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Entries in the gosselins (6)

Friday
Dec102010

Interview with a TV Producer

This is the first 18 minutes of the 2.25 hour interview.  The television producer is TVP below, and I am WG.  We can refer to the TVP as male for the purposes of this discussion.  He does not work for TLC but he has worked on reality shows on another network, which you would recognize the name of.  

 

For those of you who are not cuckoo for reality show cocoapuffs the way I am, Spencer Pratt was Heidi Montag's boyfriend on The Hills (they're married now and Heidi has had dramatic physical changes due to multiple plastic surgeries) and Scott Disick is the "bad boy" boyfriend of one of the Kardashian sisters.  Kris Jenner is the Kardashians' mom, married to Bruce Jenner.

 

Believe it or not, this segment only covers the first question.  I hope you enjoy it and as usual, I look forward to your comments.

Werny Gal

*          *          *          *          *          *

TVP: So I guess the first question here is from GKWay. “How 'real' are reality shows and how much of it is actually 'scripted' with a story line?” The big thing to understand is that reality shows really are hyperbolized. A reality show really is a heightened sense of who somebody is and their dynamics with somebody, and when you have it edited together, you can consider it the highlight reel of this conversation for the day, put into an interesting way, coupled with music and narration into a seemingly plausible plot. The way that it usually goes is you sit down with your talent, who are involved in the show, ask them what are we doing here, what are we doing there, and as producers you get ideas on how you're going to sculpt them.

 

WG: You're saying that happens when you're actually taping, like the day of the taping?

 

TVP: Generally there's a meeting beforehand and there are decisions made before you do it. A lot of it is heavily produced. To call it scripted is kind of a misnomer, because you're not really writing down dialogue. What you're doing is you're setting up a situation, knowing who your characters are, knowing their dynamics, knowing how they'll interact with each other, and just letting it play out.

 

WG: For example, you might take one Housewife of New Jersey, who dislikes another Housewife of New Jersey, and get them together at the same restaurant at the same time.

 

TVP: Yes, setting them up there and knowing one of them is not going to be happy about something.

 

WG: And might you incite discord between them by egging them on privately beforehand?

 

TVP: Well, that's more of a Jerry Springer type of approach to it, and some people have gone that way and some people have not. If you take reality TV as a genre, [the approaches are] very widespread. Not every rule applies to every production. It really depends on what your goals are going to be with your viewers. Do you want them to laugh, do you want them to cry, do you want them to feel whatever it may be, that's how you're going to go about it. You always have a goal in mind.

 

WG: So that's primary: Having an emotional goal in mind.

 

TVP: Correct. Because even when writing a script for TV or a script for screen, you have a character arc. You have to have something that you love and something that you hate. Look at a show like the Kardashians, one of the biggest reality shows right now. Scott Disick, for example. Everybody hates him. He is really an exaggeration of the actual person, simply because you need a villain. Same thing with Spencer Pratt. They play a role. They create a character for themselves they portray for that. Knowing that in advance, the producers then can put things together and massage a story out of it. But again, we're talking about the entire genre. Reality TV encompasses the talent shows, it encompasses the family drama type of things, the game show types of things, so we have this wide dichotomy of what is and isn't reality.

 

WG: We're talking here, for our purposes, about "Jon and Kate Plus Eight,' all the Housewives shows on Bravo, "The Kardashians," now there's David Hasslehoff, "Little People, Big World," all those kinds of things. They actually show people, and it appears to the viewers that this is how those people really are.

 

TVP: No. Not even close. You have two different worlds here. When you're talking about the Kardashians and the Hasslehoffs, there's creative control because that celebrity's involved as a producer. When you look at the credits for the Kardashians, you'll notice that Kris Jenner is one of the executive producers of the show, so she makes executive decisions about what goes into the show, while they're shooting, while they're putting stuff together, and also in post and the editing. Something like "Little People, Big World" or "J&K+8" or now "kate Plus Eight," [the people in it don't] have that type of creative control. Shows like the Kardashians, the Hasslehoffs, "The TO Show," whatever it may be, they have an idea, and they pitch it to a network, and they get included as a producer as part of the creative process.

 

WG: So if Kate Gosselin was a producer, would she have more control?

 

TVP: Absolutely. As a producer, she could have final say here and there or have some word as to what they will or won't do. A lot of times what changes one show from another is the contract you sign with the network. How much control you have, what you are willing to do and not to do, and so forth. If you sign a contract saying you're going to adhere to whatever the standards are right there, then you're going to do that. But if you say “I have to have input on where we shoot,when we shoot, how long we shoot, and [things like that] then obviously you're going to take it into your own hands and make it a different experience.

