Monday, May 16, 2011

REALITY CHECK from Producer Sara Quick

First things first:  If our updates and posts and twitters and e-blasts haven't convinced you already to get a ticket for this week's ONE NIGHT ONLY EVER Los Angeles screening of THE LAKE EFFECT, I highly recommend you buy your ticket!!!!!

Now onto this week's actual blog...

No one can deny that reality TV has transformed the landscape of television... As media evolves, it's amazing to me that at the root of good entertainment is still a good story.  I think reality and scripted TV are more closely connected than most of us realize.  With that in mind, this week's Guest Blog is from my dear friend and amazingly talented (and successful) Reality TV Producer Sara Quick... 

"Beginning, middle, and end. Those are three elements that every good story has. Without them the audience is left confused, frustrated, and often wanting more. Believe it or not, reality tv is no different. Though the chaotic, seemingly spontaneous nature of reality television may seem like just a bunch of footage slammed together to simply evoke the most shock and awe, there is actually much calculation that goes into crafting story. Throughout the entire process we are all constantly thinking about beginning, middle, and end. 

Sara Quick on the set of "Deadliest Catch."
Unlike scripted television, the story telling process in reality can be difficult to control. From the moment you are hired, to the day you collect your last paycheck you can pretty much count on one thing…..that everything will always change. The first step for a reality Producer is to come up with a series arc or theme for a series. Meaning, we have to decide what is interesting about these characters we're about to explore. So what should we focus on? This can sometimes revolve around a large project that the character is undertaking. In a docu-series reality show a character needs to have a goal, because just as in scripted, the audience wants to watch the character's journey. Since this is real life....the characters don't always succeed either. It's why reality tv is relevant. Life is not always perfect and neither are people. Audiences can relate to that. 

There's a common misconception that reality tv is scripted and some people often scoff when I tell them I write, produce, and direct reality tv. In actuality we just write outlines or treatments. We first come up with a concept for an episode, write what we “think” will happen, and then after we shoot we then have to go back and write what REALLY happened. The art of shaping a real person's story by crafting a beginning, middle, and end is what sets the genre apart from a documentary.  

As a Director/Producer it’s not my job to create the characters, but rather get to know my characters and then come up with storylines that embody who they are. I then pitch those stories to them and hope they get on board. If you don’t have a firm grasp on who your talent is, this part can be very offensive to the talent. Imagine someone coming to you and telling you how they would plan your day for you based on their perception of who you are. It’s a delicate line to walk.

Before you can create story though, your talent has to trust you. TRUST is a HUGE part of the job, and it can come in unexpected ways. On "Deadliest Catch" we had to gain the trust of some pretty salty characters in order to capture their world. It wasn’t until I accidentally fell into a crab hole on one of the boats that the fishermen and I created a rapport. I had to buy them a case of beer. (A tradition if you fall in a crab hole). You do whatever it takes.  

The interesting thing about directing real people is that you can’t control how they act. They aren’t getting paid to read lines, they’re getting paid to be themselves. That’s it. That’s their only commitment. To show up. The rest is just…ever changing. It’s then our job to produce a beginning, middle, and end, and in so doing create conflict and drama.

I have to say though, there is nothing more rewarding than creating an environment for characters and to watch them blossom, and to move with them and to constantly work at anticipating their every move. It’s like a choose your own adventure book. You lay out the options, the characters chose the path, you react with more choices, more options, more environments for them to grow in. Knowing that any moment they could blow like dynamite, or simply die a slow death by being a Producer’s worst nightmare….boring."

- Sara Quick is currently a Supervising Producer on the Women's Entertainment Network show "Bridezillas." She has worked as a Producer/Writer/Director in reality tv for a decade.  Her credits include; "Deadliest Catch", "LA Ink", "Split Ends", Amish in the City", "Shockwave", "Lobstermen", "House Hunters", and "Monster Garage." She and her husband own a Production Company that specializes in quality video and post-production services for reality and corporate clients. 

1 comment:

  1. Sara, your job sounds really hard! But so fascinating! I love getting a behind the scenes glimpse of what you do.