I bet a lot of us had daydreams about being part of a reality show—joining a singing contest like American Idol, entering the Big Brother House, or making it big on Starstruck as a teenager. But for me, personally, I've always been interested in what actually goes on behind the scenes! Do the producers really create—and fabricate—stories about the contestants for the sake of content? Is what we see on TV actually real? Are the voting systems legit?
Several years ago, I was obsessed with this American TV series called UnREAL. It told the story of a producer, Rachel (Shiri Appleby), who works for a popular dating show called Everlasting. After having an intense breakdown in the last season, Rachel is determined to prove herself and immediately gets to work manipulating the contestants and creating *drama* for the cameras! It totally shocked me and made me wonder about the reality show business in the Philippines.
I got to talk to Katrina*, who worked for a popular reality show in the Philippines as a multimedia producer for several months. She spilled deets about the job and made me realize that reality shows may be crazy, but they're not THAT crazy.
How did you get the job?
"I just saw the job listing for a multimedia producer online! I didn't think I would get in because I don't really have that much background when it comes to multimedia materials." Surprisingly, the hiring process was faster than she expected. She went to the job interview and the very next day, Katrina got a call and was offered the position!
How much of what is shown on TV is real?
According to Katrina, it's a hundred percent real! "We don't directly ask the contestants to do anything. But, there's what we call 'angles' and 'censorship.'" The contestants are just given tasks and are put in situations that might bring out their weaknesses or their "pangit na ugali." The show also tends to focus on some contestants more than the others, and that's what audiences get to see on TV.
How were the working hours? Did you get enough sleep?
Katrina says that her work in multimedia is okay and relatively ~chill~. As part of the production team, she coordinates with the video team, the research team, and the graphics team. "Since I worked for the multimedia part of the show, yung work hours ko, parang call center. It's common na afternoon na kami papasok and matatapos kami ng 12 midnight—that's the earliest. I usually worked for eight hours, but sometimes we have to extend and it becomes 10 or 12 hours. Fit na fit siya sa akin kasi I'm not a morning person."
When I asked if they're always on call, Katrina said: "Kailangan lagi nakabukas yung Viber namin, because that's where we communicate. Yes, we're always on call kasi when something important happens in the show, we need to create content about it."
What was the most fulfilling part about working for a reality show?
"It's one of the longest-ever reality shows in the Philippines, and I got to know the secrets behind it. That's fulfilling for me! Kami yung nauuna sa updates. Of course totoo yung voting system, but minutes or hours before the official announcement, alam na namin which contestant is going to leave the show. It's super fulfilling because hindi ko siya linya in the first place. Ang gusto ko talaga gawin is news and current affairs [at that time]."
"And feel ko nakaka-contribute ako sa happiness ng audience. Yung pino-produce namin na content, it creates traffic online! Pinag-uusapan siya and nagiging controversial siya. Nakikita ko naka-standby sila sa show, nagco-comment sila [sa posts], and gusto talaga nila pumunta sa set!"
What was the hardest part about working for a reality show?
Like any job, it has its downsides. Katrina shares, "Minsan, kapag maraming ganap, mahirap yung trabaho. For example, kapag start ng new season, we have to interview the new contestants, gagawan namin sila ng posts online, gagawa kami ng opening show."
But more than the stress, the hardest part for Katrina was dealing with people's expectations. "Habang tumatagal, dumadami yung expectations. Nag-iiba yung theme, nag-iiba the way we produce the content...Habang dumadami yung fans, habang tumataas yung ratings, tumataas yung expectations from the bosses, and most of all, from the audience. The audience is always asking, 'What's new?' They're always looking for more!"
Were you ever emotionally invested or attached to the contestants?
"Dapat talaga detached. Pero minsan, galit na galit ako when the screentime is always on one contestant. Paano naman yung iba? And when there's a contestant that I'm a fan of who gets [kicked out] of the competition, I get really sad. On the job, you can be a fan, but you can't actively campaign for a specific person. You can vote for them too, but you can't tell anyone. Ilagay mo lang sa isip mo na keep it to yourself na lang. You can't show bias to the audience. Kahit sa social media, siguro once lang ako nag-post about the show."
Did you read what other people were saying about your show online?
According to Katrina, it's a MUST, even if the feedback is negative. "Kailangan, for the sake of the show. Usually, marami kaming bashers when there's a contestant who gets ejected na they feel deserves to stay. We also get bashed when the audience thinks that the show is showing favoritism for a certain contestant."
What does the production team do about it? "'Di namin pinapansin. 'Di rin namin fini-filter. Okay lang na mag-comment sila, kasi pinapanood parin nila! They always say the show is scripted, but they STILL watch it. That's what's important."
*Name has been changed.
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