MONDO EXTRAS

It Wasn't The Editing

by Sars July 5, 2007
Ask A Reality-TV Producer

Like many jobs in creative fields, people are hired or not hired based on more ephemeral qualifications. In what I do, you kind of get it or you don't. The kiss of death in my industry is if someone says the words, "He/she just didn't know story." That means you suck. But on a technical level like that...nah. It's usually just an occupational hazard that's going to occur every so often.

"Didn't know story." Can you give me a specific example of how that would manifest in what we see on a show? And is that a function of the producer "not knowing story," or the editor?

Let's say you're watching The Amazing Race. One couple almost got eliminated last week. Then they have a fight in the first act. Then they fall behind in the challenge, and we're reminded that if they don't win the million dollars they won't be able to get that surgery for little Timmy. Then they get eliminated, and everyone loved the episode because of how invested they were before that team got kicked off.

Okay.

Now let's say a team just got eliminated because they fell behind while failing to eat a shark intestine. Without some kind of context -- something to give us a narrative thrust and make us care about these people -- we won't care that this couple has been punted from the show. So using the proper interview bites and every single nugget from the footage we can, we have to feature these people through the whole show, enough to make it make sense that they got eliminated. It's why you can watch the first interview bite of almost every competition reality show and be like, "The person who just delivered that bite is in trouble."

Right.

And because they're real people who don't always conform to standard narrative rules, sometimes the storytelling takes a little more effort. If a girl gets kicked off Top Model and you have no idea why she was eliminated, it feels boring and unsatisfying. That may be a time when someone with my job didn't do it very well.

"Well, that was weird/boring/nonsensical/confusing" is not a good review for someone with my job.

That is the review I would give [Anonymous Show], but I don't think I'm the majority opinion on that.

I am truly horrified by that show. Personally, I think it's a failure on every level. They couldn't get the footage they wanted because of an uncooperative star, and then they failed to turn it into anything new. We usually hang up index cards on the wall of the editing bay to put scenes in order, and I said when I watched that show, "I just can't see the cards on the wall."

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It Wasn't The Editing

by Sars July 5, 2007
Ask A Reality-TV Producer

Like many jobs in creative fields, people are hired or not hired based on more ephemeral qualifications. In what I do, you kind of get it or you don't. The kiss of death in my industry is if someone says the words, "He/she just didn't know story." That means you suck. But on a technical level like that...nah. It's usually just an occupational hazard that's going to occur every so often.

"Didn't know story." Can you give me a specific example of how that would manifest in what we see on a show? And is that a function of the producer "not knowing story," or the editor?

Let's say you're watching The Amazing Race. One couple almost got eliminated last week. Then they have a fight in the first act. Then they fall behind in the challenge, and we're reminded that if they don't win the million dollars they won't be able to get that surgery for little Timmy. Then they get eliminated, and everyone loved the episode because of how invested they were before that team got kicked off.

Okay.

Now let's say a team just got eliminated because they fell behind while failing to eat a shark intestine. Without some kind of context -- something to give us a narrative thrust and make us care about these people -- we won't care that this couple has been punted from the show. So using the proper interview bites and every single nugget from the footage we can, we have to feature these people through the whole show, enough to make it make sense that they got eliminated. It's why you can watch the first interview bite of almost every competition reality show and be like, "The person who just delivered that bite is in trouble."

Right.

And because they're real people who don't always conform to standard narrative rules, sometimes the storytelling takes a little more effort. If a girl gets kicked off Top Model and you have no idea why she was eliminated, it feels boring and unsatisfying. That may be a time when someone with my job didn't do it very well.

"Well, that was weird/boring/nonsensical/confusing" is not a good review for someone with my job.

That is the review I would give [Anonymous Show], but I don't think I'm the majority opinion on that.

I am truly horrified by that show. Personally, I think it's a failure on every level. They couldn't get the footage they wanted because of an uncooperative star, and then they failed to turn it into anything new. We usually hang up index cards on the wall of the editing bay to put scenes in order, and I said when I watched that show, "I just can't see the cards on the wall."

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