September 07, 2008

My Reality TV Experience

Here's an excerpt from a post a day before I left for Joni and Friends camp so you know what I'm talking about.

Joni - like Eareckson Tada, Joni - called the local Joni and Friends office from California last week and they are sending the media team to do a video highlighting short term missionaries. So they asked if I would be a part of it because I'm new. I said, "Sure!" Little did I know what they really meant! It's not just a small interview like I thought... it will be in a reality tv format and I'm the main character! Hmmmmm... should be interesting! It's actually gotten quite comical as we little nobodies communicate with the California office. I've never had a producer call me before! Ha! They'll be there when we pull in until when we pull out. It's called "No nerves!" So I guess I'd better not be nervous. The director passed on a message that said, "Just be yourself." Well, that's all I've got, so maybe I'll come out okay.
So, how was it? Very interesting! (Here's the post about my week at camp, reality tv aside!) I arrived before the camera crew, and when they got there an hour later, the craziness began. They were a crew contracted by Joni and Friends to do their tv show. Franklin Films is owned by Ken Carpenter. In some random conversation I found out they produced Amy Grant's Dove award winning DVD from last year, some Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W Smith stuff as well. Boy, were they in for a surprise with me! I'm not too refined in case you don't know me.

They were not only there for me, but to focus as well on the director of a local Joni and Friends office. She had some interview time as well, and there were two camera guys, so there was definitely some time where they were elsewhere. The focus of the part involving me was Family Retreat from the Perspective of a First Time STM (Volunteer). That involved my anxiety, excitement, preparation, training, joy, sadness, victory, and exhaustion.

First I reenacted my arrival in Darlene's van. I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I was driving in (a van I'd never driven with very sensitive brakes - made Mark fall against the dash from his precarious position on the edge of his seat once!), pensively, while answering questions posed by the director behind me (and trying to rephrase his question as part of my answer), with a camera pointing at me from the passenger seat. And be natural! Ha! Thankfully, we got through the reenacting part (I am totally not an actor) quickly and moved on to just being myself. That I can handle.

Joel (Jo ell), Me and Mark
There was a director and his three boys along as well, but they left before we had a chance to get to the camera.

My camera friends usually showed up at devotions each day before 8 AM and stayed around until my camper crashed each night around 9 or so. I did have a free time break for a couple of hours each afternoon, and boy did I need that, though not necessarily because of the cameras! (I went straight for my chocolate stash, my Bible and Bible Study, and my phone, unfortunately in that order.) Other than that daily break, I had a mic on me virtually all the time. Even if they weren't recording at a particular moment, they could still hear my voice in their ear. (Actually, it would be very handy to have this for Jacob sometimes!) So basically, my "friends" followed me around the whole time. I'm sure they turned their volume down. I can't imagine listening to me all day long! And I did have a mute button for potty trips or a few girl talk moments. :)

We did some formal interviewing where we chose the background and I pretended the camera was not there, then some interviews where it was much less formal and I spoke more directly to the camera. The interviews got easier as I went along too. I definitely fumbled my way through many of the questions. Thankfully they have a lot to choose from! Other than the interview time, I just got used to having a camera or two hanging around.

Katherine was intrigued by some video Mark had shot of her while at the rifle range.

It was a little odd, especially when I knew they were there, but I got used to ignoring them. There was one time that I had my head bowed for prayer. You know how you sense when someone is looking at you?? So I opened one eye and one of the cameras was less than 18 inches from my face. Try not laughing out loud at that one!

Overall, I would say it was a great experience. Once the director and his kids went home, Mark and Joel ate with our little group most of the time, so we got to know them too. I think I surprised them by asking questions about them, but I have to work at not talking to people, so I said if they were going to sit with us, Michelle (my camper's mom) and I assumed they were going to engage! As far as I was concerned, they were more friendships to be made, camera crew or not. They just became a part of our little camp family by the end and seemed to enjoy being included. I was glad to have gotten to know them. They're two great guys.

Michelle, Mark, Katherine, Claire, Joel, Me
Our Joni and Friends 2008 Family Group!

Two frustrations I had: Some people avoided me when the cameras were near. Some people still stuck around, and as the days went on others came closer, but the filming was definitely a hindrance for some people (though not because the camera crew was insensitive at all). Thankfully there was plenty of relaxed partying in our girls cabin when they weren't around! I also didn't want people to think I was doing anything differently for the cameras in a performing sort of way. I certainly would have done everything the same (well, except that I don't normally reenact things!), and thankfully the situation was one where I felt very comfortable (being around the special needs population), so it really was natural. I just had to decide that the Lord knew my heart and I couldn't worry about the rest. And that making this DVD was serving Joni and Friends in a different way in the long run.

The show will air in the Spring. That's all I know. And surely I'll get a free copy of it! (In case you're interested, here's Joni's tv website where you can watch other episodes online.) It will be interesting to watch my 5 days of camp summarized in a 30 minute segment! I know their goal isn't to spin it a certain way, but it will be interesting to see how situations look when only a 10 second snippet is shown. I'm certainly curious to see how it turns out!

I ended the experience as I began it. Driving Darlene's van "alone." Except this time I had Krystal and Caroline with their heads between their knees behind me. And Darlene's head was in my lap! That is some good girlfriend bonding, let me tell you! The camera guys were filming my departure (from outside the car this time) and we were all in the van laughing hysterically! I actually had to stop driving because I was laughing so hard, though I'm certain it was a "you just had to be there" moment that was exponentially funnier because we were so exhausted. I do know at least 4 other people in this world think it was funny.

So there you have it. My few days as a reality tv subject. I'll let you know when it's airing in case you're curious. I'm sure interested to watch it!

Editing to update a few years later:
I thought I'd include a direct link to the episode for ease in case you're interested.


Dan and Marcy said...

How great is that, Liss?! I do hope they produce the eye-opening prayer! I'm so glad you are doing what the Lord has set before you, it's wonderfully encouraging... xoxo, M

Matt said...

I was rolling at your comment, "try not laughing out loud at that one." That's hysterical...I SO hope they show that on the video...but I'm not banking on it.
Really cool experience Lissa.