 

     There's a lot of talk out there about who really called the shots in the Gosselin household. Was it Kate? Was it Jon? Is it TLC? And I think when you look at the term exploitation, which is thrown out there a lot, who's doing it, who isn't doing it, it's relative, and I think, in my personal opinion, not as a producer, not as a member of their staff, not as any of that, it's just my personal opinion as a viewer, is that there's multiple responsibility here. TLC sees something that's great for ratings, something that appeals to people. Kate had this appeal to people with a moral center, back when things started going. She was very pro-life, and that was attractive to the religious community. You supported her, you wanted to be there for her, because now she had this incredible plight on her hands. And what is she going to do? Nowadays that's changed a lot. So the show was more, in the beginning, about looking at cute kids and watching home movies, because everybody likes home movies. Now, they're getting older and it's not the same type of thing, so you have to amp up the drama. You have to put something else in there that will attract the viewers, and if it's not the show-and-tell of cuteness, there's got to be something else out there. When you have competition out there, like "Jersey Shore" or "The Bad Girls Club," people want that, they want the drama. I mean, look at Kate's latest on the Sarah Palin show. There's a reason why TLC put her crying in their promos. Because people like drama. As long as there's drama, there will be viewers.

 

     So, I kind of deviated from the question here, how much of it is actually scripted? Scripted isn't the term I'd use. “Heavily produced.” There are procedural ways of doing things. If you're writing a screenplay or writing a script for TV, you have characters, you have personalities, all you have to do now is put them in situations and create conflict or a catalyst. So, if you know Kate's going to be a hothead and you know Jon's going to be kind of frumpy, and you have him do something that's going to piss her off, well, there you go. Instant drama. It's a recipe.

 

WG: What I'm getting out of this is that there's no reality TV that's actually real. So don't you feel that's manipulative to viewers? And how can viewers discern what to actually believe and what not to believe?

 

TVP: I don't think that's completely true. Every reality show has a portion of it that's real. But look at your normal life. If you watch something like Kate Gosselin 24 hours a day, you're going to be bored. She's going to be sitting for eight hours, she's going to be cooking. There has to be something real there. These are real people, they have real lives, they have real emotions, and there are real circumstances. What isn't real necessarily is these extraneous circumstances you put them in.

 

WG: Yes, like taking the kids to the corn maze. If you look at the film, it looks like they had this wonderful day of going on the hayride, and going to the corn maze, and getting costumes at the store, and picking out pumpkins, when actually, it was several days, it actually took place over a couple of weeks, and they were only at the corn maze for 20 minutes, and they weren't really playing, they were working. But what you see is this happy production of loving family time, and that's not what really happened.

 

TVP: And maybe to a certain extent, when you look at everything [the eight kids] go through, for them that might be happy family time.

     I think the big thing to keep in mind here is that you have to fill 22 minutes with content that's interesting and thought-provoking and makes you feel something. And if you had a true reality show with a camera on somebody 24 hours a day, it'd be boring. You only put in the highlights, so these little trip out there to the corn maze, or to the zoo, or to Alaska, they become the basis for an entire episode because it's interesting. You're not going to put the stuff that's boring on there. So reality, yes. It is real, what they do is real, but the circumstances are provoked or they're helped or they're produced.

 

WG: Contrived.

 

TVP: I wouldn't go so far as to say they're contrived, because again, when you have people involved in the creative process, it doesn't have to be. I think with Jon and Kate it's a very different type of show. There aren't very many things out there where children are the focus and the basis for it.

 

     Now as far as the adults involved in these things, you're playing off of the highlights. Really, a reality show is a highlight reel of somebody during a certain amount of time that involves provoked experiences. If you know Kate’s going to be the villain of the show, you're going to patch together a series of events that make her look bad. With anyone you could easily do the same thing. One of your readers asked how much footage it takes to do a 30 minute show. It's relative. It's depends on what you're trying to get across what happened there, and if you can complete a story. So a 30 minute show could be shot in one day or it could be shot over a year, it just depends on what point you're trying to make. You always overshoot. You always have several angles. You always have the cutaway, that reaction shot. It's interesting to see what other people think, and the angle of the shot can bring you into the experience.

 

WG: So since you said something about the kids, as a producer vs. as a person, what do you think about having kids on TV in these so-called reality shows who aren't capable of consent due to their young age or immaturity or lack of education or experience?

