Troy DeVolld Tells Us What (Fill in the Blank) is Really Like

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by Troy DeVolld

This year, I’ve given myself a great present for Christmas: A get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to the recurring question, “What’s (name of reality celebrity) really like?”

Ask anybody who’s met a celebrity exactly once what they think of them, and you’re going to get an absolute answer based on a tiny interaction. That moment eventually crystallizes into a summary “great guy/gal “or “total jerk/bitch” response. That assessment somehow never takes into account the way the celebrity was approached, as the teller/hero of the story, the “toucher of the garment” as it were, always bases their evaluation on how they were received in that moment. Someone I know scared the living hell out of a television actress recently, literally running after her in a parking lot to vomit praise at her. The verdict on return? “What an unfriendly bitch.”

Really?

Nine times out of ten, everything I know about someone on a reality show comes from our limited interaction in a high-pressure environment or by way of my once-removed experience of viewing source material. During production, that reality participant is competing against other people for prizes or screen time while the show is trying to extract enough authentic moments out of them to achieve a great story. Most would probably agree that sitting in the passenger seat of a race car is the worst time to get to know a race car driver, as they’re kind of preoccupied with going really fast and not hitting a wall. It’s the same for reality stars when they’re on the clock, worrying about their image, agenda and performance.

Further, we’re not hanging out in the same places when the cameras drop, so I seldom see them outside of work until the wrap party.

Yes, there have been times when someone’s really been amazing or completely shown me their ass, but those moments remain between us as part of our process or become blind-item war stories among industry friends. I’ve had one late celebrity refer to me as a “passive aggressive Hollywood mother*cker,” and a few others that thanked me at the end of the process with a nice note or a kind word. Their perception of me is formed through the lens of their own experience with how we connected in our brief interactions, and I wouldn’t say they know me any more than I know them.

So, in that spirit, my new response to the question is just going to be a generic “Great guy/gal” or “I don’t really know them.”


Troy DeVolld is a longtime LB buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?

Troy DeVolld Tells Us the Secret of Life (& Showbiz) Success

by Troy DeVolld

Last week, I spent a little time watching the Dodgers lose to the Mets with a couple of guys who are really at the top of their game.  One has had a show on the air for more than two decades, the other was a producer who’d had a great career and finally struck real gold on one of the most successful sitcoms of all time.

Neither one had a thing to prove to anyone. They’ve played the game and won it many times over — but if you subtracted their success, they’d probably still be the two most relaxed, genial guys in the room.

Here’s the takeaway: You’ve got to be that person now, on the way in and on the way up.

It’s not enough to work hard.  You’ve got to be likable.  When things get rough, you’ve got to handle it without blowing up or pointing fingers.  You’ve got to have a degree of humility and figure out how to couple that with sometimes having to chase things down, make tough calls, or hold people’s feet to the fire in the name of getting the shows out.  You’ve got to own the times you screw up and keep things moving.  No matter what, remember — IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT THE SHOW.

I know, because even after 15 years of doing this, sometimes I still trip up.  You will, too. Bravado doesn’t get you anything. Execution and likability will.

Be the person they want to bring back, and you’ll be able to keep building. Be the person who drives them nuts or lets them down, and you’re sunk.

Remember this above just about everything else on this blog, and I promise you you’ll have a better career for having done so.


Troy DeVolld is a longtime LB buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?

Troy DeVolld Tells Us the Truth about “Owning” your Reality TV Work

by Troy DeVolld

I spoke a little bit about this to some attendees at Story Expo this past weekend, and it bears posting here.

You’ll often hear reality producers talk about taking “ownership” of their shows.  It’s that satisfying feeling wherein the time and emotional investment you’ve made at the episode or series level feels like it has paid off, and that your voice has come through in the show.wpid-20150911_2209141

What has to be remembered when seeking “ownership” of your work is that ultimately, you have a showrunner, execs, and a network to please.  Your idea of what the show is can be compromised by everything from its bottom line to any one of a host of issues beyond your control.

Always, always, always care about what you do, but remember that some arguments aren’t worth having and that your first job is to have one.  Ownership isn’t always possible.

This is why it’s critical to understand your showrunner.  Do they like to discuss story or dictate it?  What’s their vision of the workflow on their show?  Do they thrive in times of calmness, chaos, or both?  Figure it out.

Some years ago, I had an exec at network who created problems just so they could heroically resolve them later.  I’ve also had a company owner who would show up and ALWAYS trash the first act of a rough cut and storm out, seemingly operating on his unspoken philosophy that good work only comes from stressed out employees.  While he apparently never saw a California Cheese commercial in which “Great cheese comes from happy cows,” he was clear about the level of ownership he took in the programs he made.

The real world is about working.  Creating and feeling fulfilled is a luxury afforded to few, even in a “creative” business.  Understand that your EP/showrunner has worked a long time to get where they’re at, and that one of the most important aspects of their job is expressing a vision, theirs, consistently.

Adapt.


Troy DeVolld is a longtime LB buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. The above is a sample from his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market. Buy it. Even if you’re absolutely certain you’ll never write anything but fiction. Cuz, hey, you never know, yeah?