Reality show camera crews, audio engineers go on strike

This satirical, fictional story is part of the April 1, 2008, edition of reality blurred.

Inspired by the success of recent writers’ strike, reality show camera operators, sound mixers, and other non-producer crew members voted to go on strike effective today. Citing the cruelty associated with having to spend 24 hours a day, sometimes for months, with reality show stars, they demanded benefits and perks such as health care, living wages, and bathroom breaks.

Producers immediately issued a press release and started a blog commenting campaign deeming those requests “unreasonable” and insisting that crew members were responsible for “systematically destroying the genre that’s become increasingly known for its ability to pump out cheap-looking content at virtually no cost whatsoever.” They also assured networks that, thanks to members of the crew guild who also are members of the producers’ guild and thus were able to show up to work and shoot footage while pretending that they were not, there would be no work stoppage.

Crew members say that abuse has gone on long enough. “We’re the ones who have to listen to literally every single thing these half-witted self-absorbed egotistical people actually say,” one sound engineer said. “Sometimes when I take my headphones off at the end of the day, I go and drag my fingernails across a chalk board just to give my ears a rest.” Camera operators say they suffer just as much abuse, as their jobs require them to get so close to the action that they often leave work with symptoms that suggest they may have acquired STDs.

Union bosses settled with ARSEHOL (the Alliance of Reality Show Executives and Honorable Oligarchic Licensees) before they even came up with witty phrases for their picket signs. As part of the settlement, crew members will now wear coveralls blanketed with show sponsors’ logos, which producers called “a previously untapped integrated brand marketing opportunity. Often, crew members accidentally end up in a shot, and missing an opportunity to insert a paid sponsor’s logo into a show is a breach of the ethical code that we hold so dear.”

Producers have also agreed to offer hazard pay and reimburse crew members for medical expenses, but only after a 17-day window, which they said was necessary to ensure that stories had a chance to fully develop without actually costing them anything. Representatives of the producers’ guild denied reports that they plan to limit shoots to 16 days or fire and replace crew members every 16 days. Crew members were unavailable for comment, an intern holding a camera and boom mic told reporters.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.