There is a thing Excellent chef, Fantastic race, Defeat Bobby Flay, and 90 day fiancé have in common: Some of the people who make these shows have gone public with behind-the-scenes horror stories on these shows.
I’ve collected a few of them below. First off, some information on what’s going on in Hollywood, which could have led to production on The single person and other shows closed for days, weeks or months: a potential strike by the International Alliance of Theater Stage Employees (IATSE).
The IATSE represents “more than 150,000 workers in virtually every occupation in the arts, media and entertainment,” according to its website, and those workers include many people who produce reality TV.
A strike could have started today, October 18, but was avoided this weekend, so production will continue for now. IATSE says an agreement it has reached with studios represented by the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP) “addresses fundamental issues, including reasonable rest periods; meal breaks; a living wage for those at the bottom of the salary scale; and significant increases in the compensation payable by new media companies.
But whether IATSE members will agree is another question. Although they are not going on strike today, they might not vote in favor of this new contract. Variety reported that “many workers expressed frustration with the conditions and said they expected them to be rejected.” For example, the agreement includes “daily 10-hour rest periods without exclusions”, which means 14-hour days.
Earlier this month, more than 90 percent of IATSE members voted and 98 percent of them voted to authorize a strike. It’s incredibly high and reflects the frustration with their working conditions, including on reality TV shows.
Horror stories from reality TV crew members
Last month on September 21, the @nonfictionunite Instagram account was launched and began posting reality TV specific stories of those who allegedly went on strike. It’s similar to the larger @ia_stories account.
The account said in a caption on Friday, “Our problems are coming from the very top at the network and production company level. In non-fiction production, PMs, LPs, and producers are among the most abused and underpaid roles. (Acronyms refer to production managers and executive producers.)
This was illustrated by often very specific anonymous stories, calling out shows and production companies, and general working conditions in all shows. This is very clearly an industry-wide systemic problem.
In the caption of a picture about the experience of producers of gas lighting, the account wrote:
We get a lot of posts like this and really wanted to take note of the emotional and mental impact these jobs have on people. Working 60 to 100 hours a week is unhealthy (there’s a reason the standard is 40 in all other industries). On top of that, most producers and production should be on call at all times. Raise your hand if you’ve been asked to make a call at midnight when you’ve already worked a 2 hour day that started at 6 a.m.
A recent article pointed out that personal assistants and other low-level employees are asked to “pay for extra baggage.” [fees], COVID tests, meals, gas. As they are promised a refund, the person notes: “We are hired for a multi-million dollar production, we are not cash machines that should use our own money to cover the cost of a production. . “
This, for me, is the crux of the matter: Reality productions bring millions of dollars in profits to networks and streaming services, in part because of their relatively low cost of production. But the people who make the spectacle possible are suffering.
Of course, workers who suffer while others benefit is something that our society is unfortunately very comfortable with. I am absolutely guilty of it: I regularly order from Amazon even though I know the horrible conditions for people that allow me to have instant gratification.
And when watching a TV show it’s easy to forget about all the people behind the camera, that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it Survivor 41The first of us briefly showed the crew.
Some of the stories posted on @nonfictionunite include:
Among these production companies named by name, but not always with specific program titles mentioned, are:
- World of Wonder Producers RuPaul’s Drag Race and other shows
- ITV America, producers of Island of love, strange eye, RHONJ, Hell’s Kitchen, The hunt, and other shows
- Bobby Flay’s Rockshrimp TV, producers of Defeat Bobby Flay, more than one time
- Pilgrim Pictures, which produces Ghost hunters, Nasty tuna, and other shows
- Left / Right, the producers of programs such as Coaching Britney Spears and The circus
- Pietown Productions, producers of shows such as Flipping 101 and Christine on the coast
- Sharp Entertainment, producers of 90 day fiancé, Life after lockdown, ghost, and other shows, more than once
- Mystic Arts Pictures casting company
While there may be good reason to be skeptical of the anonymously reported complaints, many have a chorus of people commenting on similar stories or confirming that the same has happened to them.
And there’s a clear pattern across the stories posted on the account, and a feeling that the people who literally do the work on reality TV aren’t being treated well, paid fairly, or even recognized for their work. As one person wrote:
“So I’m not complaining openly about work because I don’t want to get fired or get fired by some of the weirdest LPs.” [line producers] there, but in the past I worked 18 hours a day, skipped lunches to stay on top of work, stayed in the office late until midnight to get things done, I assumed five or six jobs to make sure everything worked, all for a lot, A LOT, EPs [executive producers] barely recognize how I worked until my fingers bleed for their silly shows.