Whether they're a guilty pleasure you openly profess your love for or something you try to hide at all costs, reality TV shows are here to stay.
Either way, you know you've imagined how your life would play out on TV once or twice. I just had the chance to take this fantasy a step further and talk to a real studio about putting my life on the big screen (OK, the somewhat smaller screen) in homes across the nation.
I have a semi-large Twitter following on my account where I tweet about my life as an entrepreneur, and I occasionally tweet about food. (OK, if we're being "real" here, I tweet about food a lot.) I was contacted by several media companies within a few weeks. I later learned this timing was due to the fact that production companies have to replace failed pilots with new shows on a tight timeline.
One production company in particular stuck out because of its work with several well-known shows on TLC, HGTV and Food Network. I did as much research as possible to make sure this wasn't a scam, that it didn't want any money upfront and that it just wanted to film a sizzle reel, no strings attached.
When all signs pointed to the production company being legit, I decided that, if I was going to do this, it would be a lot more fun with my family (my mom, my two younger brothers and my sister). After building our own house together seven years ago from the ground up, we've already created a family brand around not being average.
But even my not-so-average family was not ready for the things we would be exposed to while filming a reality TV sizzle reel. We learned a few things in the process of filming, and they are four things anyone filming a sizzle reel needs to be prepared for.
1. They'll stalk you on the Internet.
I expected the production company to look through my Twitter account and even my family members' accounts. There is nothing like a review of your social media posts to reveal some weird things about your entire circle.
Producers are looking for something out of the ordinary, so any slightly weird thing you've done is like a red cloth at a bull fight. But, it's harder than you'd think to guess which tweets or blog posts a producer will narrow in on. Be ready to talk about anything you (or anyone else) has ever posted about you online.
2. Get ready to be uncomfortable.
Reality TV producers are not afraid to ask anything. After quick introductions that included our names, ages and professions, we got right into our family's background story of leaving a traumatic domestic violence situation.
We then jumped right into our day-to-day schedules, family dynamics and other questions that Emily Post would slap your hand for asking at a dinner party. You cannot be afraid to offend family members during these questions. After all, isn't offending family members one of the highlights of reality TV?
3. Your weirdest hang-ups will be put in the spotlight.
There is literally nothing off-limits. Because the purpose of a reality show is to accentuate different lifestyles, you will inevitably realize what things make you strange.
The producer was especially interested in my younger sister, who had previously lived in a tent in the woods with her dog, while volunteering at a homestead in the Ozark Mountains. When you hear your sister being asked, “So, do you still live in a tent?” you cannot help but realize how truly reality-TV-worthy your family's life is.
4. You must keep all answers down to 30 seconds.
The hardest part of filming a sizzle reel is keeping all of your answers short. Try to think in sound bites that will accentuate shock value. The networks watch a ton of pitches, so sizzle reels have to be short, and this means short answers that are easy to edit down into a story. The best way to keep it short is to go in with a very specific focus for your show, and practice a few key sentences that pack a big punch.
After the cameras stop rolling, prepare to feel overwhelmed. The idea of sharing your day-to-day life with the world is a little more stressful when there's a legitimate chance it will become reality. There's even a chance you'll change your mind and want to keep your life a quiet experience for you and your thousands of closest Twitter friends.
You won't see the Brookins family on your TV this year, but we still haven't decided what the future holds for our family. Until then, we'll enjoy catching up with our favorite reality show families from the comfort of our own couch. And occasionally, after something terrible or wonderful happens in our real life, we'll totally dissect it to see how spectacular it would have been on reality TV.