Let me state the obvious: Reality TV is fake.
Psh, you say, I know that! Do you though? Do you really? Cause when I read your twitter feeds, I get the feeling that the part of your brain that tweets has not quite gotten the memo about, you know, how fake reality is.
These tweets sound uncannily like the writers believe that what they’re seeing is real. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if we hadn’t just hired a Reality star as President partly based on his bona fides as a Businessman that were largely created in edit.
Thus fake news isn’t the only thing twisting “truth” into a pretzel these days; and while Trump is inevitably identified as a Reality TV star, other than using the description to disparage him, no one seems to be discussing the role the genre plays in muddying truth and fiction.
Thus, given the current context, welcome to my new series: “Reality TV is Fake: Let Me Count the Ways.”
Today’s installment: INTERVIEWS.
Interviews function in Reality as the character’s “inner-monologue.” They give us “a deeper layer” to a story, telling us what the character is REALLY thinking (as opposed to what they may be saying or doing in scene).
So interviews = true in the Reality format.
Except they really aren’t. Interviews are literally the easiest things to manipulate. Don’t get me wrong, we can and do manipulate every single fucking thing, but interviews are by far the easiest.
Here’re just a few ways we do it:
So, say for example on Real Housewives of Atlanta that there is a scene with notorious enemies Porsha and Kenya and the two women appear to be “getting along.”
However, every now and then we cut to Kenya rolling her eyes and we cut to an interview bite where she says:
I’m trying to put a good face on this, but truth be told this bitch is working on my last nerve!
We assume that the real truth of the scene is that Kenya still hates Porsha, despite seeming to make nice to her.
For instance you are hearing, “This bitch is working my last nerve,” but you have no way of knowing who she was talking about when she said it. She could have been talking about a different cast member or even the producer who was interviewing her (this happens all the time).
Every producer in Reality prides themselves on their expert Frankenbiting skills. Frankenbiting, as has elsewhere been discussed, is when we take diverse parts of different interview bites to create sentences that the cast member didn’t even come close to saying.
Here’s a simple example: Just the other day I took an interview bite where the character said “I am not in an open relationship.” Well that didn’t work for my story. So I dropped the “not” and voila, “I am in an open relationship.”
Now the character will be on camera for the first part of the statement, we’ll put a b-roll shot of her from the scene in question to mask the cut in the interview, and then come back up for the juicy part “open relationship.”
That’s pretty simple stuff, but we can also create a sentence word by word.
Ever wonder why cast members often wear the same outfit in interview throughout the season? Well, it’s so we can use interview content from every interview the cast member has ever given in the process of “writing” what they say in Post.
The frankenbiting process is aided by the sheer volume of the footage that we shoot. The interview footage that makes it to air is minute in comparison to what we have at our disposal.
On any given Reality show we have hundreds of hours of interview from each cast member. All of those interviews are transcribed. The joke among post producers is that if you wanted to have a character quote the phonebook from beginning to end, we could probably piece that together.
However, that’s a lot of footage. How could you possibly get through all that? Well, to assist us in digging through the mounts of footage described above we have a handy dandy little program on our Avid edit stations called Script Sync. See next point.
3. Script Sync
Using Script Sync, I can open up a document that contains all the interviews that cast member has ever done and search on, say, every time they said “I” “hate” “this,” select the versions of each word that work best in combination with the others, pull the words into a audio sequence, find a good version of “bitch” as a capper and I’ve got: “I hate this bitch.” Shazam!
The demo below is for narrative, but you can see how it would work for Reality.
So when you think you’re getting some special insight into what Kris is thinking about Lamar Odom in Keeping Up With the Kardashians, what you are really getting is special insight into what the post producers want her to think for the point of the story. There is no truth about the character, other than the one we make.
So, uh, yeah when the Writer’s Guild decides to organize Post Producers as writers, it’s because THEY ACTUALLY ARE. You may not like their work, but that doesn’t make what they are doing anything less than fiction.