Confessions From A Survivor Camera Crew Member

survivor camera man reveals stuffIt appears that reddit is the place to go if you’re someone in the business and want to confess stuff.  The other day, one former child star confessed stuff about Demi Lovato snorting coke (although that’s pretty common knowledge if you follow gossip), and now a Survivor cameraman had his turn in the spotlight.

I took it with a grain of salt at first, but the more he replied, the more convincing he was.   He didn’t give out any spoilers, and replied strictly from a cameraman perspective.  It was still a fascinating read, and helps put to rest the rumors that the contestants are sleeping in comfy hotels or given food when not on camera.  What I got out of it is that Survivor is real, but like any reality show, editing will of course do it’s own thing by creating storylines, etc.  There will be the occasional re-shoot of things, like if someone finds the idol w/o a cameraman around, but the game is real, they are really sleeping in a crappy environment, and food is as scarce as it seems.

What I did gain out of it is that it’s pretty similar to Big Brother in a sense that for most of the day, they are sitting around doing absolutely nothing and it’s incredibly boring at times.   For most of the time, they’re talking more about food than anything game related, which is stuff you also see on Big Brother on the live feeds.

Anyway, here is a summary of the questions and answers.  You can read the entire thing here

Q: What kind of heath and hygiene provisions are provided for them that we do not see on camera?

A: Trust me, they get dirty. they semi wash there clothes in the ocean. look closer you will see. Nobody gets laundry done by the show. The ladies get hairy. They collectively decide where they will take their potty breaks. I try to avoid those areas for interview setups for obvious reasons. They are provided with feminine hygiene products.

There is a med box close to their camp. They can apply sunscreen their that has mossie repellant in it. if they wear contacts, the supplies for that are there. If they have medicine that they need it is taken there. one person at a time is allowed there, as we cant film there for obvious reasons

Q: What’s one thing that viewers at home would NEVER know from watching the finished product?

A: At a challenge there are about 80 crew from various departments out of frame

Q: Have contestants on the island had sex?

A: a few times, not too common

Q: What’s your schedule like? 24×7?

A: work 10 hour shift, start at either 4:30, 6, 8, 10 or 12 generally, depends on the day.

Q: Do the crew get a nice ‘resort town’ close to the filming? As in, do you get to have some nice time-off? Can family come? Ammenities, good or bad?

A: It varies from season to season. more often then not we are within an hours drive of a decent sized town. The show airing now was filmed in Samoa. Most of the crew (400 + people) stayed at aggie grays resort. Production booked the whole resort for about 5 months

Q: Are there any times when you’re not allowed to follow contestants, such as bathroom times, or is everything fair game?

A: Bathroom time is a no-go of course, anyother time, we are on them.

Q: What is the most ridiculous thing you (or your crew) has ever video taped, but was never showcased on TV?

A: A contestant having shat themself after a challenge.  (follow up answer:) a look of dread fer sure. a quick dip in the ocean is all the fresehning up they got. had to wear the same shit stained salt water rinsed shorts for another couple of weeks as well!!

(my guess: Jimmy Johnson?)

Q: How much of the show is ‘real’. Do they give the cast food etc off screen? Does the producer make them do entrances over and over to ‘get the shot’?

A: It is “real” for the most part. They are stuck at a camp with limits to where they can wander to.

No food is given to the contestants, ever, other than a bag of rice at the beggining of day 1 usually. They can win food at challenges or tools to catch food (fishing gear, nets etc.)They have water they can get from a well, replenished as needed.

walkouts to tribal or challenges and returns will sometimes be done 2-3 times. almost every walkout is filmed by WesCam?Cineflex (helicopter mount)

Q: When there is a challenge, did a contestant try to “cheat” them to victory? Maybe bend the rules a little bit too much? Are the instructions very strict? Do they ask questions? How long does that process take?

A: They have rules, some try to get an edge, but Probst is on them. Challenges are anywhere from 1-3 hours once they contestants get there.

Q: How much of the personal stories the people share are you listening to? I’d imagine that you are involved in these. What about jokes that are made? Do the contestants react if you had to laugh because of them? Is it hard to be serious if you have some crazy persons on the show?

A: We listen to everything, but you just know that certain thngs are not gong to make it on air. You pretend to be rolling but you actually aren’t. If you have a solid audio guy, he will give you a heads up to get in there. Of course you laugh at jokes but ideally it is a silent chuckle. that stuff happens often. The crazies always keep you hopping

Q: At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst seems to always ask the right questions to the right people. I assume he is given some direction based on recent important events, but how is this disguised so that the contestants don’t deduce alliances, plots, betrayals, etc.?