 

TVP: I think it depends on the situation. When you have a reality show when the family is the center, and the family is in it together, an they all agree, “this is what we want to do,” and there's an open dialogue, with ways out of a contract, and ways to walk away and have that privacy, then you have the opportunity to have that exposure, and your privacy, and still have your boundaries set. When the show The Osbournes was on, a lot of people don't know this, but Ozzy has an older daughter who lived in the house who said “I don't want to be a part of this,” and that was respected. It didn't hurt her, it didn't hurt her reputation, it didn't hurt the family, and it definitely didn't hurt the show.

 

WG: I've always had the impression that with the Roloffs of "Little People, Big World" that this was very much something they wanted to do together as a family.  {TVP nods in agreement.]   So what do you think about the Gosselins in relation to that? Those kids have literally grown up on camera. And they've said several times they don’t want to film.

 

TVP: I think it's hard to trust the words that are out there unless they're spoken directly from the mouths of the people, and I think the Gosselins are a very specific, unique situation. You're talking about kids who don't know anything in their comprehensive lives outside of camera exposure. So you're really establishing a new precedent for other shows. Child actors have the opportunity to go on set for how many hours, and then go home, and get that break. There aren’t cameras set up in their bedrooms, in their bathrooms, in their living rooms, following them around constantly [like the G kids have been subjected to.]  They have that ability to still be a child, and are free to make mistakes, are free to strip, are free to have tantrums, without having the world document this. That's what's so different about the Gosselins, and I think that's why there are people on both sides of the spectrum.

 

      For me personally, I would not subject my children to that type of exposure. They're now old enough where they can't make adult decisions for themselves, but if they're telling you they don't want to be a part of something, as a person with a bleeding heart, I would say, “Okay, I'm going to take your thoughts into consideration and you don't have to do this.” I understand that you need to provide for your family, which is one thing Kate says time and time again. But just recently she was marked as the number five grossing reality star. I mean, she made 3.5 million dollars this year [according to an official trade report.] I mean, you can say, “That's enough.” A lot of people don't make that much money their entire lives.

 

WG: You know, a lot of people thought she made like $70-80K an episode, until TV Guide published that said she makes $250K.

 

TVP: Which sounds like a lot, because it is, but from what I'm reading that $250,000 is for the entire family, which is split eight ways.

 

WG: No, it's not.

 

TVP: No?

 

WG: The children split 15% eight ways, which means they each get 1.87%. She gets 85%.

 

TVP: What I'm saying though, is that $250K is for them, but because they're minors, they're only entitled to 15% set aside into their Coogan account.

 

PK: Except the Coogan Law doesn't apply in Pennsylvanian.  That's a California law.

 

TVP: Oh, really?

 

WG: Yeah. That's one of the reasons that we're looking at laws here in PA, because we don't have those laws to protect kids in entertainment here.

 

TVP: That's pretty shady.

 

WG: Yes, and according to Paul Petersen, the eight kids do split 15%, which is the minimum required that the kids get, so they actually are splitting the minimum.

 

TVP: And that reflects a lot on TLC's practices.

 

WG: Does it? Or does it reflect on the parents?

 

TVP: The parent is the one who has to sign on behalf of the children, but the fact that the network is putting that out there in that term, instead of dividing it by each person? If they set it up that way, then I don't want to say they're enabling the parent to exploit them, but they're not helping it either. And that's something that, you know, we're in the business of making money, and you're going to do whatever's most profitable for you, and I'm sure the amount of money they make on the show vs. what they make between DVD sales, appearances, ratings overall, is all a lot more lucrative for them than their investment right now.

 

     I think the big question is going to be, what's going to happen when the show gets canceled?

 

WG: She has a contract until I think the end of February 2012 so although the ratings have steeply declined, does that mean that TLC will continue to try to find something for her to do, to utilize her because she has this contract?

 

TVP: It depends on what's in the contract, and a contract can be defined in so many different ways. There's speculation that when the show ends you're out of your contract, and if that's in the contract, it is. But if that's not in the contract, then for this many years? Then it doesn't matter. The only ones who know the right answer to that would be the lawyers at TLC, and Kate’s attorneys and herself, and they're not talking.

                                                                            ~END~

 

Wednesday
Jun302010

Answers to Your Questions abt Al's Book & Jon's Visits with Kids

I was just talking with Al on the phone to find out what's happening with his book and I asked him if Jon visits the kids in their home, and he told me that a couple of weeks ago Kate got mad at Jon (Al thinks for introducing his new girlfriend to the kids) and forbade him from coming onto the property anymore, so she's been bringing the kids down the long driveway to the gate for him to pick them up there.  Then he takes them to his apartment or they do other activities like go to the pool at his complex or a nearby park.  If they stay over at his house they probably take sleeping bags and have a big sleepover in his livingroom, which sounds like a pretty fun time to me.  But he's not allowed to see them in their house or on Kate's property.  (Can't believe his lawyer had Kate get the house and property, can you?  What was he thinking?)

