The Business of Producing
There's a lot that goes into making a television show or movie and once you become a producer you never watch or experience it the same. These posts are simply my personal observation and opinion on what's really happening in the wonderful world of entertainment.
The Reality television generation now demands that a television movie feel real too!
People often ask, "Is reality television just a fad. " My response would be "reality television is now a part of television’s DNA." Then along comes the Aaliyah, The Princess of R&B movie and we all quickly discover that not only does reality television matter, but it is also now dictating what viewers expect from a film about a person they feel they knew.
You see although social media was actually not prevalent when Aaliyah was alive, her fans still feel that they have read enough about her in other forms and watched enough interviews to effectively critique this film. They also definitely had an expectation that this film would feel REAL to them. That the characters would look like the people being portrayed and the music would be songs of the artist that they so fondly remembered - not covers and an Oscar performance of a song from a Disney film.
Now to have two seconds of sympathy for Wendy Williams, who stated in numerous interviews that she became a part of the film in order to insure that it remained authentic and in another interview she states that the casting is "spot on." I say, "Wendy - stick to being talent because unfortunately none of your intentions were present in the film we all watched and social media responded to on Saturday night. " Unfortunately none of the actors casted looked liked the REAL individuals they were portraying, except the lead and that I believe was the major reason it did not feel REAL and ultimately sent the viewers and twitter into a tail spin. To be honest, I've seen better casting on Celebrity Ghost Stories.
I get all the production reasons why there were misses with the cast and the music--the family and her producers didn't sanction the project so you couldn't license the music, nor could you obtain more authentic information, you shot in Canada so a certain percentage of the talent has to be Canadian, and so on and so forth. However, none of that matters to viewers who have been in Toni Braxton's home, hung out with Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their momma, been in the man cage with Pastors of mega churches and all the other REAL levels of access granted to them. CrazySexyCool:The TLC story did a rather decent job of touching on the real things that mattered to the fans and sharing what people already felt they knew. Now Pebbles and her team may disagree but because the REAL artists were heavily involved in the project and they had REAL music and even REAL recreations of their biggest music videos - the reality generation tuned in and felt complete. Even as far back as Biggie's "Notorious" film, you get a sense that real is important. Real meaning characters that resemble the real people and hearing the artist’s real music, which ultimately plays as a character as well.
The bottom line is people expect everything and everyone to keep it real, come across as being real and feel real all at the "same damn time." And I've been on the other end of this, when people don't want to believe that it's real, like Whitney Houston in Being Bobby Brown. The reality is simple - we as producers work to entertain a "live life out loud" generation of viewers and they want REAL on all fronts, rather it's a reality show, a scripted series or a made for television movie. So with that said "Poor Wendy Williams, How you doing today?”
Is REALITY really REAL?
Producing for real people can be quite complicated, after all they are real people not usually professional actors. However, lucky for me when creating the Being Bobby Brown series the talent actually was 2 very professional performers who responded the moment the lights and camera was pointed in their direction. Typically people seem to forget about the cameras or become addicted to it and in their case we were blessed that Bobby was in love with the camera and Whitney was in love with Bobby. I remember meeting Whitney's agent and she sarcastically asked if I felt I was creating Bobby and Whitney. My response was "no I am producing their reality show and my partner is making sure the crew is in place and the cameras are turned on when needed." You see, with great talent there is no need for a script, you just need to know what they are doing next, turn on the camera and allow the action to unfold.
Unfortunately, the typical reality situation does not bequeath you the talents of a Bobby and Whitney or Ludacris (pictured) or the Wahlbergs and in those cases you have to do a bit more than produce, here lies the moment where you may be called on to assist in creating. The most difficult part of producing real people’s real lives is that often times you are not able to capture their REAL life events and circumstances in real time nor are they always clear what is entertaining in their lives. Other than shows like Big Brother, no production is filming 24 hours a day – not even Teen Mom. Thus the producer is faced with the challenge of asking “non-acting” real people to act out real life scenarios and drama as needed for story and in order to produce compelling and entertaining television. The creating happens when you as the Producer must not only work to discover the hidden jewels of moments and scenarios in these individual’s real life but you may also have to assist in suggesting other relevant moments or conversations, then work to make it all feel real to the viewer.
Thus to answer the question is it real or fake are you producing or creating - My answer is a little bit of both. For the most part, it is REAL people and their REAL life stuff. However, in the end the producer gets to choose which moments become scenes. The producer also gets to determine the day, time and location that things get to play out in front of the camera and we choose which 2-3 minutes of these sometimes 1-2 hour scenes are most important for each particular episode. Therefore in summary - we as reality television producers are looking for talented REAL people with interesting REAL lives that we can produce in order to create some REAL entertaining television.
Are reality stars really that transparent or just not self aware?
Viewers seem to gravitate to every moment of authentic raw behavior from real people on reality shows. However on the flip side of that, producers are often scrutinized for revealing or showing too much when it comes to producing this content. Not to date myself but I remember Tami Roman having an abortion on Real World back in the 90"s and actually being shocked myself that someone would share something so private on national television. Then 10 years later Joseline arrives on the scene on Love and Hip Hop -Atlanta and has her a good ole' abortion storyline. I'm not pointing fingers or condemning either of these women but I often wonder were these people willing to be that transparent or were they just not self-aware?
In order to understand if a person is being transparent or not self-aware, we should analyze the difference between the two. From my observation and in my experience in producing talent- I think individuals who make the choice to be transparent are those who are very clear of their flaws and are active participants in their own evolvement and growth. Take Nene from the Real Housewives of Atlanta, she definitely exerts levels of transparency when she purposefully shares the fact that she was once a stripper, however, I am not so sure that she is aware that she is a bully. Another example is Bethany, very transparent and comfortable with the all the outcomes, both good and bad. In my opinion Tami evolved over the years and on Basketball Wives she was one of the most transparent women on the series. I think transparent characters are individuals that are quite comfortable with their imperfections and choose to be honest and share that with the viewer.
So who are the “not self-aware” characters on reality TV? I would say the other large percentage of individuals that I didn't mention. Honestly and unfortunately mainly females. They appear to be hamming it up for the camera but in reality they fail to really see themselves and their multitude of character flaws. This epidemic of not being self-aware also explains the overwhelming divorce rate that occurs with these people as well. The camera is like a mirror and once the show airs everyone is forced to look at themselves and their mates and see the REAL person. Unfortunately, the scary thing is that people often look at themselves on the television and convince themselves that's a character and not their true self. LIES! Those who are not self-aware are unfortunately delusional and not clear about who they are and what they represent. These people also are typically the ones blaming the producer for the way they appear on the show. My reaction – “No honey, this is not a scripted series, that's you and you my dear are just not self-aware!”