bad news. I fell and really hurt my right knee. In fact, the surgeon said I have torn my cartilage and meniscus AND TO make matters worse, chipped my knee cap. OUCH!!!! But, the way I look at it, it won't keep me down long. Surgery is pending, but I plan on making the best use of my time writing. So, if you think I write "BOOK BLOGS" now, just wait until I have to stay put and can't walk around after surgery. The way I look at it, it is just a little set back.
With producing, it is very detailed and complex. Many "I's" and "T's" have to be crossed with a lot of bantering. Nothing is automatic and it can be very frustrating. In fact, some films go through this stage for five or more years before ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm just now learning all of this for myself. When we started casting KSK, please keep in mind we were still in the developmental stage. Actors aren't usually involved so early in development; however, we chose to because we used a different auditioning approach through social networks. There have been many advantages and disadvantages to this approach.
The best advantage is having the opportunity to form such wonderful relationships with people from all over the world. I have found and created numerous friendships that will be my friend for a lifetime. The disadvantage, is by being an open book to the public, people expect to be constantly fed with information about a project that by contract, I'm not always able to provide. But, I will take the advantage over the disadvantage any day. So, all I ask is for everyone to be patient as the hammer out the final details.
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THE KEYSTROKE KILLER
"A BLAST FROM THE PAST"
GETTING REAL: REALITY SHOWS
By Dr. Melissa Caudle
Note: This is an excerpt from the book THE REALITY OF REALTY TV: REALITY SHOW BUSINESS PLANS by Dr. Melissa Caudle. The book and workbook are available on Amazon.com
Making a reality show is fun. And, yes it is very hard work. It’s not for those that give up easily. It takes drive, determination, planning and persistence. I am a strong believer that those that fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s up to you to decide on which category you want to fall. For me, I’ll take planning to succeed on any given day. Producing a reality show is a whole lot different from making a movie or directing a stage play. First, you don’t have a script; therefore, you don’t know the outcome. Second, they are a lot shorter. Well maybe not when you consider a single season reality show season an average of 13 episodes. Lastly, you don’t have to shoot on 35 mm film camera now that pro-consumer high-definition cameras are available to producers at an affordable rate. The Canon XH-A1 is a perfect example of an affordable camera. I have shot three reality shows on this camera and the quality has been exceptional. This camera provides the option to shoot footage at 24 frames per second, just like film. Add a shotgun microphone, a couple of lights, a green screen, and editing software and just about anyone can become a creator and producer of a reality show.
There are numerous advantages to producing a reality show over a television series or feature film. The lower cost is enough for me considering feature films can cost anywhere from $10 to $44 million dollars to produce. Likewise, a high action pack drama or comedy series episode can cost an average of $1.6 million dollars. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money.
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Reality shows can be made far less expensive which in terms of economics - more bang for the buck. I helped produce one reality show, eight episodes and a sizzle reel, for $50,000. For my first reality show I produced four episodes and a sizzle reel for $3,500. It’s possible and with a little creativity and the right contacts I think you can do the same. If I believe in you why don’t you believe in yourself?
Now let’s talk about the script. What script? Exactly. For the most part reality shows are unscripted; thus, you don’t have to write a screenplay to start shooting. Do you remember during the writer’s strike of 2007 and 2008? All television programming shut down with one exception – reality shows. Even news programs continued to air because they in essence are reality. So, why not produce a reality show with all of the advantages they have to offer? Come up with an idea and yours could be the next big reality show.
THE BIG IDEA
Topics for your reality show are endless. They are wide-open ranging from following your friends around, finding a celebrity to be the star, demonstrating something spectacular like cooking, highlighting your profession, to hiding and capturing hidden moments. Any topic and any subject are fair game as long as the people in your show agree to participate and sign off on it in a Letter of Intent. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is getting your reality show on television. There is a process. So, let’s begin.
DECIDING ON THE SUBJECT MATTER
As with any reality show, the first step is deciding on what I call the “BIG 5 Ws” or who, what, when, where, and why. We all learned these big five “Ws” in elementary school and now after years of wondering why you had to acquire this useless knowledge in the first place you are finally going to get your chance to find out. You needed to learn them in order to create your reality show. At last you know the answer. You probably would have paid more attention to your fourth grade teacher had she told you that in the beginning. But back when I was in elementary school reality shows didn’t really exist. So like you I didn’t pay attention either. Now I do. Each time I develop a new reality show I do so based on the “Big 5 W” structure. In no time, I have created an entire concept from start to finish by addressing them. You will too and with a little practice you’ll be creating shows instinctively and without hesitation.