About the book:  Al is waiting for the soft version to come so he can give it a final proofread before it goes to final print.  It was supposed to arrive today but since it didn't he expects it to come tomorrow and he will proofread it very quickly.  Once he submits that, the book will be printed.  When it is printed he will release the electronic version at the same time so you'll have a choice of soft cover, Kindle, Sony Reader, eBooks or other versions.  So it looks like we're going into next week now and I'll keep you posted.

 

Sunday
Apr252010

Clarification of Laws Regarding Children in Entertainment in PA

Kate Plus Eight is reportedly set to premiere this summer and the children may also be involved in the filming of Twist of Kate. This brings up two separate issues which come under the auspices of two different departments in the Commonwealth of PA. Since there has been some confusion about the differences between these two as shown in some of my blog comments, I'm going to take a moment and clarify them here.

The first issue is that the law states that permits need to be secured for all children under the age of 16 working in the Comonwealth of Pennsylvania. This comes under the auspices of the Department of Labor and Industry. In the case of the Gosselins and future filming, the child labor permits that will allow the children to continue filming have reportedly been secured, so those legal requirements have been met.

The second issue is making sure that all adults in Pennsylvania whose work brings them into contact with the children have been cleared for child abuse and criminal backgrounds. This comes under the auspices of the Department of Welfare, not the Dept of Labor. It is imperative that only those whose background checks have been confirmed and then updated regularly (because they do expire) be allowed to work with any children in Pennsylvania, the Gosselin children included. It is unclear whether or not those clearances have been secured, and I will continue checking with Rep Murt and keep you updated on this issue.

PA requires that only 15% of the total earnings is required to be set aside for children who are working in the entertainment industry. Therefore if the Gosselin family gets $75,000 per episode, Kate could get 85% or $63,750, and the kids could get a minimum of 15% or $11,250.* If that 15% is divided up between eight children, each child would earn only $1406 per episode. After taxes and social security $1400 is about $1000, and that doesn't include other expenses like health insurance. Is that really fair, considering the invasion of privacy and the emotional consequences of doing a reality show?

This is assuming that Kate keeps her 85% and gives the kids their minimum of 15%. Some parents, especially in California where child labor laws have become more enlightened and adult caregivers have learned from their past mistakes (thanks to the good work of A Minor Consideration) set aside more than the minimum 15% required. That way when the kids grow up they have a nice nest egg for college so they can make a living as an adult when the acting career goes down the tubes (which it usually does when the kids grow up and aren't so cute or special anymore.) What kind of financial future do you think Jon and Kate have planned for their children? Do you think, based on their lifestyles, values and priorities as evidenced by their past behaviors, they have put away the required 15%, a higher percentage, or no percentage at all?

* I am assuming 15% for the kids as an entity. Clearly the law was not set up for families with eight kids. Two or three kids could each get 15%, but it just doesn't work with eight. Clarifications or corrections are welcome.

Thursday
Apr222010

So Much For Quality Time With The Kids

So much for spending quality time with the kids. Actions speak louder than words, and saying the kids are a priority doesn't mean a pile of dogpooh if it's only words. Kate zoomed out again soon after returning home, suitcase in hand. Once again the kids are left with the nannies instead of having a normal home life with their natural parents. Meanwhile Jon supposedly fired his attorney, is selling his Beemer and has a cougar in Washington, D.C. What does any of this have to do with parenting?

It appears Representative Murt's hearings on the PA child labor laws were not a moment too soon. Legal changes won't help the Gosselin kids with their problems at home, but at least someone somewhere out there is paying attention and trying to inject some sanity and health into this situation. Who's making sure these kids' needs are met?

Using the need of money to pay for college educations is a transparent and poor excuse for not being parents to your children. Many families have eight or even more kids and they aren't all over the country trying to hook up television or Hollywood deals. Some parents even adopt mentally or physically disadvantaged kids, adding to their own large broods, because they love children and want to help them so much. There's no reason an IT guy and a nurse who worked at a great hospital couldn't provide their kids with not only the basic physical care, but also the time with their parents and individual attention growing kids need (not to mention privacy in public and in their own home.) Kids are not a meal ticket or a vehicle with which to draw attention to yourselves, make money or create a career in entertainment. Kids are people, little dependent people, with emotional and psychological needs, and they need parents more than they need matchy-matchy outfits and the other superficial trappings these two parents seem hellbent on procuring.

Monday
Jan112010

Guess Who Made JibJab's 2009 Windup?

Jon and Kate - immortalized in 2009.