Amateur Actors Attack!

Can we all agree it’s time to rename “reality” shows? Maybe we should call them “reality-derived.” Or “based-on-a-true-story TV.” (Hmmm. Clearly we’ll need something catchier.) We need something, though, because the men and women who work to craft these programs have toiled behind the scenes for too long. They need to stand up and claim credit.

Now, true, some of it is clear. If we’re very alert we might catch the work of the sound editor, adding a dot matrix sound to an inkjet, or a dialtone to a cellphone (or pomp and circumstance to Donald Trump’s every entrance.) The eagle-eyed amoung us may notice how, as a participant makes an observation, during the course of a few sentences (s)he may seem to occasionally change outfits, hairstyles and locations. (A favorite on The Real World.)

But the “loggers” who record this data, the writers who re-arrange it, and the editors who make it all happen — where’s their love?

Or look beyond the craftspeople who gather the raw materials and begin to shape a finished product. Good effort, but let’s not forget the folks — also un-sung — who work to shape the events themselves.

I’m not talking about casting, desiging tasks/challenges, or other components. I’m talking about the people who step in and say “Nope, reality just ain’t good enough.”

For example, take a look at our friend Jeff again:
Jeff, looking down, with surprisingly shiny hair

Not there; look at his hair. That, my friends, is a little something we hometrosexuals like to call “product.” Unless these islands have a salon we don’t know about, it seems a stylist has dodged out from behind the green screen and helped out.

No big deal, you say? Fine. I’ll agree that we all want to look good, even when we’re ostensibly stranded on an island. But you’ve gotta admit this next one gives you pause.

In the last episode of Survivor, competing players had to swim out and retrieve a life ring, then bring it back and throw it on a pillar.

Here’s on overhead shot of the first two competitors, Tom and Jeff, with Tom down-frame, holding the ring, and Jeff blocking his path to the targets:

Now, we’ll allow that they have a helicopter, glider, or perhaps even a UAV for the overheads. But look at the next shot that’s intercut in the scene a few seconds later:

Obviously, that’s tight in on Jeff, waiting for Tom to bring it. But hold on a second. Look back at the frame above. Where is the camera that’s shooting Jeff?

Another: here are the next competitors, Annoying Girl 1 and Annoying Girl 2. First we see them headed out, upper left:

Then, a moment (30 frames, ~1 second) later, we’re in tight:

Two seconds (65 frames) after that, we’re overhead again (note the clear blue water, nothing is submerged except the device that launches the rings):

Obviously, time has elapsed between these shots; that’s the whole purpose of editing. That said, there is no chance in hell you could capture all of these, then get out of range of an overhead, all in one take while leaving no wake.

Which is why, again, I applaud the people behind the scenes. That includes the directors and producers who mandate the pretty shots, the camerapeople who capture them…

…and the body doubles who make it all possible.

2 Responses to “Amateur Actors Attack!”

  1. Dustin Says:

    It came out in one of the early seasons that the contestants have to leave behind their clothes so the body doubles can do more accurate aerial shots.

  2. jsp Says:

    Ack, really? How nasty does that sound?

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