If you ask most any Reality or Unscripted Development Executive they will tell you they are looking for the same thing: a family run business.
We have seen the recent success of Duck Dynasty make that case as well as long running shows like American Chopper, families are unpredictable, families are crazy...and families sell.
There is the obvious answer in that they are easy for any audience to relate to because we all have families but there has to more. What draws an audience to this kind of dynamic above all?
Have you ever heard of a "functional family"? Not really. All family units no matter what the make-up are a little bit dysfunctional. Why? Because families are not made up of your choice- they are assigned by some higher power and you have no say in the outcome. You get what you get. They can be complied of a bunch of people you love but don't even like. Lets face, that does make for great TV.
TV audiences do relate to the inner workings of families and the added layer of being in business together really adds more drama, more tension- it raises the stakes.
We aren't just comparing ourselves to them to make our family and life seem less dysfunctional, sometimes were are rooting for them. We want them to defy the odds, overcome the gene pool lottery they were handed and come out on top.
Make it fabulous!
Project Runway' Execs: 8 Simple Rules of Reality TV Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of the production company Magical Elves share what ten years in the biz has taught them
PROJECT RUNWAY ''Just when we think the designers are just going to sit around and sew,'' exec producers Cutforth and Lipsitz write, ''something will happen'' All About Reality TV Get the latest photos, news, and more 1. Making reality TV is like fishing.
We started saying this on Project Greenlight, when we shot 3,000 hours of footage to make 12 half-hour episodes. There is always a lot of waiting around with lines in the water, hoping for a bite, and just when it seems like nothing is happening...something always does. And that continues to this day. Just when we think the designers on Project Runway are just going to sit around and sew, something will happen — like Laura will accuse Jeffrey of cheating, and we're off to the races (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor).
2. Not being in control is part of the fun.
That's the point of reality TV — you don't get to write scripts in advance, and you don't know what people are going to do. You just have to trust fate and casting. And you know as a producer that when you can't wait to see what happens next, the audience will probably feel the same way.
This complete lack of control was something we learned to embrace while working on Project Greenlight. Everyone always assumes that we as TV producers chose the director and writer who would make the best show. This was not the case. They were picked by Ben [Affleck], Matt [Damon], [movie producer] Chris [Moore], and whomever else you saw on the panel, and they really tried to select the team that would make the best film. We had no say in the matter, and were just sitting there watching, hoping that whoever they picked would be a compelling subject for the next nine months of shooting, with thousands of hours of footage devoted to everything they did from commanding a set on their first day to rinsing their armpits in the sink before a big meeting. That being said...
3. Sometimes you just get lucky.
On season 2 of Top Chef, one of our favorite candidates was not able to be on the show due to some issues with his background check. We wailed and raged and put in calls to the highest level of NBC Universal begging for the ban to be overturned. No luck. Instead we had to cast another chef. We were not sure he was compelling enough, but he got his shot. That chef's name? Marcel Vigneron.
4. If something big goes down, make sure the camera is on.
There is a little red light on the front of a camera, which is lit when the camera is on. It's worth checking on it if something big happens, because once in a while, in a moment of excitement, camera operators will hit their button twice and turn the camera off rather than on. This is how we missed most of a massive fistfight that had been building up for eight weeks on Bands on the Run, and how we missed the one time Efram and Kyle, the passive-aggressive directors on season 2 of Project Greenlight, got in a real confrontation with [Battle of Shaker Heights producer] Jeff Balis.
5. The call that comes at 4 a.m. is never a good one.
One of the great challenges of being a producer is figuring out how to respond decisively when woken from a deep sleep with a disturbing call. Our crews are never allowed to interfere with the cast or stop them doing something stupid or mean as long as it's legal. Hence the call at 4 a.m. in Cleveland while shooting Bands on the Run to find out if it's ethical to allow one of the bands to go home and leave the rhythm guitarist passed out in a pool of vomit on the sidewalk in sub-zero temperatures.
6. Reality TV was a lot of fun until the lawyers got involved.
Reality competitions are governed by the same very strict rules as all game shows. This is all the fault of Dan Enright (watch Quiz Show if you don't know what we're talking about). There are laws that say all challenges have to be scrupulously fair. In the old days this was not taken all that seriously, and we never ran challenges or scripts by the networks' legal departments — which was helpful as we were often still figuring out what we were going to do 10 minutes before the challenge was supposed to begin. We realized things had changed when we produced a pilot for a show called The Runner for ABC. We had four lawyers in a minivan following us around the country discussing the fine points of game-show law while leaving a trail of Doritos across the Southern states. Now every challenge is exhaustively scrutinized by lawyers, and a long list of rules has to be drawn up and read out to the cast. The days when you could make the cast do a relay race drinking pints of beer as a challenge are well and truly over.
