Troy DeVolld is an Emmy nominated Supervising Producer of reality television. Some of his credits include The Osbournes, The Surreal Life, Dancing With the Stars, Basketball Wives, among many more. Also a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Nonfiction Writers Caucus of the WGA West, DeVolld has shared his experience by lecturing on the genre around different schools and seminars, and is also the author of Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market.
If you visit my blog consistently, you probably know by now that I enjoy researching trends on this rapidly growing genre and writing about some of the shows I watch. As someone who aspires to someday be a part of great shows, it was my pleasure to read Troy’s book and learn from his experience. The book does an outstanding job giving detailed information on the three stages of production, the genres among the genre, history, and advices for getting out there.
I reached out to Troy and I feel honored to include a Q&A on this blogpost. I hope you find it interesting and don’t forget to get your copy of the book by clicking here. It is eye opening in a humorous way, and if you’re considering working in this field, it gets you even more excited to do so. Beth Bohn, a talent and literary agent from Bohn Management says it is “A ‘must read’ tool for anyone considering a career in this genre.”
What motivated you to write the book and what was your biggest learning experience while working on it?
I WAS TIRED OF GOING INTO BOOKSTORES AND FINDING 50 BOOKS ON SCREENWRITING AND NOTHING ON REALITY TV PRODUCTION. IT'S A HUGE MARKET, AND MUCH EASIER TO CRACK THAN SCREENWRITING, SO I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE A SORT OF HANDBOOK FOR THE GIG.
THANKFULLY, MY PAL RIC VIERS (AUTHOR OF “THE SOUND EFFECTS BIBLE”) AGREED, AND INTRODUCED ME TO MY PUBLISHER, MICHAEL WIESE, AND HIS RIGHT HAND GUY, THE AWESOME KEN LEE.
Which shows do you prefer watching and working on? Competition or docu-series?
IT REALLY DEPENDS ON THE SHOW. I'VE HAD LOADS OF FUN ON BOTH SIDES OF THAT DIVIDE, AS WELL AS SOME PRETTY STRESSFUL FLOP EFFORTS. DOCU-SERIES, WHEN IT'S GOOD, IS THE GREATEST.
What is the biggest mistake you see being made by people who are barely starting in the industry? How can this be avoided?
EVERYBODY WANTS TO COME IN AS A CREATOR. WHEN YOU'RE JUST STARTING OUT AND HAVE NO CREDITS, IT'S REALLY TOUGH TO GET PEOPLE ENROLLED IN YOUR IDEAS. NOT THAT IT DOESN'T HAPPEN, BUT IF YOU PUT IN THE TIME, IT'S MUCH EASIER TO GET MEETINGS FIVE OR TEN YEARS INTO A CAREER WHEN YOUR RESUME IS PACKED OUT. LIKE ANYTHING ELSE, "START AT THE BOTTOM" IS SOUND ADVICE. AGAIN, ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE. I'LL NEVER SAY YOU CAN'T DO SOMETHING.
What is your biggest accomplishment or highlight of your career?
I'M VERY PROUD OF THE TV WRITERS SUMMIT LECTURES I'VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS. VERY FEW PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT OR TEACHING REALITY TV PRODUCTION, AND WE'VE BEEN VERY WELL RECEIVED SO FAR.
You've been working on reality television for a little over a decade. How has the genre changed these past ten years with the addition of social media and advances in technology?
IT'S FUNNY IN THAT THERE'S SO MUCH EXTRA STUFF TO DELIVER. “BASKETBALL WIVES” HAS AT LEAST TWO EXTRA SCENES OR ADDITIONAL CONTENT POSTED AT VH1.COM FOR EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. OUR SHOW WAS ACTUALLY THE FIRST REALITY TO BE RANKED THE MOST SOCIALLY ACTIVE IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. ONLY “FAMILY GUY” WAS AHEAD OF US OVERALL IN TERMS OF SOCIAL MEDIA VOLUME (DERIVED FROM AGGREGATE NUMBER OF TWEETS, POSTS, AND OTHER MEASURING METHODS). YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT SHOWS AS A LARGER EXPERIENCE. VH1'S MARKETING PEOPLE ARE TREMENDOUSLY GOOD AT PROMOTING THEIR PRODUCT.
Where do you see reality television going in the next decade?
WE'RE ALREADY STEERING AWAY FROM THE MEAN-SPIRITED SHOWS WE SAW SO MUCH OF IN THE PAST DECADE, I THINK. I HOPE WE HAVE MORE SHOWS THAT REALLY PROMOTE CURIOSITY ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE AND CULTURES. “ ANTHONY BOURDAIN: NO RESERVATIONS” IS A TRAILBLAZER... GIVE ME MORE STUFF LIKE THAT, PLEASE.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Are you curious about exploring other areas of the industry such as documentaries or film?
I'VE ALWAYS LOVED MOVIES, BUT I THINK IT'LL BE A LATER-IN-LIFE THING FOR ME AND THAT I'LL DO IT AS A PRODUCER RATHER THAN A WRITER, AS I'D ALWAYS THOUGHT I WOULD WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I'M IN THE PREPRODUCTION PROCESS WITH MY FIRST DOCUMENTARY FILM, “REMEMBER, WE'RE NOT HERE,” EVEN AS I WRITE THIS.
I've been writing a lot about singing competitions recently and how they're losing their essence and audience. What do you think is a key ingredient(s) to keep these shows fresh and give them more originality without getting too distant from their roots?
STOP ENCOURAGING BLAND POWERHOUSE PERFORMANCES WITH NO RESPECT FOR LYRICS OR EMOTION. GO FIND SOME SOUL. GET ALLEE WILLIS OUT THERE LOOKING FOR THE BEST UNDISCOVERED SOUL SINGERS, I SAY!