Survivor camera operator reveals behind-the-scenes details

An unnamed camera operator on Survivor answered questions from Reddit users about the production, and revealed some interesting behind-the-scenes details.

The person, who has also worked on The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, and The Contender, and worked on at least the South Pacific, Nicaragua, Tocantins, and China seasons of Survivor, is not identified, but all of the answers match what I observed on location in Gabon, Brazil, and Samoa, and it’s clear it’s not someone posing as a camera operator.

Among the revelations: camera operators sometimes pretend to film things, they work 10-hour shifts, and a contestant on an unidentified season pooped his or her pants after a challenge.

Here are highlights from the full Q&A :

  • Camera operators have a 10-hour shift that includes transportation to the tribe beach, and their shifts start at 4:30 a.m., 6, 8, 10 or noon
  • At base camp, there is “lots of boozing” and “the crew is all about debauchery”
  • With the new back-to-back production schedule, crew members “have been able to bring family to the resort(s)/ accomodation [sic] at minimal cost during break,” which lasts about three to four weeks between seasons.
  • Camera operators “listen to everything, but you just know that certain thngs [sic] are not gong to make it on air. You pretend to be rolling but you actually aren’t. If you have a solid audio guy, he will give you a heads up to get in there.”
  • The well with fresh water the tribes use is built by the crew “and fresh water is provided every day or two, from big water jugs like in an office.”
  • Asked what was the craziest thing they filmed that never made it to air, the camera operator answered that a “contestant having shat themself after a challenge. … a quick dip in the ocean is all the fresehning [sic] up they got. had to wear the same shit stained salt water rinsed shorts for another couple of weeks as well!!” (Who could that be? The only real detail is that it was a ocean season.)
  • While what happens on the tribe beaches and during the production is authentic and very real, the person notes that “editing is all about trickery….a shot may not neccesarily [sic] coincide with the audio, thus provides a different context.”
  • A frequent question is whether contestants get makeup or hair products (they don’t), and the camera operator has a theory as to why some cast members look so great: “After a couple of weeks when everyone is detoxed from there [sic] north american diets, I notice that skin, hair and complexion get healthier looking for some, not all of course.”
  • Jeff Probst “can hold hid [sic] own at the poker table.”

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.