A group of 150 current and recent writers, producers, and associate producers working at reality TV producer Sharp Entertainment filed today for an National Labor Relations Board election to join the Writers Guild of America East. They seek to establish basic standards including health care, minimum rates, overtime compensation, grievance procedures, and fair credits. The union-seekers are staffers at Sharp’s Pawn Stars, Doomsday Preppers, Fatal Encounters and other programs. Sharp’s hit nonfiction shows include Property Wars and Man Vs. Food. “We’ve come to see union representation and collective bargaining, both at Sharp Entertainment and throughout the industry, as our best chance at building sustainable careers. [A] strong majority of producers and APs working at Sharp Entertainment have now signed union cards designating the WGAE as our collective bargaining agent,” organizers wrote in an open letter.
Earlier this month, I wrote about gymnastics as a possible new frontier for celebrity competition shows, and about buzz that the BBC was readying such a project. The broadcaster has now made it official, commissioning Let’s Get Ready To Tumble. The show will air live in Saturday primetime and feature British celebs teamed with international gymnasts to tackle what are being described as “never-before-seen, new-to-TV disciplines.” The announcement could mean there will soon be two celebrity gymnastics formats in the international arena. I recently reported that CORE Media is developing Celebrity Champions in the U.S., an original format that sees former Olympians coach celebrities and has Mary Lou Retton attached as anchor judge. CORE is currently talking to U.S. networks.
Shed Media US, the stateside arm of the British TV production company backed by Warner Bros. International TV, is beefing up its US development team. Dan Snook has been hired as Senior Vice President, Development after serving as SVP …
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s conference coverage.
A group of cable network execs and producers shared their views on the ever-evolving reality TV landscape and how the sales game is changed this afternoon during a Produced By panel sponsored by Deadline Hollywood and entitled, “Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be: Selling Nonfiction Television.” “You used to be able to sell a show off of paper; you didn’t need tape,” recalled Stephanie Drachkovitch, a principal in 44 Blue Productions. “That’s much harder to do now. Also, what would have been a brilliant idea three years ago doesn’t make the bar. It’s not big enough, it’s not loud enough, it’s not gonna move the needle, it’s not gonna break through.” The reason for needing bigger and noisier programming ideas, she believes, is the sheer number of networks and venues doing original reality program content and vying for eyeballs. A&E’s Senior VP of Talent and Production Neil Cohen agreed that it takes a lot more juice for an idea to get sold and gain traction than it did even a couple of years ago. “It’s much more competitive and the expectations are much higher,” he said. “It used to be enough to enough to put a very primitive team together to sell to people like us. Now there’s the expectation that we’ll get a sense of the tone and storytelling style in the concept in the sizzle tape.”
Producers JD Roth and Todd Nelson are among the defendants in a wrongful death complaint filed today. They join Van Nuys Copters, Crossbow Helicopters, Orbic Air and several others in the filing (read it here) by Jerie S. Rydstrom, mother of deceased cameraman Darren Rydstrom. He, pilot David Gibbs and cast member Michael Donatelli were killed when their helicopter crashed early on February 10 during filming of a Discovery Channel reality show.
The trio died after being thrown from the copter in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton. They were shooting a then untitled military show being produced for Discovery Channel by Roth and Nelson’s Eyeworks USA (formerly 3 Ball Prods.). The partners have served as EPs on Biggest Loser as well on other reality series such as Splash and the recently returned Extreme Weight Loss. The suit alleges that pilot Gibbs was not “competent, qualified and sufficiently informed for the flight” for a scene for the show. “As a direct result of the negligent and careless conduct of the above-named defendants, and each of them, Plaintiffs decedent, Darren Arthur Rydstrom, suffered injuries that proved to be fatal”.
The February 10 helicopter crash that killed three men on the set of an upcoming Discovery Channel reality TV show occurred while the crew was prepping to film a nighttime maneuver, according to a …
3RD UPDATE: All three victims of the helicopter crash have now been officially identified: pilot David Gibbs, 59, of Valencia; cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 45, of Whittier; and cast member Michael Donatelli, 45, of Indiana, PA. Donatelli’s background is unclear, though there is a former elite Special Forces Army officer-turned-private contractor by that name listed in Indiana, PA.
2ND UPDATE: The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office would not release the identities of the victims pending notification of next of kin but multiple sources identified the pilot as 59-year-old David Gibbs, owner of Crossbow Helicopters, the company the permit was issued to; and one of the passengers as Darren Rydstrom, 45, an experienced camera operator and DP.
UPDATED: The 3 died in a helicopter crash while filming a new reality TV series in California. The yet untitled military show is being produced for Discovery Channel by JD Roth and Todd Nelson’s Eyeworks USA (formerly 3 Ball Prods.), whose credits include NBC’s The Biggest Loser.
