Nadia Elkharadly: The Reality of Reality TV

Nadia LogoI realized as I sat down to write this column that I’d written two very serious columns back to back.  I’m not a very serious person, or at least I try very hard not to be, so, frankly, I figured it was time to tackle a far more inane subject, one that’s near and dear to all of our hearts: Reality Television!  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d had a brief brush with that television phenomenon that is sweeping the globe.  I won’t go into specifics about the show I did, mostly because it’s kind of embarrassing, but also because if you really want to watch it, it’s not that difficult to find and you, my lovely readers, are surely up to the challenge if your urge to see it is so great.

Truly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when a good friend, TV producer by trade, asked me to apply to the show as they were lacking interesting candidates.  I figured, hey, why not, and as is my nature I didn’t really take the whole thing all that seriously.

reality tvWhat I didn’t realize is that in taking that first step, I began a very strange, interesting and fun journey in Reality Television.  Let me take a moment now to dispel any illusions you may have about the concept.  It’s not glamourous, it’s not exciting, and it’s DEFINITELY not all it’s cracked up to be.  That being said, I definitely enjoyed myself, learned a lot, and created some memories that I would never have if I hadn’t taken that opportunity.  With that disclaimer out of the way, I am now going to share with you a few of the silly things I learned on that very journey (in list form!)

1. The Drunker the Better!

boozeI said above that I didn’t take my application process for the show seriously.  There was no greater evidence of that than the manner in which I filled out the online form I was given (that being – drunk, in my kitchen, surrounded by friends who only encourage my potty mouth vulgarity and juvenile sense of humour).  Application drunkenly and vulgarly completed, I figured that was the end of that.  But apparently reality TV loves reprobates, because not only did I get a phone interview, but an on camera audition, and, of course, a place on the show.  And let me tell you, there was no shortage of booze every day on set.  Apparently, without the presence of an actual script or fully organized storyline, the idea behind reality TV is – get ‘em drunk!  Alcohol loosens tongues, lowers inhibitions and generally makes people feel funnier, and even if they’re not actually funny, it still comes off as pretty funny on tv.  Pay attention next time you watch some lame reality show.  See that thin sheen of sweat, that redness in the eyes, the slight slurring of speech?  That’s’ not nervousness or camera shyness.  That’s good, old fashion drunk, and it’s the glue that holds reality TV together.

2. Repetition is Key!

repetition 1My on camera interview was my first experience “TV”, as it were.  It was the first time I’d ever been interviewed on camera, and it’s kind of a strange process.  The first thing I learned (and promptly forgot every 2 minutes) was that the person interviewing you is never seen or heard.  In order for what you’re saying on camera not to seem totally out of context, you have to ask yourself the question, then answer it for yourself.  You start to feel a little crazy, doing that over and over, but it’s truly a one sided conversation, one that you end up having with yourself.  Because I kept forgetting to repeat the question as I started answering it, I had to repeat the whole deal over and over.  When I actually began filming the show, I very soon discovered that, along with alcohol, repetition was an integral part of reality TV.  You’d think spontaneity was a key factor in the whole “reality” of it all but it really isn’t.  Any time I, or someone else being filmed, ever said anything funny or interesting, we were asked to repeat, recreate and redo the lines and scenes over and over, from different angle, in different tones, in different ways, all to recapture that “spontaneous” moment in the exact right way (as per a director or producer’s vision).  While that may not sound like a big deal, several days straight of being asked to stop, turn, repeat yourself, repeat yourself again, and again, and again, not only gets extremely dull, but extremely frustrating.  After day one I was reaching for the booze just to help me forget all the repeating I had to do in the coming days.

3. Hurry Up and Wait

waitingMuch like highly anticipated rides at Disneyland or our very own Canada’s Wonderland, working on a reality show entails a whole lot of rushing to get someplace (an interview location, whatever the set is for a day) and then just hanging around waiting for someone to tell you what’s going on.  In the week that I filmed, I spent more time waiting around more hallways, lobbies and condo lounges than any person ever should.  One night, I spent over an hour awkwardly sipping a mocha at a Queen West Starbucks while dressed as a pin up girl – talk about uncomfortable.  And even once you were actually on set, the waiting continued.  Waiting to eat, waiting to speak, waiting for someone’s mic to be moved or reattached, waiting for camera batteries and tapes to be changed…The point is, there was a LOT of waiting.  It made for some long days, some very late nights but it also made for some fun times.  Many of those hours of waiting were spent getting to know the amazing crew I got to work with, trading stories and cracking jokes.  I also came away with two great friends from the experience, my fellow reality show “survivor sisters”, who I wouldn’t have become as close with or gotten to know as well if we hadn’t spent so much time together just waiting around.

