Reality TV: Behind the Scenes Staff and Crew

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We all watch a lot of reality television. It’s been the trend the past decade or so to flood the airwaves with every conceivable show anyone can think of, from competitions, to housewives, to teen moms, to huge families, you name it. These shows don’t have “stars;” claim to be unscripted so there is no need for “writers;” and are basically low budget. I was sitting here this morning wondering who is in charge of what, behind the scenes. There are so many people we never see, who work long hours, to bring us these shows every week. These poor people often have to deal with the unreasonable demands of cast members who think they are overnight sensations. Truth be told, if any of the shows ended tomorrow, they would be yesterday’s news because a new show will quickly fill their slot. Look at Kate Gosselin, from Jon and Kate Plus Eight…where is she now? She sacrificed her family for the sake of being on television…but that’s a story for another blog.

I started looking up a few “positions” involved in the making of reality television and thought our readers might be interested too. The key staff and crew members necessary for a reality show include: the show runner/executive producer, story producers, editors, assistant editors and loggers involved in post production, and then segment producers, associate producers, field producers, cameras and sound crew.

What does the TV show runner or Executive Producer do? I have often wondered what responsibilities rest on the shoulders of Jennifer Graziano, haven’t you? Well the Executive Producer is accountable to the network and has to make sure the show is what the network bargained for. With that comes constant communication with network executives to keep them apprised of successful storylines or problems arising with a storyline. They work to keep the show on track so that it appeals to its target audience. The network is the client and it’s up to the show runner to give them the show they want or an even better version.

Then there is a casting producer, who has to interview possible cast members, review their personal history and try to project how they will perform on camera in various stressful situations. They must do many “callbacks” to see the dynamics of different potential cast members and how they work together. There is a lot of assessing different personalities before determining who will selected for the show.

The story producer is similar to a writer on a scripted show. They review all the video tapes and lets the people above him/her know where the story is going on each of the cast members. They let others on the crew know what is “missing,” such as a scene or moment to connect two scenes that were captured on video, for a logical flow. For example, they may have a scene where the cast member is happy and then one where they are angry and they are missing the scene where the person was hurt.

There are also field producers, whose job it is to have a relationship with the cast members on the show. This is the person cast members can go to with their issues and that they will be understood. They want cast members to be able to open up and freely talk to these producers. Field producers also work with the camera crews.

Editors are one of the most important members of a reality television series. They have to go through a tremendous amount of tape very closely and from that footage they create a storyline, much like the writer of a show, except they have no script.

There is also an art department which handles things like wardrobe. Every place they shoot is considered a set, whether a house or restaurant, which has to be maintained and props need to be added as called for in the scene.

Lastly, there is the director. The directors watches what is being shot by the different cameras through feeds. The director may do a “line cut” by picking out the cameras which he felt had the best shots.

Not sure I quite understand everything the staff and crew does and I’m sure there is a lot more to it all, but I found this little assignment very interesting.

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