Tell Me Everything: What It's Like to Work In Reality TV, According to a A Co-Executive Producer

Welcome to Tell Me Everything — an anonymous, week-in-the-life diary that gives you a candid look at various jobs across industries — where we chat with real women about what actually happens in their day. It isn’t always glamorous, but it is always interesting. 

This week, we chat with a Reality Television Co-Executive Producer, who specializes in female-driven reality shows. 

The Basics

Current title: Co-Executive Producer 
Previous titles: Supervising Producer, Field Producer
College major: English, American Studies
Starting salary: $35,000 in 2010
City: Los Angeles

How I landed here: 
For as long as I can remember, watching television has been my favorite activity. So when it came time for me to figure out what my life would look like after college, I started looking for opportunities to make my favorite pastime my career. Since no one teaches “AP Television" in high school and Cornell (where I went) definitely doesn't offer a course in Reality TV 101, I used my summers to build my resume with several unpaid internships at television shows and production companies in New York City. Every contact I made in the industry was invaluable because each one had the potential to lead to a future job. I landed my first gig in television through a friend and alum who was a few years older than I, who submitted my resume for an entry-level Production Assistant position on a New York City-based daytime talk show. For about three years, I worked on various talk shows and climbed the ladder to the Producer title. But my heart has always been in reality television and I've been a die-hard fanatic of the genre since middle school, so I set my sights on branching out of the talk show world and into the reality sphere. Since that time, I've worked on shows for networks like Bravo, E!, and TLC and have made a home for myself as a reality television producer who specializes in female-driven programming.

Job description: 
Though every show and production is different, a Co-Executive Producer in reality television is typically the "number two” in the chain of command, behind the Showrunner or Executive Producer. I spend several months at a time away from home and in the field, wherever the show I'm on happens to take place. I work directly with the cast to help them convey their real lives in a compelling way … on national television. I also work directly with a team of camera operators, sound mixers, and other producers to make sure we are properly capturing the moments we need to tell real stories. Additionally, I work closely with the post-production team, who watch all of the footage and with the editors, to make sure the stories covered on location translate properly into the episodes you see when they air on television. 

A Week in the Life

Monday: 
I’m in a weekly meeting in the production office in the field (any city that isn't LA where I live). Talk through the current status of upcoming filming and have my weekly call with the network that will ultimately air the show to fill them in on how things are going.

Tuesday through Saturday: 
Morning
The shoot day begins! My team of field producers spearhead on-camera conversations between the cast, with their families, etc. and we all discuss what happened in each one. 

Midday 
Throughout the week, I'll go back and forth to the set to gauge what content we're getting from cast and make sure all of the stories we're telling have a beginning, middle, and end. As new and real developments and changes happen on the fly (as they always do), I also manage a team of producers who are office-based and are responsible for securing locations for us to film. Typically, these are places the cast actually frequents and enjoys. These producers are called Segment Producers or Talent Producers.

Evening 
Connect with the producers who have been out on set all day (called Field Producers) and make sure we are all on the same page with any new developments. The Field Producers write summaries of what they shot that day so that everyone at the production company and the network is aware of what content we're getting.

One to two days per week:
Conduct cast interviews or confessionals, in which cast members comment on how they're feeling in the moments we've filmed. These are the talking head style commentary you see in many current shows. 

So, You Want to Be a Reality TV Producer?

The biggest misconception:
The biggest misconception about my job is that all reality television is fake. Not all reality TV is fake! Every show is different, but the majority of the shows I have produced are completely authentic and real. How does this happen? The genius is in the casting process and making sure that you are signing on real, dynamic people who are totally on board to showcase their real lives — good, bad, or ugly. It's not for everyone, but every talent I've ever worked with has their own, individual reasons for wanting to put their life on display. 

My advice to you: 
Climbing the ladder from Production Assistant to Associate Producer, to Segment/Talent Producer, to Field Producer, to Supervising Producer, to Co-Executive Producer, to Showrunner/Executive Producer, is a long journey. If making television isn't something you're truly passionate about, it may not be worth the grind. Although the paychecks definitely get better with each and every promotion, the lifestyle isn't an easy one. But if you absolutely love television like I do, that love for what you're working on will be enough to keep you motivated and interested in the work you're doing. I've missed birthdays, weddings, and basically every July 4th since I graduated college in order to capture breaking moments in the lives of my cast, but it's been the right choice for me because I can't imagine missing them. Of course you don't miss everything in your personal life, but this is definitely not your typical 9-to-5 job. But if it's what you love to do, the work doesn't feel like a chore and it is so much fun.