Confessions of... A TV Show Crew Member
Our anonymous author, who worked on a TV show about backpacking, tells all: 'We even faked an eating contest in Texas.'
In 2005, our confessor, who would prefer to remain anonymous, worked on the production team of a TV show about backpacking.
Lodging lies The crews I worked with hardly ever slept in the places shown on television. Chances are, a presenter you see bedding down for a night in a cheap hostel was out of there once the camera switched off. However, one time, when a five-star hotel in the Caribbean offered to let the crew stay for free (provided that we feature the property), we managed to work the hotel into the program even though the presenter was supposed to be on a backpacker's budget.
The diva Out of the five hosts I worked with, four were lovely. The other one let the position go to her head. Although the budget was tight, she insisted on taking her child and nanny along on the company dime for a shoot in Europe, demanded a separate apartment, and constantly disrupted production schedules.
No serendipity Though it may appear otherwise in the final edit, we never simply stumbled across colorful locals while taping a show. Everything was planned weeks or months in advance. A researcher gave the producer interesting stories and contact info for people to feature on the show. The producer visited the area ahead of time to verify that locations and interviews were viable. We were known to stage festivals if they weren't taking place at the right time--we even faked an eating contest in Texas this way. In my experience, the presenters rarely had any input until they turned up for the shoot. They were supposed to make viewers believe their adventures were wonderful coincidences.
Amateur hour Just because you travel doesn't mean you can be a TV host. And yet, we received tons of audition tapes from people who thought they had the goods. Those videos gathered dust in a box--until the crew would take them out for a laugh. One guy sent numerous tapes of his rowdy holidays with his friends. My favorite was his trip to a beer festival, when he slurred through "expert" opinions on all the drinks.
Unopened mail The show's website claimed that it welcomed viewer letters and e-mails. The crew, however, couldn't have cared less. As far as I know, no one ever answered a viewer's complaint or responded to a question about how to book a certain restaurant. We made 12 programs a year, and by the time a show aired, it was ancient history to us. We had long moved on to other destinations.