For crews, reality show life can be high-risk

In the LA Times, an interesting piece on the dangerous nature of working in reality television. As shows compete against each other to present the grossest, riskiest, and most outlandish spectacles, the men and women who labor on these productions are exposed to greater risk for injury and illness.


  1. Not sure how there is a race to get riskier.  Deadliest Catch was one of the first and it’s filming in the deadliest work environment in the world. 

    If anything the trend is towards totally staged risk free shows like Moonshiners and Amish Mafia. 

    1. Agreed. I’ve always thought that being a videographer on shows like Deadliest Catch was almost as dangerous as being one of the boat crew.

      1.  It is. I have friends that do it. A snapped ankle miles out to sea because you slipped is not a good thing. Especially when the boat has to go back and everyone on it just lost $20,000 because of you.

  2. I kid whom I used to babysit (agh, I feel old now) is now a freelance cameraman, and most of his engagements are for travel or reality TV shows.  I was seated next to him at a friends/family holiday event and I got an earful of horror stories.

    Apparently, in a lot of cases, you are using the client’s very $$$$ gear, and must often maneuver it in dangerous/disgusting/bad-for-cameras locations.  So, sometimes, he’s had to make the decision of “do I drop the camera and 100% avoid damage to myself, but lose the gig and owe the client $40K that I don’t have/which  my pro insurance may decline to cover, or do my best to put the camera down safely/hand off camera and do a bit of flailing afterwards and hope that I don’t get seriously hurt/only get dirty/bitten/exposed to vile and potentially harmful substances.”

    The money is good for what he does, but he’s faced things like piranhas, vats full of biting ants, potential bad falls, and massive tubs of pig waste.

      1. I’ve actually seen arguments for and against the pirhana thing. Also, you have to remember that it’s almost 100% probable that they will appear in a shit reality show or shock-travel show.

        The pig piss/shit morass was undeniably gross.

    1. Most productions always seem to have zero qualm about putting the crew in harms way.  Often the attitude is that you’re a daily employee so go ahead and walk, they’ll just replace you.  Usually the startup paperwork you have to fill out is full of waivers and arbitration clauses.

      Funny that once an ‘above the line’ employee, in this case the co-executive producer, gets injured all of a sudden it’s an issue.

      BTW, tell your friend to drop the camera next time.  It’s very unlikely he’s on the hook for the expense.  The gear is insured and replaceable, he is not. 

    2.  If I dropped the camera, it would be covered by production insurance. If they didn’t have production insurance they would be operating illegally. Good luck trying to sue me. It won’t happen.

  3. I met someone once who worked on “Flavor of Love” as, what she called, a “bitch wrangler.”

    Talent coordinators have dangerous jobs, too.

  4. It’s not just reality TV. I saw a friend almost creamed by a car on a TV drama. I myself have almost been creamed by a car for a bad movie or TV show. No one really cares, you need to watch out for yourself. Things go wrong when you create car accidents and helicopters exploding for a living.

    1. As soundhound mentioned above, production insurance.  All the practical FX people I’ve ever come into contact with were super-serious about cast and crew safety.

  5. There are mental risks to reality TV, as well. Comedian Steve Agee worked for a while on various “reality” shows like The Real World and The Osbournes. His job was to review the many hours of footage searching for juicy moments to make the final cut. After doing this for a while, he became so depressed  he became agoraphobic.

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