VIEWS: 24 PAGES: 3 CATEGORY: Social Sciences POSTED ON: 6/22/2010
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.
the nonlinear editor 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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