PHOENIX, Ariz. – As the new year approaches, preppers may be reminded that 2017 will mark the five-year anniversary of the debut of one of the most influential, yet flawed, prepper shows to hit broadcast television – “Doomsday Preppers.”
This week Lisa Bedford, also known as The Survival Mom, shared some behind-the-scenes insights to the “Doomsday Preppers” reality show on The National Geographic channel.
The Survival Mom’s blog, which shares the same name, is another example of poignant survival advice without heavy political posturing. Her advice is as grounded as she is.
Because many people don’t know how the reality TV world works, PBN thought this would be a excellent way to provide important information.
It should be noted that while Bedford doesn’t mention it below, the show’s producers often required the participants to engage in some sort of activity. These were disguised as a test for the kids or a fake firefight.
In the end, while many participants found business success from the exposure (such as the good folks at Intershelter and Compeau’s boats), many found themselves avoiding the fame or even getting arrested after bragging about their cache of weapons and booby traps on national television.
Doomsday Preppers: An insider’s view
Back in 2009 when I was interviewed and filmed for Newsweek’s, “Survivalism Lite“, I was pretty sure that interest in survival and preparedness was short-term. Two and a half years later, the prepper movement grew enough to find a place in cable TV on NatGeo’s “Doomsday Preppers,” and there continues to be a steady stream of survival and prepper related shows.
My experience with the show began in August, 2010, when an assistant producer contacted me and asked if I’d like to participate. The show, as described to me, was quite intrusive. Many questions were about our guns and where we kept them hidden and something was mentioned about a surprise drill. I couldn’t say, “No!” fast enough.
A few weeks later I received another call from a very reasonable sounding man, the producer of the show. He explained that the concept of the show had changed and what he presented was more in line with my desire to present preparedness in a calm, instructive manner. After a few days of discussion and thought, my husband and I agreed to be filmed.
Here’s what we learned and experienced:
- Reality TV should be called, “Unreality TV”. Everything you see is pretty much staged and coached, including much of what is said.
- The producer’s job is to create a story that holds the viewer’s attention. That’s the bottom line: making sure people don’t switch channels. So, everything filmed will be spliced together in a way that tells the story the producer wants to be told. That may or may not be the true or entire story.
- Only about half of what you see, maybe more in some cases, will be completely accurate.
- Sad to say, but “freaks” have always been good business, going back to the days of the Elephant Man and the Bearded Lady. So, shading an individual or family with the use of odd camera angles, sound effects, and gloomy background music all play a part in creating a not-quite-accurate portrayal, but it plays well on TV.
- “Fact checking” is more for journalists than reality TV. When I stated that only three major highways led into and out of Phoenix, that fact had to be double checked, but there was no problem in editing my words to give an inaccurate portrayal of our family. Another participant said there were two completely false statements in her segment, so striving for accuracy seems to take second or maybe third place to creating drama.
- Some people think the preppers in this show are being paid. Not only did we not receive any money, it actually cost us money in time, gas, and getting the house ready for TV cameras. I’ve heard that some of the preppers did get paid, but it certainly wasn’t offered to us.
- Reality TV shows require a signed release form that gives the production company and network 100% control of the filmed words and images. Other than filing an expensive lawsuit, I suppose, there’s no recourse if you don’t like how you are portrayed or if too much personal information is divulged. In the opening moments of my segment, I’m heard to say, “This is the only purpose of our life,” or something to that effect. What I really said was, “I can understand how some people might think that this is the only purpose of our life..” and went on to say how prepping is only a small part of what we do. I guess those words ended up on the cutting room floor.
There is a segment of the population who will do and say anything in order to have their 15 minutes of fame on TV, but most of the preppers who have been on “Doomsday Preppers” don’t strike me as falling into that category. Like me, their hope seems to be that the non-prepared will learn something and start taking action. That is the ultimate value of shows like “Doomsday Preppers”.Prepare a little more every day!
The Survival Mom