Now, let’s examine the big five “Ws.” I’ll begin by taking the time to explain the importance of each and the necessity of learning them now as adults to impact your reality show.
Without exception all movies, television shows, screenplays and novels are centered on the noun who. Without knowing who the show is about it would be of no interest to audience members. One of the very first reality shows to hit the networks was Today’s Homebuilder starring Danny Lipford. His show detailed how to remodel and repair your home. He started a very small show in Mobile, Alabama and once it was syndicated became a network sensation. Today HGTV has multiple shows around this same concept. Lipford was a trend setter before reality shows became a trend.
Take a minute and think about some of our favorite reality shows. Who is the show about that keeps you coming back? Who is it that captures your attention? Who in it do you love to hate or hate to love whatever the case may be? Who do you like? Who do you want to be like? Who makes you sick at your stomach? Who as a reality star is constantly the target of late night talk show hosts in the form of jokes?
You get the picture. The answers to the above questions center on someone or some group. Take another moment and reflect on these people. In researching for contents of this book I conducted an unofficial and very non-scientific research survey. I went to my local mall and stopped more than 100 shoppers, male and female and from ages eight to eighty-three. Not one shopper couldn’t list or identify at least one reality star. That’s fantastic odds when you bat 100 percent.
Now it’s your turn. What reality stars can you list? Offhand you probably have thought of the sisters in Keeping up with the Kardashians; e.g., Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. Maybe, Snookie and The Situation are the first reality star names that popped into your mind from the infamous Jersey Shore. Then there are the rock star reality families that dominate the airwaves such Black Sabbath’s lead vocalist Ozzie along with his wife and kids. Sharon Osborne has gone on to be a judge on the summer sensation America’s Got Talent while daughter Kelly made her debut on Dancing with the Stars and often appears on the series Fashion Police. The Osbornes may have not been renewed but each have benefitted from their participation. The other family, the famous Kiss foursome in Gene Simmons Family Jewels still airs today.
Now reflect on the competitive reality shows where normal people compete to win a prize such as The Amazing Race or Survivor. We can’t overlook Tyra Banks and all of those beautiful girls wanting to become models in the reality show America’s Next Top Model. Both shows created “stars” out of normal people just like you and me. How many reality stars can you list? Two? Four? Eight? Twelve?
Did you identify at least one reality star? Good. These are names that we all know and these shows are based off of people, some famous prior to the show and some made famous because of the show. The point is these reality shows are based on “who” was a part of the show. Without the “who,” there would be no show. In other words, no one would be the star.
Simply put, ask “what” the reality show is about. This is a wide-open topic and includes more than star or group of people. It’s about what the show is like. The environment you film these cast members is the key; and in relationship to this section we are describing the type of genre your show falls into or the “what.”
There is an array of “what” in reality television. In essence, there are a myriad of unique genres. The global explosion came between the years 1999-2000 with the hit reality shows Big Brother and Survivor. I’ll never forget the first airing of Survivor. I had my own segment on the CBS morning news affiliate station in New Orleans, LA called Family Matters with Dr. Mel. Every morning when I arrived at the station the buzz about Survivor’s episode the night before was the only thing the producers and floor directors wanted to talk about.
When my show started, which was a live call in segment that began at 6:30 a.m., the callers went crazy over Survivor. They too wanted to get my opinion. I had to learn quickly about realty television or I wasn’t going to survive. I consider this a funny little twist on life. If you would have told me back then that in 2011 I’d be a reality show creator and producer and write a book on the topic I would have laughed at the thought and told you that you bordered on the verge of insanity.
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The genres of reality shows are numerous. Table 1-1 provides an overview.
Table 1-1 Reality Show Genres
Voices of the Innocent
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
The Weakest Link
The Secret Millionaire
16 and Pregnant
Flavor of Love
For the Love of Money
Dancing with the Stars
Darren: Sharper Than Ever
So You Think You Can Dance
Live to Dance
The 1900 House
The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Tyra Banks Show
The Jerry Springer Show
The Ace Mechanic
Scariest Places on Earth
Celebrity Paranormal State
Makeover or Renovation
(Note: Not a complete list)
The documentary style type reality show follows the day in a life of someone like The Osbornes. This sub-genre documents the lifestyle of the cast highlighting the good with the bad. Producers attempt to cultivate the most interesting moments and will often sensationalize them to increase ratings.
