Ever wonder if reality stars are chosen because producers think they’ll cause controversy? And if couples are really in love on The Bachelor? Or how to get on a show yourself? Founder of www.perfectlydisheveled.com and a mother of an 18 month old son, Jennifer Herschko, took a walk down memory lane to give Breezy the scoop on her former job as writer and producer for Reality TV.
–What are some of the shows you have worked on?
I have worked on some random kinds of shows for so many different audiences… The Bachelor (ABC), Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive (E! Entertainment), Over Your Head, (HGTV), First Class All the Way (Bravo)….
–What does it mean to be a “writer” for reality TV?
Being a “reality writer” can mean a couple different things. Mostly, it means that you take say, 40 hours of footage, and condense it to a 30 minute or 1 hr program. You’re “re-writing” and re-constructing the story really. You are working with editors and taking a 5 minute interview from let’s say, one of the girls on The Bachelor, and turning in to a 20 second sound bite. Removing all the extraneous stuff and making it sound “juicy.” But on a show like Over Your Head, I actually was “writing” and helped to write host copy, sound overs, and teases, etc.
–Are people chosen to star in the show based on the controversy they will bring?
Absolutely. Obviously, drama sells and reality shows thrive on conflict. Even on a home makeover show like “Over Your Head,” it’s a bonus when there is conflict and an impasse. People are definitely cast based on the needs of the show and considered based on the kind of controversy they’ll bring to the mix.
–Are the controversial people aware of how they are perceived?
It’s so funny because I really feel like people get on these shows and are so totally clueless about how they are perceived- or can’t believe that they’re being dubbed “the bitch” or “the flirt,” whatever… and it’s like, hello? Have you not seen reality TV before? But in general, I would say that nowadays, most of the talent you see on a reality show are well aware of how they are and will be received and completely play in to it (knowing that it could get them exposure). From what I’ve seen, most of them are pretty savvy at saving the juicy moments for the camera.
–If a Breezy Reader wants to be on reality television, how do they go about it?
There are websites like www.realitywanted.com that post casting calls. Another good place to start would be going on Craigslist. Producers and Casting Directors post a lot of stuff there because they’re looking for “real people.” You could also try going to different network sites like ABC, CBS, Fox, HGTV, etc. — they post stuff there.
If you really really want to get on a particular show like American Idol, you could always go to the production company’s website (Fremantle Media) and see if they have any casting call/notices.
-What has been your favorite moment?
I have witnessed a lot of great “reality” moments… I’m not sure what my favorite moment would be, but I can remember doing an on camera interview with a certain cast member on “Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive” (which was a show that took children of “famous” people and sent them on a cattle drive in Colorado for a few weeks), and getting her to talk about how ignorant the farm hand was for not knowing that Gucci doesn’t make jeans. It was fun and a moment that as producers, we had fun laughing about.
-What has been the most controversial moment in this position?
There’s always a lot of politics and drama on most shows but it’s rare that we (producers) would ever be a part of the controversy on screen. But I do have a worst moment in my career as a reality producer – One time, I was asked by an Executive Producer to spend the night at a cast members house to make sure they didn’t reveal this big secret that we were trying to produce. My associate producer and I had to sleep in the cast member’s guesthouse and every so often sneak in to the main house to record them on camera. It was awful. A definite low in my career.
–On shows like The Bachelor, do these couples really fall in love?
Everyone asks me that all the time—How can these guys/girls fall madly in love in such a short time, with 25 other women vying for one guy’s attention, no less?! But it’s true, it’s crazy, but it’s true. These girls (and guys) fall head over heals for the Bachelor. It’s like an experiment- a case study. They’re in this bubble and for 24 hours, all they do is eat, drink and sleep this guy. When they’re interviewed, they’re interviewed about him. When they talk, they talk about him. When they go somewhere (out of the house), they go somewhere with him. It seems totally nuts, but given the environment they’re put in, it totally makes sense that they would fall in love. Unfortunately, when the show is over and the cameras stop rolling, I think these couples find themselves going WTF? Who are you and why do I like you? I guess Ryan and Trista got lucky… I actually think they’re really connected and committed to one another.
Are you surprised it gets such high ratings after all the failed relationships?
No, I’m not surprised at all. I actually don’t think people care if these couples end up with a happily-ever-after love story. I think what they love is to see the process—it’s fun for audiences to play matchmaker in their heads and have their favorite girl or guy that they’re rooting for. I also think love and dating is something everyone can relate to – and this show sort of takes dating and makes it seem magical and romantic and it’s a fun and mindless escape. And truth be told, I think they cast hot people and people like to look at girls in tiny bikinis and guys that are super cut and good looking.
– What’s harder: dealing with the Hollywood pretentious types or being a mother?
Ha. Well, unfortunately, my son is already quite the diva, so it’s hard to say. Nooo… Um, I think dealing with some of these crazy cast members can be tough—it often requires a lot of catering and hand holding, which can be annoying. But I don’t think you can take your job or show too seriously—It’s just a television show and no one’s life is on the line. Certainly, being a mom requires a real skill and I would like to think it’s a little bit more important than making a 22-year-old girl from Kansas cry because she wasn’t picked to go on a date. But I will say, my producer skills have definitely helped in the motherhood department—I can coordinate and navigate the hell out of a play date. That’s for sure.
Breezy Tip: Did you miss this season of The Bachelor and wonder what all the controversy was about? Download “After the Final Rose” on iTunes to watch when Bachelor Jason tells Melissa he made a mistake. Click here.