The makers of hot cable show Duck Dynasty have just cashed out. British television giant ITV announced today that it’s expanding its U.S. production arm ITV Studios America with the acquisition of Gurney Productions. ITV is paying $40 million for a 61.5% controlling stake in Gurney Productions, best known for Duck Dynasty as well as Auction Hunters, American Digger and Haunted Collector. ITV also has a put and call option to buy the remaining 38.5% which can be exercised from 3 to 5 years after the initial deal. “Gurney Productions is a high margin business with three quarters of its revenues coming from returnable series. The company’s EBITA for 2012 is forecast to be at least $10M,” ITV said Saturday. Gurney Productions will report directly to Paul Buccieri, Managing Director of ITV Studios International and President/CEO of ITV Studios America. Further, Gurney Productions’ revenues will be included in ITV Studio’s international revenues starting in 2013. Sources said the maximum total consideration payable by ITV is $111M, depending on the performance of Gurney Productions over the next 3 to 5 years and payable only if Gurney continues to deliver significant growth. ITV Studios America already produces
Syfy has added a trio of new reality programming to its line-up for next year. It was announced today that Ghost Mine, Stranded and Notorious Hauntings would premiere on the network in early 2013. “Each of these series takes a …
Darin Frank has become a partner in the Beverly Hills entertainment law firm of Sloane Offer Weber and Dern LLP. Specializing in unscripted television, the attorney’s clients include Sally Ann Salsano’s 495 Productions, producers of MTVs Jersey Shore, Gay Rosenthal Productions, producers of TLC’s Little People, Big World, Jeff Lewis from Bravo’s Flipping Out as well as the rest of the cast of that show and the channel’s Interior Therapy. He also reps the cast of History Channel’s Pawn Stars, the cast of Animal Planet’s Call Of The Wild and the cast of Discovery Channel’s The Devils Ride, among others. Frank’s addition to SOWD is immediate.
Ray Richmond is a contributor to AwardsLine
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has received a lot of criticism from the TV industry over the past decade for the way the Emmys have dealt with the explosion in reality and unscripted programming. Primary among the gripes are the fact there are too few categories, too many contenders, and too much of a one-size-fits-all framework.
“Everything is simply too lumped together for Emmy consideration,” charges one reality producer. “You’re putting Jersey Shore in the same category as Storage Wars. It makes zero sense.”
In defense of the academy, it hasn’t been easy keeping up with all of the sub-categories and sub-genres that have evolved since the unscripted boom began. And as primetime has changed, it’s worked to keep up. It added the Outstanding Reality Program category in 2001, Reality-Competition Program in 2003 and Reality Host in 2008. That’s in addition to categories honoring top Nonfiction Series and Nonfiction Special.
Related: EMMYS: Reality Competition Overview
And in May, the TV Academy’s Board of Governors voted to approve the creation for the first time of a Reality Peer Group. The move “speaks volumes for the academy’s sense of importance and critical mass that reality has achieved as an industry,” believes John Leverence, the academy’s longtime senior VP of awards.
The denigration aimed at the academy over how it groups and measures reality programming remains a hot button for Leverence. He stresses that the notion that there isn’t a depth of commitment to adequately recognizing the unscripted world is “a misperception. Going back to honoring Arnold Shapiro for Scared Straight in 1979, there’s been a presence and a place within the Emmy Awards for reality programming.”
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has learned that the three Nelson Mandela granddaughters who will star in their own reality show slated for next year will be making the pitch rounds at the U.S. networks beginning Monday. Rick Leed, the former president of Wind Dancer Production Group (Home Improvement) and who created and executive produced the E! reality series Dr. 90210 for six seasons, is the American producing partner on the series. It’s being distributed internationally and carries the title Being Mandela. The three central characters are Dorothy Adjoa Amuah, 27; her first cousin, Swati Diamini, 32; and Swati’s older sister, 34-year-old Zaziwe Diamini-Manaway (or “Z” for short). All three are granddaughters of Nelson, now 93, who will not participate in the show, nor will any of the womens’ parents. However, Mandela’s grandson Kweku Mandela is another of the producing partners. Leed said this week that the show — scheduled to start shooting in December and debut early next year — is drawing significant interest from “all of the top-tier cable players” including TLC, USA, A&E, Lifetime, Oxygen, E!, TNT, TBS and Bravo. “We’ll be in L.A. taking a very intense round of meetings with broadcasters next week,” he says. “It’s a very competitive situation and a very hot show.” He added that the show already has sold throughout Africa but not yet anywhere in Europe.
Parents beware: Tween and teen-aged girls who watch lots of reality TV “accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance,” according to a national survey conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute for a report Real To Me: Girls And Reality TV. Reality TV watchers are more likely than non-watchers to believe that “gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls” (78% vs 54%), that “girls often have to compete for a guy’s attention” (74% vs 63%), and that girls are happier when they have a boyfriend or significant other (49% vs 28%). Reality TV watchers also focus more on their physical appearance (72% vs 42%). ”Girls today are bombarded with media — reality TV and otherwise — that more frequently portrays girls and women in competition with one another rather than in support or collaboration,” says Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Developmental Psychologist, Girl Scouts of the USA. ”This perpetuates a ‘mean-girl’ stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls. We don’t want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them, along with their parents, to know what they are getting into when they watch it.”