One example is on the reality show shot in New Orleans, Stephen Seagal: Lawman. It chronicles Seagal who has been a Jefferson Parish Deputy Sherriff for more than 20 years. Up until his show, he flew under the radar in his capacity as a deputy sheriff and at times even worked with the Jefferson Parish Swat Team. This is the same police department that I used to consult with on gang members when I was a high school principal. Another story I’ll have to save for another time. That is how small of world this is. Anyway, the producers capture Seagal responding to police 911 calls as he rides around in a black SUV with the Sheriff of the Jefferson Parish Police force. How unreal is that? The producers sensationalize the smallest violation of the law and have Seagal come to the rescue to protect the citizens of Jefferson Parish. They almost have viewers believe that someone who ran a red-light might be a serial killer. Since I live in Jefferson Parish I guess I should sleep better knowing Seagal is out there on the streets.
Just last week, I found myself having dinner with the Sheriff that Seagal runs with and some fellow political leaders in our community. It was a no-brainer that the concept of reality television surfaced as did the making of my next film Dark Blue starring Tracy Miller and Lance Nichols. My company, On the Lot Productions, LLC is co-producing this film and since it is about cops, a rogue morally inept one at that, they found it interesting. You never know when real reality will present itself as real-life drama in your own life.
Game Show Genre
The sub-genre reality game show involves a competition against others for an ultimate prize as in the show Survivor. In other shows the contestant can be an individual, as in Who Wants to be a Millionaire or team members such as in the Biggest Loser or Shedding for the Wedding. I better add computer to the list of possible contestants since the appearance of Watson, the IBM computer contestant on Jeopardy who competed and won against two humans - Ken Jennings, record holder for most consecutive wins on Jeopardy, and Brad Rutter, record holder for winning the most money on a US syndicated game show. There is slight hope for humanity since Watson missed his final Jeopardy question on day one of the competition, "Its largest airport was named for a World War II hero; its second for a World War II battle." Both Jennings and Rutter answered "Chicago," while Watson messed up and guessed "Toronto."
As for all game shows a substantial prize awaits the winner.
Life Drama Genre
In many reality TV programs producers have a cameraman shoot as if they were the fly on the wall to convince viewers that they are stepping into the private life of an individual or group. That is how the terms docusoap and docudrama were developed. There are also reality shows that follow drama like America’s Most Wanted or EMS. These shows fall into the category of life drama genre.
The Girls Next Door reality show could be considered a Life Drama Genre with a touch of celebrity in that the show captures the lives and events around the three playmates Holly, Bridget and Kendra. For instance, the girls came to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The first night in New Orleans, the girls went to the House of Blues to attend a charity event at for Brad Pitt’s foundation Make it Right that benefited the areas of the city hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina 2005. Kendra is pictured to the left with Rockin Dopsie Jr. Later that evening the girls auctioned off a variety of different items, including a tour of the Playboy Mansion. At end of the benefit, the girls presented a $30,000 check to Pitt’s foundation.
The next day Bridget and Kendra were extremely sick with the flu, which happened to be Fat Tuesday. I was presented with one of the greatest challenges in producing reality television. I had to find French Onion soup on Mardi Gras day for the girls and get it to them as fast as I could. In New Orleans, everything shuts down on Mardi Gras. Nobody gets in or out of the French Quarter and all stores with the exception of bars are closed. So this really was a huge challenge. If I couldn’t find the soup, we wouldn’t be able to finish the episode featuring New Orleans. Fortunately for me I have connections with many of our five star restaurants in the city and Mr. B’s was able to provide the soup on a moment notice for the girls. The soup did provide the magic cure. Bridget was able to get out of bed, followed by Kendra and then Holly. The three of them partied all night after a quick recovery.
Before leaving New Orleans, the girls took a tour of one of New Orleans oldest cemeteries followed by a visit to the Lower Ninth Ward. They saw all the homes that were completely destroyed during the hurricane. It was extremely emotional for the girls to see all the devastated homes that were not rebuilt and they made the comment that the trip to New Orleans was worth it and very rewarding because they couldn’t believe the devastation of the city without seeing it for themselves.
