Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Dangers of Reality TV Can (Literally) Be Hell... Or Heaven

The world lost an incredible helicopter pilot during a tragic crash while filming in California last week.  A brilliant video camera operator and reality show cast member were killed in the same accident.

Unfortunately, this is neither the first fatality on the set of a reality television show, nor the first loss of life attributed to the often grueling production of such programs.  Shockingly, I have an opinion on the matter.

I think I speak for many of us married to the genre when I say we are a world all our own.  Our staffs, from creative producers and production management to legal counsel and technical crew, are unique.  We are artists, free thinkers, free spirits and rebels.

We accept late night phone call orders to hop on a plane to an unknown destination in 3 hours.  We bring all-weather gear, moleskin notebooks and passports everywhere we go.  We don’t just love adventure.  We are adventure.

Machu Picchu, Peru
Still, we are our own body.  We make our own decisions.  And, like anyone, we make the sacrifices that come along with pursuing a passion.

I have flown in many helicopters, over both glaciers and volcanoes, including several flown by the fallen pilot.  My daughters haven even flown in them, in utero.  But I wanted to be there.  Had I ever, ever expressed a fear of flying or used motion sickness as a lame excuse to avoid the trip, I could have opted out.  I didn’t.

(Yes, The Door Of The Helicopter Is Wide Open)
Granted, my parameters have changed along the way.  Before shooting Jason and Molly Mesnick bungee jump in New Zealand, much of our crew took advantage of the plunge.  A new mom, I couldn’t justify that risk.

But I softened with time.  Two years later, when given the chance to take a seven-month pregnant plunge off a pirate ship rope swing into the Caribbean ocean, I took it.

(OMG, OMG, I Can't Believe I Just Posted This)
I have heard many an argument considering the safety, liability and risk- both physical and emotional- involved with producing reality television.  Much like our footage, they will go on without end.

The bottom line is, I guarantee pilot David Gibbs and camera operator Darren Rydstrom died doing what they love.  And I hope, when the time comes, the same can be said for you.