7. Never read the message boards, and NEVER write a blog.
The message boards are so cruel. On Bands on the Run, they were so vicious to Beastie, the singer with Soulcracker, that we actually tried re-cutting the shows to see if we could make him more sympathetic, and to show more of his sense of humor. They just hated him more.
None of this prepared us for what happened when we accepted the offer to write a blog for the Last Comic Standing website. Our first posting was a chatty and informative behind-the-scenes view of what goes into the production of the show. The blog was set up so that whoever read it could post their own response to what we'd written. The wave of bile that crashed over us was so unexpectedly unpleasant that it actually became funny. People were brutal about everything from our casting choices to the photographs of us that were at the top of the column. ''I hope you get canceled...and CANCER!'' was a typical posting. We were called ''demonic greedy souls who engage in manipulation and deception''... ''guilty of crimes against humanity.'' Okay, we're not perfect, but it's not like we're George Bush either.
8. Seeing someone live their dream is not so bad.
There are moments that make everything worthwhile. The Bands on the Run bands rocking a packed House of Blues, the Greenlight team being greeted by crazed crowds at their movie premieres, the Last Comic finalists getting a standing ovation from several thousand fans at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the U.S. Air Guitar Champion competing for the world title, the Top Chef finalists being complimented by some of the world's finest chefs on an amazing meal, or the Runway finalists showing their collections to a packed tent at Fashion Week. It's inspiring and exhilarating, and those are the moments that make it all worthwhile. That and the money and the trips to the Emmys to watch The Amazing Race win every year.
When you are creating your next show and building that all important pitch piece, keep in mind its not what you want-its what THEY want. The TV Vault brings us the following quotes from the top:
Chris Cowan Executive Producer -
Angel City Factory "Finding an extraordinary adventure in real life circumstance is something we've always been drawn to."
Phil Gurin Executive Producer -
The Gurin Company "If you believe in your ideas, stick with them. Passion and skill will rule at the end of the day."
Corie Henson Vice President of Alternative Series & Specials - ABC Entertainment "We’re looking for something that will be the next step in reality. Not to reinvent the wheel, because there is comfort in the familiar, but to think big and take a unique approach."
Karyn Smith-Forge Vice President of Programming Fox Television Studios "...stay true to your own voice and style... those fresh, original voices are what studios and producers look for."
Paul Gilbert Senior Vice President of International Formats -CBS Studios International "Be a leader, not a follower. As Michael King used to say to me all the time, "We have to zig, when everyone else is zagging."
Stephen Bulka Vice President of Original Movie - Lifetime Television "At the end of the day it’s still all about the storytelling--starting with a good idea, finding the right writer, and then rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work..."
Vin Di Bona President & CEO- Vin Di Bona Productions "...When I sold my first network series (Animal Crack-ups), that sale was the result of 138 pitches. My second show (AFV) was sold in four minutes on the first pitch!"
Dan Riley Executive Producer - E! / Port Magee Pictures "Hollywood is chewing its proverbial fingernails, and on its knees praying every day that something original and exciting will fall into its lap."
Madeline Dimaggio Writer/Producer - Honest Engine Films "In television, the Idea is king."
Nate Barlow Vice President of New Media - Automatic Pictures "...every project has its natural format, for which it is best suited"
Andrew Lear VP of Development / Manager - The Core "...Networks will challenge you on ideas and ask good questions to throw off the pitcher if their homework is not done"
John Meindl President Sports Branded Media "...Do your homework, ask questions, network, do more homework, and be tenacious as hell"
Dena Hysell VP of Development
Slate of Eight Productions "...Networks are looking for project that can air long enough to go into syndication"
Dave Pullano Executive Producer "...the beauty of this town is that any idiot can make it... It's also one of the problems "
Paul Gagne Executive Producer "...if you have a personal experience that is highly marketable, definitely write it"
Kelly Sallaway,Producer for Kellan Media is tasked with the care and feeding of the Kellan Blog.