Friday, June 22, 2012

Staged...Or On Stage?

Sometimes you need a change of venue to recharge, so last weekend I took a quick trip to Ascoli Piceno.  A friend offered her guest room, other friends emailed about a festa, and the lure of a couple of days back in the city of travertino was more than enough to pull me away from the computer.

My old "hometown" glistened in the sunlight, all geared up for summer and decked out with the mercato antiquariato.  I perused the stands and even bought a little rustic side table at a decent price.  Not as decent as it probably should have been - I suck at bargaining - but still, it's cute.  I hung out with friends, sipped aperitivi on the piazza and enjoyed surprising people I know with my un-unannounced presence.  It was while I was at the Festa of the Holy Thorn laughing with friends and munching on arrosticini that it hit me - it was exactly one year since I was there last...when we went while filming our episode of House Hunters International.  Time is a funny thing, my friends.  A year already?

Anyway.  It was also pointed out during that same week that a participant in the show had gone public and let loose the secret - that house purchases are already a done deal when the show is filmed.  She lamented that the producers wouldn't accept them until they closed on the house, and that the other two homes were actually friends' houses and not really homes for sale.

First of all, I'm sure you're shocked (shocked!) to learn that "reality TV" isn't totally "real".  But you already knew that, since you'd read all about our house buying adventure and *then* about the filming. I didn't reveal secrets, but those who follow the blog knew the order of things.

However.  I gotta say, I don't get her motivation.  She knew the ins and outs ahead of time; they talk you through the process before you sign the contract, so why did she participate if it bothered her?  Why didn't her realtor want to line up other listings to show?  Most of them clamor to be on it, as it gives them publicity. 

After it went all over the web, the headlines went from "staged" to "fake" as the buzzword for the show.  I'd like to chime in, having participated.  It's not "fake".  We went through a house hunting experience in a foreign country.  They contacted us about it, asking detailed questions to get our story.  And then once they ascertained that we were decent, upstanding and literate people, they asked us to recreate our story for the show.  I don't know about that participant, but our episode was a snapshot of our experience.  We tramped around town with the (then) mayor because there are no realtors in the villages (as seen on TV).  We saw a few other homes besides the one we chose (as seen on TV).  We debated the pros and cons of each (as seen on TV).  We were "on stage," if you will.  See the difference between "staged" or "faked" and "recreated"?

I don't know about your adventures in house hunting, but ours took months and we saw dozens of homes in two different regions.  I'm sorry, but no TV crew is going to follow us around for that length of time; a little *too* reality (and boring) for that.  It only made sense to us that the field had to be narrowed and that it was done; it would be a waste of everyone's time if the deal fell through at the last minute or the buyers didn't choose any of the homes. 

As for lining up the other two homes, yes, we had to do that part as the production company comes in just for the filming.  They don't know which homes you've spent the last several months viewing; you do.  So yep, we lined up the homes.  Both of which we had really seen; one of which we considered fairly seriously (it's still on the market, by the way, just in case you're looking). 

We had a great time during the filming, and while they cut out lots of great scenes of our area and friends, we realized they had to cut 4 days of filming into 23 minutes.  Our one complaint:  somewhere in the editing they mixed up some scenes, so some locations were labled as "Trivigno" when they were shot in Ascoli Piceno; some said "Ascoli Piceno" when they were streets in my ancestral village of Anzi.  Not sure if that happened after the guys had knocked back a few beers, or someone in the editing room got the notes mixed up.  But overall, speaking from our filming, it was a positive experience, we had fun, and everyone who saw our episode said it was entertaining.  And in the end, isn't that TV is supposed to be?


Anne said...

You would think most people already knew how tv really worked, it is NOT really much of a secret!!! I loved your line... "a little *too* reality" I instantly had a mental picture of someone following me around with a camera filming my "Italian dream"- days filled with cooking, laundry, cleaning. Rince and repeat. Way TOO reality! HA! I enjoy reading your blog a lot and it would not bother me a bit to find out the whole thing was staged!!!

Laura said...

I faithfully read your blog and I enjoyed your interview on "Eye On Italy."

This post was interesting because, although I assumed the the program was not exact, or "real," I did wonder how they put it all together in a way that was reflective of each participant's experience.

As for the house that is still for sale...hmmm...intriguing!

Diana and Guido said...

I discovered House Hunters International AFTER we had already purchased our Italian dream house, but that didn't stop me from becoming a total addict. I loved it.
I also knew it was fake. A smart person can tell.. So I was less interested in seeing the "choice" scene than I was snooping in all those houses. Loved it. Haven't seen any of it since we moved to Calabria.

My opinion is that they could "tweak" the show to be less fake. I won't waste my brain cells figuring out how, but they could, I'm sure...while keeping the fun of it.

Valerie said...

Yeah, I know! Who really thinks it isn't staged?! Do they also think The Bachelor is for real?! Like I said, it's real because it recreated our story, but it is made for TV and therefore we had to do several takes and camera angles, etc. But, as Diana says, it's fun to from a voyeurism standpoint, to see what houses are like in other places. The formula could be tweaked - I personally think they do too much recapping and the draw out the decision scene too much. The director wanted to do more landscapes and "life" scenes in our village, but in the end the formula won out, I guess.

Laura - it's a good price, and the owner has agreed to finish the work in the rustic kitchen as part of the deal!

Anne - Exactly, hanging out laundry and sweeping the dust bunnies isn't what most people think of when they hear we live in Italy! ha

Judith in Umbria said...

I like a little more from non-fiction, frankly.

Italy in 2015 said...

Count us in the voyeur pack! We love seeing the different types of houses and the beautiful little towns. I don't care about the show being staged. In fact, it was an episode of HHI in Italy that gave us the big idea of planning our retirement there...1160 days to go!

Valerie - how many bedrooms in your "runner up" house? We've seen your episode...our tastes and budgets are very much the same!

janie said...

I enjoyed the show even though I knew the sequence of events! I still like seeing new countries and what the homes there look like and how they are priced.

Italy in 2015 said...

Oh whoa! Places everyone! Places! Wait a dog-gone minute! Is the apartment overlooking the piazza still available? Gosh, I loved that place. That is exactly what we envision us living in....sigh.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Yes television is for entertainment. Your experience was a good one but I have also come across someone else that had a bad experience. I think like everything else in life these things work both ways.