The Realities of Reality TV: A Talk with the Writers Guild of America, East
Thursday, January 29 from 4-6pm
Gelman Library, Room 702
In reality television, hundreds of hours of footage are shot for a single episode. The resulting story is similar in its narrative structure to an episode of scripted television. Reality TV programs have a beginning, middle, and end, complete with character arcs, plots, conflict, and resolution. The difference between shows like Modern Family and Survivor is how the source material is generated. Reality writers don’t script each line for a professional actor to speak. Instead, these writers must use existing footage to work backwards from the ending in the most interesting way possible.
While reality television shows have quickly become popular with viewers and profitable for the networks, the writers who make these programs possible have not shared in the success. Unlike other television writers, most reality television programs are written without a union contract. As a result, these writers sometimes work long hours without health and pension benefits or minimum salary protections or residuals.
Non-Fiction Television Writers and Producers United, a project of the Writers Guild of America, East, is currently organizing those performing storytelling duties on non-fiction/reality TV shows in New York. Justin Molito, Director of Organizing for the WGA-East and non-fiction television writer and producer Joe Danisi, will discuss the realities of the non-fiction television industry in a panel moderated by GW Labor Archivist, Tom Connors.