A: He is given downloads on all events, he is an EP as well. Jeff is a master at his job. I dont film tribal often but I think he is careful about his wording.  (follow-up answer:) the contestants are there for 1-3 hours most times. Again it is an amount of air time issue. Tribal gets what, 10 mins. per episode?? Probst massages what he wants out of them, sometimes lays a few bombs on htem and gets them thinking. dialogue flows from there. The more they get the more options for a good final edit of TC

(note: EP = Executive Producer)

Q: What position did you work? How often do they have contestant re-enact scenes for the camera? Is there a lot of trickery in editing, or is the stuff on camera what really happened?

A: camera crew, reality. we try not to interrupt, but you do have to ask them to repeat things on occasion. After a couple days the contestants know to wait for a camera to film what they have to say to someone else re: strategy. editing is all about trickery….a shot may not neccesarily coincide with the audio, thus provides a different context

Q:Would you be in favor of a season filmed in a more “winter” setting? Do you get bored of the settings being very similar every season?

A: well the jiggle factor is a big part of the show. Contestants are generally lazy beasts when they are not eating as much as they are used to back home. Cold weather would make them damn near sloth like. when they develop a hot bikin parka t may happen..

Q: How is Jeff in person? Is he really as nice as he seems to be on camera? Any funny stories about Jeff?

A: He is a genunely nice guy. Friendly, says hello to everyone and is good with names. He has busy days. He can hold hid own at the poker table.

Q: Have you ever traded some comfort item to a contestant for an HJ?

A: No, they arent smelling too hot after day 4. plus they have very dirty hands. They get pretty ripe. a dip in the ocean and a scrub down with fine sand will clean you up tho. There is a general stink about the camp and the contestants that cant be washed away by that method and it lingers the whole time.

Q: Are personal hygiene items allowed? The men obviously become bearded, but the women still look tan and shaven, and eyebrows plucked. Also, what about the disposal of feminine products in jungle type environs? Perhaps it’s not as rugged as we are led to believe.

A: No hygiene items allowed, i.e. razors toothbrush tweezers. I am guessing that pads and the like go back in the med box in a trashbag for later disposal, not my dept. They aren`t being spoiled, believe it.

After a couple of weeks when everyone is detoxed from there north american diets, I notice that skin, hair and complexion get healthier looking for some, not all of course. Some of the contestants are natural beauties too, and then I imagine some do some serious waxing before they come on, and that would buy them a couple of weeks of seemingly decent hygiene, if that is what you mean

Q:Every season there seem to be a couple of contestants that never get any screen time, even though they make it deep into the game. Brett from Samoa is a great example, Cowboy Rick is this season’s example.

A: If they cant give a good soundbite they get passed over in the edit. Rick in particular sounds like he is talking through a mouthful of marbles. TBH some people just don’t come across very well and get left on the cutting room floor. Not an editor though…..

Q: Did a survivor never try to buy food or candy from you?

A: nope. would tell them no anyhow. thats a firing!!

Q: How much of the show is scripted to make it look sexually appealing rather than actually having detailed survival challenges?

A: Not sure what you mean. nothing is scripted per se. The days are structured to fit a shooting schedule, but that is neccesary. You cant make sexy. sexy just happens, albeit with proper casting…

Q: How dangerous are some of the environments? Some of the animals that are shown look damn cool, but also very dangerous and something I would not want to have around me. How do the cast and crew deal with the wildlife?

A: As in any natural setting, there are dangers everywhere of course. Stingy bitey insects are more of a threat than anything else, in general. Most wildlife will stay away from any action. Snakes and spiders are very real threats that you need to be on the lookout for. Large animals, not so much, although in the amazon, panthers, snakes and crocs were something to lookout for. certainlocations doing a boot/shoe check for scorpons is always prudent before slipping your feet in. In general the water would provide the most dangers, i.e. jelly fish, predator fish, sea snakes, anenome and of course tide conditions can get you in trouble.

Q: How much do you get paid for all of this? Sounds like it’s an awesome job.

A: day rate is 700. job security is as good as your last job. freelancers life. yes several other MB productions and overseas work on nature docs, travel shows a bit as well.

Q: Where does the crew eat/go to the bathroom when they are filming?

A: we have a camera tent, where we set up our gear. usually about a 10 minute hike from the tribe camp. We have a lunch tent where we eat, take breaks etc.. port a potty available for the usual functions



Ok, post is long enough.  There is still plenty more.  Really fascinating interview if you’re a fan of Survivor so be sure to read it all!

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