Writers on Reality Shows write everything!
From Plot pitches, narratives, summaries and marketing copy.
The writer is involved in every step of the way from pre-production, on the set during shooting to the editing and post production. The same writers write the Hoists' scripts, the teases and bumpers, the 'ins' and out' of the segments as well as any voice overs.
Reality shows are written in much the same way as a play or screen play, they follow a formula.
Writers may write segment breakdowns, a back-story, a synopsis, and proposed story beats. These are reviewed in a pre-production meeting and even distributed to the shooting crew so that everybody is on-board to collect the A and B storylines.
If what you say is true and writers are actually working in the 'unscripted' world, then where are the writers on a Reality Show?
A reality show's writers are segment producers or story editors . These producers do all the writing: assemble storyboards and shooting scripts as well as participating in the editing.
In the scripted world Segment Producers would be known as writers. But unlike writers, they're generally not recognized by the Writers Guild of America and so aren't union employees.
This distinction could be seen as a disservice to the segment producers and story editors, but it benefits the show in that it lowers production costs -- and it helps preserve the idea that the shows are real and unscripted.
Reality shows have a basis in real life but are they "real"?
Yes and no. What people say is real but sometimes the order they say it in is manipulated or the situations they were originally in that produced what they said.
Sometimes the players or real people are given dialog or talking points. Many times people are simply put in a situation that causes them to act or react. When a person reacts the show's writers /producers make sure the reaction will be dramatic.
A lot of the drama in Reality programming is created in the edit bay. During post production the editors will log a series of 'reaction shots' and then splice them into the episode where they are needed to create or complete a thought or story-line.
'Real' Casting Call
One common question I get as a Producer is "Are Reality shows really real?"
That's like nailing down what the definition of is, IS.
In a word I have to say "yes". Yes, reality shows are real in the sense they are 'real people', not actors and the show is unscripted. That said, there are all types of 'real' Reality Shows.
What kinds of Reality shows are there?
Kelly Sallaway,Producer for Kellan Media is tasked with the care and feeding of the Kellan Blog.