Dating Show Genre
To add to the variety of reality TV programming dating shows surfaced as a popular sub-genre. Although dating shows aren’t an original program idea, shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette became a top choice of viewers. I consider The Bachelor a spin-off to the seventies show The Dating Game. On The Bachelor it became evident that the public loved to tune in to see who was going to be kicked off and who would continue to capture the heart of the bachelor. Numerous spin offs from this show resulted such as Hell’s Date, Blind Date, and Tough Love where Drew Barrymore came on as one of the producers.
On the flip side are reality shows such as Cheaters. The Newlywed Game was also originated and brought back to life from the seventies and resulted in spin-offs such as The Millionaire Matchmaker. I remember at 12 years-old watching my brother and his new bride compete on this show. They didn’t win but my introduction to reality shows began at that moment. Things haven’t changed in forty years. Somehow audience members love to be matchmakers. This clarifies the popularity of dating style reality shows in today’s market. Dating reality shows went global into Canadian and British markets and a big hit with both men and women of all ages.
Special Living Environment Genre
Special living environment reality shows such as The Colony are also popular and attractive to viewers. Although audience viewers know from the beginning that the situation isn’t real they watch the show as if they were and are fascinated by them. As an experiment that assisted in my preparation in writing this book I signed up to be an extra for The Colony season two. It was a quick $80 dollars each day to observe others in the reality show business make a reality show in a different genre than what I produce. I got paid to learn my own craft. I consider that amazing to get on the job training and they pay you. It’s really not a bad strategy to follow.
The Colony operated on the premise that an airborne virus is killing off the world’s population. It was Armageddon in 2010. The Colonists were instructed to behave accordingly as if they were the last survivors. I played the part of one of 30 marauders who invaded the colonist’s compound on several episodes. We raided them, destroyed their compound and on the next to last episode set the colony on fire. It was fascinating watching the main cast in action as I was in the thick of things. I’m used to watching through a monitor in video village. This time, I was upfront and on camera.
The Colonists, as did the Marauders, embraced the reality of the special environment created by the producers. In this case an area of St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana just outside of New Orleans. The area used for the show was one of the most devastated areas struck by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Five years after Katrina the area hadn’t been touched and it looked like the day after the levees broke. This location was perfect for an apocalyptic reality show. The Marauders had a clear advantage - we were informed by the director beforehand the twist for each episode. All the same, when my friends and family watched the show they really got into it as if the situation of a deadly viral outbreak truly existed.
Surveillance or Voyeurism Genre
One of the most well known genres in reality programming is categorized as surveillance or voyeurism such as Big Brother and The Real World. In these shows viewers are attracted to watching life as it happens. It almost has the same effect as when the fictitious audience in the movie Truman was so caught up in Jim Carey’s character. The same holds true in this genre. Usually cameras will run 24/7 to capture everything that goes on in the house or situation. The audience becomes the fly on the wall so to speak. That is why the show The Jersey Shore is so popular.
Celebrity Style Genre
Say what you will about Hollywood, but they are in the money making business and they find ways to make it. One example is tapping into the celebrity world. This year’s cases in point - the new casts for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice on NBC. Kirstie Alley, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ralph Macchio, and my playmate Kendra among others are attached to Dancing with the Stars. Like some before them, they hope that this one show will put new spark in their otherwise crashing careers.
Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice announced Gary Busey, David Cassidy and LaToya Jackson. The cast is proving to be a mix of high strung tempers with mediocre talent and skills as they make their way through the challenges that the judges of the dancing show Trump provides. What’s interesting about Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice they both have found away to tap into the celebrity reality world without paying the high sums of money often demanded by celebrities. Stars like Meatloaf and Lisa Rhina, like those on Dancing with the Stars are using Trump’s reality show platform to kick start their career. I think it is reasonable that some may succeed in their quest for re-stardom. My money is on Ralph Macchio who rose to stardom in the original Karate Kid. He already has a background and an attitude for comebacks.
As viewers we watch reality shows because somehow without explanation we are curious to see what these celebrities will do once they are out of their comfort zones. It’s important here to note that Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice aren’t the same type of a reality show as those that feature a single celebrity. There is a crossover into the competition genre. Shows like I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here and Dr. Drew fall into this category. A true celebrity style show features one celebrity such as Anna Nicole and Kendra. They provide viewers a chance to get into the private lives of those they watch on television or in films.
