504 Main by Holly Lefevre: Tales From Reality TV

8.18.2011

Tales From Reality TV

This has been a rough week so far.
So I am giving you a blast from the past....
I LOVE reality TV (sad, but true)
And once upon a time I was on a few shows (just once).
Here's my tale...

(this is not the couple in the story...they chose to remain anonymous)


For some background...It was the height of wedding craziness in L.A. Wedding planners were vying for top billing and over the top weddings. New bridal magazines were being published... and television shows developed on what seemed like a daily basis. In the email inbox was a constant flow of teasers for auditions. So, no, my tale is not one of taking my top off to date a has-been rock star or a middle aged (although HOT!) soap opera stud...my trashy reality show had much more tame content, but was trashy nonetheless.
How to Make a Beautiful Bride Ugly
In my ultra-glam life as a wedding planner in L.A., I was introduced to some casting directors at an industry event. They were there with a purpose, of course - casting a new reality show for a major cable channel. Armed with their video camera, the group was asking wedding planners "How would you plan a wedding for $5,000?" Apparently my charm and smart ass comment was a hit. Oh, you want to know my answer "Drive-thru McDonalds - a complete meal and a party favor - and call it a day."

Yes, that lovely answer got my foot in the door. By the time I auditioned for "The Show," I was feeling pretty confident. One of the casting directors had taken a liking to me (not that kind of a liking...he liked boys!). He told me what to wear, what they were looking for, and that I was one of the top four already. He even told me what my role was - they needed a stern but lavish planner, an eccentric male planner, and a best friend planner - that was to be me!

I arrived, portfolio in hand and looking oh so fabulous...only to be greeted by a waiting room of my peers. No worries - I had this in the bag (I really did). But, my oh my, let the snarky comments commence! The competition was fierce...seriously do not EVER underestimate the competitive nature of the wedding planner. After enduring hours of the planners worrying, wondering, invasive questions, and making flippant comments when the producers were in ear shot..."How would I ever find time to do this - you know with a baby and all?"..."Aren't you too booked with real weddings to handle one more gig?" "I thought you were moving?"...finally it was my turn to take the stage.

I make my video, meet with the producers, and in an instant I am being whisked into another room to talk money, time commitments, and meet with the writer (yes, people, reality shows have writers and producers encouraging certain "things" to happen.") What just happened here? Oh, I was hired! I am handed a contract that basically reads:


"You agree to work for two months on end, 24/7 and earn peanuts for pay...starting the day after tomorrow. We will call you at all hours of the night. You will provide us with any and all information you have collected through your years as a wedding planner. We will abuse you. You cannot tell anyone what you are doing. If you mess up, you owe us $1,000,000. Please sign and return this in twelve hours."

I am assigned a couple...a very cute, young, charming couple. The writer tells me to give her four scenarios and themes for "my couple" within the next two hours. OK, get real, this is L.A. - it will take that long just to get back to the office. They don't care - "This is Hollywood, baby!" I am to come back tomorrow to present the idea in person along with all vendors and props. I work all night, ignore my family, and shop for my props (spending my own $$).

In the morning, I chat...argue..with the writer (YES...reality shows have writers - IMAGINE!). It seems they don't really want a $5,000 wedding. They want a $50,000 wedding basically given to them for free by my contacts in the industry. They are, however, going to pass it off as a $5,000 wedding. They also ask me to "create conflict" and go against everything the couple has asked for. For example, my bride was modern and edgy - she was in a rock band - but she explicitly stated she wanted a white wedding dress. They refused to let me dress her in white...I could pick black, pink, or yellow. "Hello, I thought I was the planner?" I quickly learned that many reality shows don't necessarily want happy...they want drama, they want tears...anyway they can get it.

The next day, as I prepare to return for the second part of the audition, I get a phone call. Seriously, I am in my car driving north. The conversation goes something like this...
Producer: "No need to come in today."
Me: "Oh, are we rescheduling? I am totally ready."
Producer: "No, we won't be needing your services anymore."
Me: "May I ask why?"
Producer: "You ideas are not working for us."
*CLICK*
Me: "Hello..."

WTF! What just happened!? I am all kinds of ticked off...and sad...and totally bewildered. I was genuinely excited about this project and it turned into a big fiasco. Within the hour, I start getting phone calls from my industry contacts...all the ones I had provided them with. They had all been contacted by the show and been asked to participate. I must say, I have some pretty amazing wedding pals, because when they were told I was no longer working on the project, the said "No!" Yes, they ROCK!

So, yes, the show was produced, and it ran for two seasons. The wedding I was supposed to be a part of was just awful - they tried to implement many of my ideas - they even used my quote...they sucked at it! They even managed to turn one of the most beautiful brides - inside and out - into an ugly mess.(the photo above is NOT her).


After that I was on three to four other shows  - they are not all like the situation I describe above. Another wedding show I was a part of was lovely and the producers, etc. were fabulous to  work with (but they liked tears too - good or bad).

But wait...I was in a design-type situation on a show and that was a fiasco...maybe I should share that too?


So...do you love or hate reality TV?
If you love it, what's your favorite show?


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13 comments :

  1. I always love when you share your stories - you have such a way with words! It sounds like the truth is that there is not much reality in reality tv.

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  2. Great story! I'm not a bit surprised that the producers wanted you to create conflict, they seem to think viewers want nothing more than to see people arguing and crying.

    I do get sucked into reality shows from time to time. I'm a sucker for Survivor and Top Chef, especially.

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  3. I guess I knew reality shows were not quite as they seemed but had no idea of the intensity of the pressure and manipulation that occurs. Eye opening! I'll never watch them in the same way again.

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  4. GIrlfriend...share share share! This "backstage" look is so very interesting!! ...and I am DYING over here to know what show it is! Darn that million bucks!

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  5. I don't watch tons of reality, but enough to know it is NOT reality. Reality is mundane and boring. They do not want that.
    Wow! thanks for sharing this with us, and remember everything happens for a reason. I am so glad your contacts said "no way". they DO rock!
    I'm sorry it's a rough week, I hope it gets better.
    gail

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  6. How fun to read that story! I love the behind the scenes from reality TV. The best I can do is say that my family was on Family Feud many years ago. Before reality TV existed. :)

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  7. Wow, Holly! What a story! I'm not big on reality shows mostly because I know they make up the drama. But Projects Runway has been one of my favorite shows since I caught it in season 2. I'd love to hear more of your stories! I hope you week gets better. Big *hugs*!

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  8. This is so cool HOlly! How rude tho. I was watching Bachelor Pad and was thinking, this can not be that real. I met someone from the Biggest Loser once and they said the same thing. Ohh us gullible tv audience

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  9. I think I know what show you're talking about! You have such great stories to tell, Holly. I'm so glad you are sharing them! :>

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  10. I always heard that reality is typically scripted these days... Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes story. Wow.

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  11. What an interesting experience in retrospect. Such a mean show concept... to ruin someone's wedding! I think reality TV is entertaining & I watch a bunch of it. I've heard similar stories about how it's very scripted & the conflict is completely contrived.

    -caroline @ c.w.frosting

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  12. My daughter loves reality shows and has gotten me watching a couple. The one I don't like on principle is Four Weddings, because I feel like your wedding is one day you should NOT be competing with anyone. I'm so sorry for your bad experience, I guess it doesn't surprise me much, though. Hugs, Kim

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  13. holly, I remember that show...and I liked "parts" of it. But, wouldn't it have been better if they had let real experts go with what they know and give us great ideas! You should try out for design star, auditions soon. Love you girl, Lezlee

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