4. While it May be Called Reality, IT’S NOT REAL!

kardashiansThe one thing I was actually worried about after wrapping the show was how it was going to turn out after the hours and hours of footage was shoved through the showmaking machine to produce 47 minutes of actual televised content.  This was the part of the journey were I totally lost control, and was at the mercy of directors, editors and producers who could make me look however they wanted me to, for the sake of their story.  The fact of the matter is, through the magic of editing, scenes, conversations, even single words can be sewn and weaved together in ways that are not true to what actually happened at all.  The smallest thing can be manipulated to make a scene more dramatic, a conversation more salacious, and even turn a compliment into an insult.  That’s where the reality of reality TV completely dissolves.  It’s not cameras following a bunch of people around, capturing the hilarity that ensues.  From the get go with this show in particular, there was an angle, a story, and an end goal, and no matter what we, the actors were thinking or feeling or even actually saying, that end result had to be achieved. I say “actors” because that’s what we ended up being in the end.  I can’t tell you how many times I was scolded and corrected for not “acting” in a certain way for the sake of the show.  We were also asked to say certain things, about each other, about previous scenes, even though these were things we’d never actually think to say.  There were a lot of things I flat out refused to say, and things that I said on camera that were taken completely out of context after the show was edited.  So to all of you out there watching the Kardashians pull each other’s hair (extensions) out, or waiting with baited breath to see who the Bachelor picks or who’s going to get kicked off the Apprentice, just remember IT’S ALL FAKE!  Also, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  Sorry!

5. Being on TV is actually pretty fun!

Nads and VodkaI always say I’ll try just about anything once.  I’ll never turn down a reasonable opportunity because I always think that there’s something to gain, whether it’s personally or professionally.  I figured, at the very least, it was something new and different that not many people get to do.   In the end, that’s how I approached this experience; taking it with a grain of salt, and having fun with the whole process, and seeing where it would take me.   And I truly did end up having a lot of fun!  From the moment of my audition video, I discovered that making an ass out of myself in front of a camera was pretty amusing, to myself and to others.  Of course, all the dumb things I’d written on my application came back to haunt me, but in a thoroughly enjoyable way.  Between cracking jokes with my interviewer, opening up about my guys-who-look-like-Jesus fetish (hey, Hot JesusJesus was totally hot, ok?) and getting to parade my new furbaby in front of the camera, the time flew by, and I thought that maybe this was something I could be into.  That feeling continued when it came time to filming the show itself.  I had gone into the situation with my eyes open, ready to portray myself as I truly am in all my sarcastic, wise cracking, eye rolling glory.  And that’s exactly what I did.  Luckily, almost everyone who was on camera with me was witty, light hearted and looking to have just as much fun with the experience as I was.  What resulted was some very fun banter, a lot of laughter and some pretty ridiculous antics.  Like I said above, I came away from all of this with some cool new friends and some great memories, and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t a fun process in the first place.  Waiting, repeating and the occasional hangover aside, I actually had a great time and made some great memories in the process.  And even though I didn’t really agree with how I was edited in the end, I really did enjoy watching the show when it finally aired, and found myself laughing just as loud, or louder than those around me.  There’s really nothing funnier than watching yourself  act like a total asshole on TV – and really, how many people can say that?

And now, on a totally different note, I’d love for you guys to check out a brand new music video from one of my favourite Indie bands The Blue Stones!  It’s is hot off the presses for their latest single “Rolling with the punches” (a total earworm!), released today and ready for public adoration.  Head over to http://www.weraddicted.com/the-blue-stones-rolling-with-the-punches-music-video-premier/ and enjoy!

…and a live version, as well!

Until next time,

Xo

N

 =NE=

Nadia’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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