Natalie Aaron and Marla Schwartz are reality TV producers and write together in Los Angeles. Here they talk about their working relationship…
We met in 2001, when we were both hired to work on a massive, five-hour clip show. When you start working on a new show, you never know what you’re going to get. Will you like your co-workers? Will you be sitting at a desk or a card table? Will the hours be long? Will your chair have wheels? Will you get 3 pages of network notes or 20? Will there be soap in the bathroom or will it be liquid laundry detergent? (a story for another time…)
Turns out, this show would become one of the most gruelling jobs of our careers – horrible hours, forbidding schedule, difficult talent – we only survived because we had each other to lean on and bitch to. We clicked instantly; we had a deep love for cheesy scary movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, chick lit novels, Nutella and all things chocolate. We even managed to have some fun when we were forced to work on Christmas Eve (hmm probably not true but isn’t everything rosier in retrospect?)
Luckily, when the show ended our friendship didn’t. We continued to read our beloved chick lits, passing them back and forth, forming a mini book club of two. Turns out, we weren’t just avid readers, we both had dreams of becoming writers and eventually, we shared some of our, er, lesser works with each other. Marla pulled out the bizarre horror stories she wrote as a kid, Natalie recited her ridiculous childhood poems… a good laugh was had by all (well, by us.)
We talked a lot about writing but didn’t actually do any writing – we both wanted to write a book “one day” but had no idea how to make it happen. So we put our writing dreams aside and focused on our jobs, which is easy to do when you work in TV.
Being a producer can be incredibly fun or incredibly awful. It all depends on the schedule, the production company, the content, the people you work with every day and of course, what your actual job is on the show.
Another thing we have in common? We don’t really like to go to the field. When you’re a field producer, the field owns you, especially if you’re on location. Six or seven day weeks are often the norm – there’s no checking Facebook or drinking three cups of coffee with full knowledge of bathroom availability… consider your free time forfeit until you get home.
Sure, there are some great things about being in the field, – crafting story on the fly, making close friendships (you only have each other!), and sometimes travelling can be fun. But we’d rather be snuggled away in our story caves, cutting scenes and working with editors. So even when the hours are long and we end up working weekends, that’s okay (sort of ) because at least we can use the bathroom when we need to.
And at some point, we realized we had flipped the switch – we were tracking all of our friends’ stories, our own reality observations, and thinking about what we’d like to read in a book about reality TV.
So here’s what we’ve learned: Reality TV & chick lit have two things in common – they each need strong characters to drive the story and they both get a lot of crap from the press.
As Reality TV producers and debut authors of a chick lit novel, we’ve heard our fair share of crap from the naysayers. And we’ll admit it, when it comes to reality TV – sometimes the crap is deserved. But the chick lit haters can suck it – and guess what? The world of publishing is changing, there’s a digital revolution underway and chick lit is here to stay (yes, that rhymed.)
WIN! WIN! WIN!
As a producer on a reality dating show, Abby Edwards knows that true love is a myth. Her career and her friends are all she needs. Right? When her screenwriter ex makes a hit movie based on their relationship, Abby’s faults are projected on screens across the country. Suddenly the fact that her job depends on orchestrating hot tub hook-ups doesn’t seem so impressive. Her friends rally to help. Zoe thinks she needs to meet a guy. Stephanie suggests an attitude adjustment. Nancy wants her to get in touch with her inner Goddess. Abby knows they mean well, but she prefers to focus on her work. Unfortunately, she’s already embarrassed herself in front of her new boss, Will Harper, who she would find totally crush-worthy if he weren’t so irritating. Abby’s about to be reminded that life doesn’t follow a script – and good things happen when you least expect it…
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