Why people are attracted to celebrities I’ll never understand. Maybe as an audience we want to identify with them. We consider them friends or somebody we know very well. Hollywood uses these as their weapons. I’ve worked with some of Hollywood’s best including actors Kate Bosworth, James Marsden and James Woods. I celebrated James Marsden’s birthday with him along with Kate Bosworth while we all were working on the Sony film Strawdogs. And just the other night, I called James Woods at midnight to discuss the possibility of him being in my next movie Dark Blue. Without exception each eat, sleep and drink just like we do. Nevertheless, audiences love to watch reality shows when it’s about a celebrity.
Professional Style Genre
Reality shows can also revolve around professional activities shows such as Miami Ink and Cops. People love to watch others at work. That is why one of this year’s newest reality shows, Undercover Boss is such a hit. Other shows such as is Billy the Exterminator are following suit. Last night at the wrap party for one of my films, I ran into Wayne Morgan, a colleague in the Louisiana Film Industry who founded the H.U.R.D Network, an organization for filmmakers and cast in Louisiana formed for the sole purpose of networking. Wayne and I have been friends for more than 10 years and he came out to support my film. During our conversation he mentioned to me that Dog the Bounty Hunter’s producer was looking at him and his friends for a reality show on Security Guards. You see, Wayne is also a security guard for celebrities that come into New Orleans. In fact, I used him and his people to protect Kendra, Bridgette and Holly while we were filming The Girls Next Door during Mardi Gras. This only supplants my belief that reality shows around a profession are in high demand.
Leading the race as the top professional genre of reality TV are cooking shows. We all complain about them and we swear up and down that we don't watch them but deep down, they are a guilty pleasure. The Chopping Block airs on NBC but came from the land down under. The Australian version of the show was hosted by Matt Moran and Catriona Rowntree. The premise was that two Australian restaurants were reviewed secretly, they would then be given $5000 Australian dollars and 72 hours to revamp their menu at which point they would be judged by the food from the new selections. NBC picked up the rights to the show and produced an American version hosted by Marco Pierre White. The US version has a different format with multiple contestants competing in an objective based format with a heavy emphasis on competition.
The Emmy award winning reality series Top Chef airs on Bravo. Several contestants at the same time complete different food based challenges which are then judged by a panel of well established chefs. This has been by far one of the most successful cooking shows to date.
SyFy Channel is jumping into the cooking genre frying pan this year with their newest reality show starring last year’s Top Chef Winner. SyFy unveiled the new reality series, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen, featuring molecular gastronomist Marcel Vigneron, one of America's most notorious chefs who is on the cutting edge of the culinary field. Marcel's Quantum Kitchen follows Vigneron as he begins to explore the potential next phase of his career – to stay at Bar 210 in Los Angeles or break away into a private catering company.
During each episode, a demanding client hires him to pull off extraordinary events and celebrations. Based on the clients' requests, Vigneron dreams up a menu for the event ranging from a dinner party for extreme sports enthusiasts to a "dinner in the sky" themed-party -literally held in mid-air. The new series debuted on March 7, 2011 with minimal ratings and bringing a strong debate with it. Some say the show is not a cooking show because they are not trying to instruct anybody on techniques of cooking or sharing recipes. Rather, If you take the show at face value - a reality show about a very unusual chef and his crew - and bring with it a "how did they do that?" attitude, you will likely find Quantum Kitchen entertaining. That is, if you're not put off by the wealthy clients that hire Marcel to make his culinary magic, or by Marcel himself.
Next Food Network Star airs on The Food Network. Winners of this show get as their grand prize their own reality show. Unfortunately for them with one or two exceptions they usually get a lousy time-slot.
Iron Chef America is one of the most popular cooking shows around today. Hosted by Alton Brown this show originated from the Japanese version of Iron Chef. The concept of the show is similar to a boxing match straight from the movie Rocky - a professional competitor chef who challenges one of the Iron Chefs to a cast iron meltdown.
Hell's Kitchen airs on Fox hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay uses harsh language and is very short tempered. His high strung perfectionist attitude leaves many competitors in tears as they just don’t measure up to his expectations.
Competitive Style Genre
Competitive reality shows began to become popular the day after Fear Factor aired its first episode. Competitive type shows such as Project Runway, Survivor and America’s Next Top Model provide audiences a chance to get behind certain cast members to see them succeed. I believe that as viewers we like to cheer for everyday people and watch them overcome obstacles. In a way we identify with these people. For this type of reality show a big prize awaits the winner as each contestant must go through numerous challenges. Shows in this genre have also created celebrities who have gone on to get their own show and status.
