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extreme makeover: home ADDICTION

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ABC's Extreme Makeover maintains a tight seal of secrecy around its shows in advance of the taping; even after the producers set their sites on a region and narrow down their list of families who may benefit from their largesse to five, the family they do choose doesn't find out until the day that taping begins. The mission of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was to rebuild -- in 7 days, with all-volunteer labor and donated materials -- the too-small, decaying home of Suffield's 13-member Hill family into a residence that was both big enough to accommodate that many people and safe, healthy, and comfortable as well.

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extreme makeover:
home ADDICTION
t      he gig came in shrouded in secrecy, with little to go
       on besides the acknowledgment that it was going to
       be demanding, pro bono work, tempered by the
confident assurance of a good friend: “This is something
you’re gonna wanna do.”
   It was—and how. Five-time EventDV 25 all-star Steve
Fowler of VideoExperts and Steven Fowler Films describes
the most ambitious and exhausting project of his award-
riddled 25-year career—the behind-the-scenes film he shot
of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in June 2009—
as “Extreme Makeover: Home Addiction.” An addiction is
exactly what the project became, not just for Fowler and          On Pecoy’s recommendation—and after realizing that the
his crew but also for the entire community of Suffield,         recession-era summer of 2009 was the rare wedding season
Conn., which delivered 4,000 volunteers to 7 exhausting         when business was slow enough to allow him the flexibility
days of ’round-the-clock home building in the region’s          to do pro bono work—Fowler took the job. And he was glad
rainiest June on record. And get this: With only 2,500 jobs     he did because, for all its TV trappings, this was a great
to go around, 1,500 of those willing volunteers actually had    project—and a great community project at that. The mission
to be turned away.                                              of this edition of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was to
   If this sounds to you like a Woodstock for the Aughts, you   rebuild—in 7 days, with all-volunteer labor and donated
couldn’t be more wrong—more than anything, this was a           materials—the too-small, decaying home of Suffield’s 13-
week of work. If, on the other hand, it sounds to you like a    member Hill family into a residence that was both big
gut-check version of the rousing, Amish-country barn-           enough to accommodate that many people and safe, healthy,
raising scene in the ’80s Harrison Ford thriller Witness,       and comfortable as well.
you’re not far off—just imagine it a couple states removed,       But Fowler also soon found out exactly what Pecoy
with a different ethnic mix, more difficult weather             meant by documenting “what really happens”—and, more
conditions, and two camera crews.                               to the point, how “what really happens” would differ from
   And how did Fowler and camera crew No. 2 get involved?       what ABC’s version of events would portray. Fowler quickly
Fowler had shot not one but two weddings for the family of      got a crash course in the surrealism of reality TV.
Kent Pecoy, founder of Pecoy Signature Homes. After               For one thing, Fowler discovered that the hosts of these
Pecoy’s company had signed on to spearhead the remodeling       shows are, first and foremost, actors. They don’t build, and
effort for Extreme Makeover’s northern Connecticut              they don’t remodel. If you see the host finish sanding the leg
episode, Pecoy tapped Fowler to shoot a behind-the-scenes       of a table on camera, odds are that’s all he’s done to it. And
film of the project.                                            the interviews the hosts do with the show’s subjects are
   Extreme Makeover maintains a tight seal of secrecy           anything but reality-based; Fowler notes one instance in
around its shows in advance of the taping; even after the       which the show’s producer pulled host Ty Pennington aside
producers set their sites on a region and narrow down their     during an interview with the mother of the Hill family and
list of families who may benefit from their largesse to five,   said, “We’re not getting what we want here; we need her to
the family they do choose doesn’t find out until the day that   cry,” and Pennington turned on the emotion and got exactly
taping begins. All Pecoy told Fowler was that ABC would         what his producer had asked for. From one side of the
need a behind-the-scenes production team for “Project           camera, this kind of manipulation is obviously a little too
701,” that the s
								
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