Baltimore Sun Sunday
Is your home cable-ready?
If you channel-surf through cable, the home renovation and real estate shows are hard to miss. Every day, all day long, viewers can watch somebody ripping out old bathroom tiles or turning a backyard into something that looks like it came from Versailles, France. Cameras follow consumers all over the globe as they stalk (and inevitably renovate) new places to live, from Burbank to Bosnia.
TV producers go through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of these homeowners each year. How do they get on these shows, anyway?
The answer — at least from the perspective of one of the cable channels, Home and Garden Television — is that they asked to participate. Of course, it’s not as quite simple as that, explains Kathleen Finch, senior vice president and general manager of HGTV:
Q: How do you get the attention of a producer if you think you have a home renovation project that’s Tv-worthy?
A: Our website, HGTV.COM, regularly lists which of our shows are casting for homeowners, and lists the general criteria each one is seeking. The criteria vary a lot. You ought to check back regularly, because that’s something that changes all the time. (On the site, go to the “On TV” tab near the top of the home page and click on the “Be on HGTV” link.)
Some of the shows are geographically limited — a number of them film only in the Los Angeles area. But we have shows in the works all over the country. Meg’s “Great Rooms,” for example, features Meg Caswell, who won our “Design Star” competition, and she’s casting in the Chicago area. We have a show coming in the spring called “Mom Caves” that’s shooting in the New York area. We have shows in Atlanta and based in Minneapolis. We’re really all over the place. It just has to do with what’s posted at a given time on our list.
Q: What makes a good candidate for participation in a show?
A: In terms of people, we’re looking for a combination of things. Obviously, we’re trying to cast shows in such a way that the living situation of the homeowners will be very relatable to our viewers. Our viewers like to see themselves reflected in the shows. We like scenarios and dilemmas that people can understand.
The secret is that you need somebody with a vibrant personality — they’re happy to be on camera, they find it fun and interesting to do. I’d want them to be able to articulate very well what’s wrong with their house or what they want done to their house. If you’re shy, you’re probably not going to come to the top of our list, but sometimes a makeover will be so compelling that we can work around somebody who may be quiet but isn’t going to freeze up in front of the camera.
Once you think you might be a candidate for a given show, pictures are the way to start — show us your space. If we’re interested, we will ask you for video. Not only are we looking at the room, but quite frankly, we’re looking at you. It comes down to: Are you somebody who America wants to watch on TV for half an hour?
You have to want to be on TV. You get this great makeover, but we also subject you to a bit of invasion of privacy.
Q: What about the homes themselves?
A: There are some construction constraints. You need a home that’s easy to shoot in, and you need a problem that can be fixed without months and months of time.
Q: Are the renovations free, that is, do the shows pay for the projects?
A: It runs the gamut. In some shows, we come in and we pay for everything. In others we are following along on a regularly scheduled renovation anyway. In some cases, we share costs with the homeowner. There is no hardand-fast rule.
Q: During the housing bubble, shows about buying homes popped up all over the place. Yet, even with the housing downturn, there seems to be no shortage of real estate shows. Wouldn’t you think that as the property market has waned, people’s interest in that topic would wane, too?
A: Oh, no, not at all. Much of our prime-time schedule still does involve real estate. Just because there may be fewer people buying and selling right now, it doesn’t mean that real estate doesn’t make great content for storytelling.
Look at decorating, for instance. We know that people aren’t going to decorate their living rooms every year, yet they watch our decorating shows over and over and over. People watch literally for information or just for entertainment.
It works the same with real estate shows — the opportunity to peek into people’s windows is pretty tempting and maybe even more so than it used to be. We’re still providing information. We may not be buying and selling as much as we were, but we’re learning to love the home we’re in, and make it the way we want it. In the real estate shows, you’re seeing a lot of images of people buying and selling beautiful homes, and people get ideas from those images.
We’re even expanding our real estate content. We have a number of them coming and others in development for next year. One that’s increasingly popular now is “The Property Brothers,” where we follow along as somebody buys a home and you see the renovation and decorating process afterward. That show works on a number of different levels. That show has done well, so we have shows in development for 2012 that also go through the whole process — we follow along as people get ready to sell their home, and they do the complete dance of which home to buy after they sell, and they worry, how am I going to time all of this?