A good example of this is for the show Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. Tabatha first appeared on the reality show Shear Genius hosted by Jaclyn Smith of Charlie’s Angels. Tabitha didn’t win the season she was on but was adored by the viewers. They voted her as “The Audience Favorite” resulting in Bravo green-lighting her own reality show.
Paranormal Style Genre
We can’t leave out the paranormal reality shows such as Ghost Hunters. In this style of genre supernatural and paranormal activity are followed and the cast of the show attempts to either prove or disprove the existence of each phenomenon. Paranormal State airs on channel A&E and follows members of the Paranormal Research Society.
Ghost Lab shows on Discovery Channel. This paranormal show features the crew of everyday paranormal run by Brad and Barry Klinge. They travel the U.S. in a Mobile Lab. Ghost Adventures airs on the Travel Channel. Each episode is one hour long. Follow Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin, as they get locked down during each episode and provoke the spirits to interact with them. My favorite episode was done at the Eastern State Penitentiary on death row.
Ghost Hunters International airs on the SyFy channel. Each episode is one hour long. This is a spin-off from the original Ghost Hunters. Led by Robb Demarest, this investigative group travels the world to find cases. Investigations have includes Chillingham Castle and the forgotten underground city of Mary Kings Close.
Makeover or Renovation Style Genre
Makeover shows such as The Biggest Losers and Shedding for the Wedding attract viewers which bring out a certain element in the programming to see change in people. In this type of show someone or something goes through a transformation. Some shows in this category have failed miserably such as The Swan which featured total transformations with cosmetic surgery.
Shows dealing with design or home improvement seem to be the most popular and fall into the category of Renovation. These shows not only demonstrate to viewers how to fix home repair problems but provide advice to spice up living environments. Design Star which airs on HGTV is similar in design as the Next Food Network Star. The contestant’s or designers compete for their own reality design series. Design on a Dime also on HGTV shows viewers how to redecorate any space with $1,000 or less.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition airs on ABC. This show selects a family that needs a new home and coordinates with local contractors to completely overhaul the family's current house. Many other design shows became very popular and have audience appeal. From shows such as Trading Spaces and Design Star new shows were created and multiple spin-offs. Former Design Star winner, Emily Henderson, continued to capture audience appeal in her spin-off series. In fact, almost all of these are now in syndication in the domestic and foreign market. It doesn’t look as if this genre will die out anytime in the near future.
Closure to Reality Show Genre
Take a moment and look at the following Table 1 -1 on page 17. Pay particular attention to the “what” of each reality show listed in the table and reflect as to why each reality show was placed in a particular genre. Did you identify any crossover into a different category? Sometimes a reality show can.
There are two elements of “when.” The first element is seasonal; whereas the second is time. Several questions should be addressed by a reality show producer. When would it be better to film the show? And, should the show be filmed in the spring, summer, winter, or fall? There is no one correct answer. It depends on the type of show and when it should air to attract the most viewers and have a chance at garnishing high ratings.
For instance, reality shows on the topic of best beaches for a summer vacation, scuba diving or training future Olympic swimmers, you don’t want to film them in the summer, but in the winter, so it can be aired in the summer. Viewers associate swimming as a summer sport. Another example is Skating with the Stars. This show is shot during the summer for winter broadcast. Viewers associate ice skating as a winter sport. However shows on topics of snowboarding or a show where seven people live together in a ski resort would be filmed during the winter months but would have to air the following year during the winter time. That is why seasonal reality shows aren’t such a great hit because the return on the investment is delayed because of the time of year the show can be released for maximum viewing.
In contrast, consider America’s Got Talent. This is a summer program geared for summer season ratings. For the most part school is out and older audiences want something for entertainment to fill a void in re-run programming that often occurs in the summer. This show is filmed in the winter for summer viewing. For some shows it won’t make a difference when they film it as long as you as the creator and producer have at least visited the topic.
The second element of “when” is relevant to the time of day and I’m not talking the time of day a network should air your program. I’m talking when the camera should be turned on. A creator must consider the most effective time to make it believable to the audience. Should it be shot at night or during the day? Should cameras operating 24/7 or only during optimal moments designed by the producer? As in Survivor, it is important to film the competition game portion during the day; whereas, the segment of the tribal council at night when they extinguish the torches. The tribal council segment wouldn’t be as effective if shot at high noon. Would it? Big Brother has cameras rolling all the time. The producers never know when something air worthy will happen. Timing is critical and elements in Big Brother are unpredictable.
More predictable in nature are competitive reality shows such as American Idol. Cameras roll at pre-determined segments and not catch what happens in the house where the contestants live. I personally think the producers have missed a great reality show concept by not doing so. However, cameras roll during rehearsals when contestants are mentored by the producers, during live performances and with the feedback session when Ryan Seacrest announces who goes home. All of these moments have been pre-designed by the producers to carry out the developmental arc of the show. This is an important aspect to consider when you design your show.
Location. Location. Location. And did I mention location. This is the most important element in discussing “where” the reality show should take place. Sit back for the next 30 seconds and think you of favorite reality show. Ask yourself what attracts you to the show in relation to the location. To bring this point home, let’s examine the competitive reality show, Project Runway. Where, or in this case the location, is this show is filmed? It takes place in a design studio in New York. This is a very important aspect to the show especially when viewers tend to associate New York City with Fashion Week. This show wouldn’t work if it were located in Midland Texas or Baton Rouge Louisiana. Nobody associates these two cities with fashion. I think of cowboys and hayrides when I reflect on Midland and swamps and LSU football for Baton Rouge.
Now consider Survivor and The Amazing Race and where they are filmed. Wow. Can these shows get any better in the location department? I don’t think so. They go all over the world and bring the world into our homes. They are exciting for us as viewers to watch. On the other hand, reality shows such as Miami Ink, which are classified as professional reality shows, won’t work anywhere but in a tattoo studio. In this case, Miami or the city isn’t the key. The show could be filmed in any city the world but only in a tattoo studio. This show would not work if they filmed the show in someone’s house or apartment. It just wouldn’t be the same nor have the same vibe.
I have filmed several reality shows and films in New Orleans. It is a remarkable city that offers a variety of locations. The key in deciding on the location is to ask, “Is the location suitable and reflect the concept of your reality show?” That is why Hoops: Life off the Court was decided that it had to be filmed in Kentucky. That state is known for the love of basketball. My show The Baker Girls: Sealed with a Kiss is being shot in New Orleans but it really doesn’t make a difference as to location. It could be shot in any city. In this case, I chose the city that was the most economical for the production. Louisiana offers powerful tax incentives to film in their state and there are plenty of qualified crew and actors available. Besides, with me living in the area there are no transportation or lodging expenses by hiring local.
Why? Why? Why? The ultimate “W” of the big five Ws is why. You as a producer or creator of a reality show have to ask several questions. Why am I producing this show? Why would people care? Why is the show of importance? Why I tell you; the reality show will make a difference to someone, somewhere, sometime and for some reason. It could be as simple as saying the show is of importance because it raises the awareness of what tattoo artists go through or why some people choose to get tattoos as in the case of Miami Ink.
It could have a personal impact on a young teen girl who may be victim of an online predator and she said “No” after watching an episode on The America’s Most Wanted. In this case, the “why” of the producers wanted to bring to the attention of the viewers the nature of child predators and help put a stop to this crime. That’s a huge why.
In dating type reality shows or surveillance type shows such as The Bachelor or Big Brother the “why” is shear entertainment. Producing a reality show for entertainment purpose is perfectly fine as long as you as a producer understand “why” the show is being filmed and can relate that to investors in your reality show business plan.
Again, reflect on some of your favorite reality shows listed in Table 1 on page 17. Try to understand the “why” behind each reality show to grasp an understanding of the importance of this “W” and the significance this area holds for your reality show.
YOUR SHOWS 5 “Ws”
Now that I have got you thinking it’s time to get really creative and get your thought process working on creating your own reality show. Have you already come up with a concept and title or do you need to do it? If you have, then you are already ahead of the game. If you haven’t, gut it up and think of one right now. To accomplish this task do a little brainstorming. Study the reality show genres presented in this chapter and decide which type appeals to you. If you can’t decide, put the genres in a hat and randomly select one. By doing so you at least narrowed your genre. And since you purchased this book to learn how to write a business plan for a reality show, you might as well make it count and create a real one. Don’t waste valuable time by going through the motion – actually create a reality show. Darren Sharper, five-time Pro NFL and New Orleans Saints Super Bowl champion, manager Darryn Dewalt told me at the beginning of this year that in order to achieve you must stop just thinking about doing things but actually do them. He has been with Sharper for 14 years and given him good advice. Why don’t you take the same advice and move forward toward achieving your goal of creating a reality show business plan.