Monday, January 14, 2019

Reality TV Show Producer Number 2: How many bar room brawls do you have in an average month ?

Writing this on a flight to Denver and then changing to a little puddle jumper for Devils Lake , North Dakota where I will land at midnight. Surprisingly, all the rental cars in Devils Lake are reserved but the Spirit Lake Casino, like any casino I’ve ever heard of is open 24 hours a day so they are very kindly sending someone out to the airport to pick me up in the shuttle they use to bring employees to work.

After meeting with Producer #1 who said our family needs a few more addictions and dysfunctional relationships,  I had a talk with producer number two. He had two names, neither of which I remember so let’s just call him Bob-Bob . The business associate who connected me with Bob-Bob is a really straight up honest guy and also quite successful. He pretty much ordered him to give us the straight scoop and only work with us if he thought it would be beneficial,

Bob-Bob was hilarious. He’d worked on some shows you’ve probably heard of and he said, 

“My speciality in reality TV is drama. We put people in situations where drama is likely to happen and if it doesn’t we create it,”

I asked him how exactly he did he do that and he gave me an example from one of his shows.

“We brought these people together who really didn’t like each other - but nothing happened. So, we put them in our vans and drove them all to a bar. Still boring. So, we tipped the bartender to give them free drinks but still nothing was happening. Finally, we bribed the bar owner to keep the bar open after hours and after 2 or 3 am when we’d been plying them with free drinks for hours, some fights broke out and people calling each other names and bringing up some pretty awful stuff from ex-friends that we could use.”

I told him, 

“ You know, you aren’t making yourself look so good here, Bob-Bob .”


He laughed and said,

 “I’m just telling you the truth. It’s a living. The people on our shows, they don’t usually have much talent or education or connections. Yeah, maybe the show makes them look bad but it’s more money than they’d be making doing anything else and no one is making them do the show . I’d like to see a show about a functional family and successful people who like each other. I think if I pitched it to my network they’d say it was not our kind of show but I think other networks might pick it up.”



Bob-Bob and I had a nice conversation but we both agreed he wasn’t the type of producer we were looking for, although he had some great stories and I would totally invite him to a party.

As for the other networks he recommended, we never did get around to contacting them because we went through meetings with producers three, four , five and six and we are really busy running a company (you can read how awesome that is going here).

In fact, I have the opposite of an Instagram life, where people post pictures and make it look like their life is so amazing. Often I don’t post the awesome stuff going on, either because I’m just enjoying the moment , or I don’t want to impinge on people’s privacy or I am just too damn busy making shit happen.




Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My Life Needs Better Writers (or, what happened to our reality show)

Yesterday, I wrote about our first idea for a reality show. I thought it would be amusing to go through some of our discussions with producers.

The first conversation went like this:

Producer: How many children do you have? 19? 20?

Me: What? No. I have four. All daughters. All wonderful.

P: Any addictions? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex addiction?

Me: Um, well, we drink wine and sometimes a martini. But no, none of us have ever been arrested for DUI or in treatment or anything like that.

P (incredulous): NONE of you? Out of six people?

Me: Well, actually, I think that's pretty typical.

P:  Dennis isn't having a sex change, by any chance, is he?

Me: No!

P: Are you considering whoring Julia out to hip-hop stars?

Me: NO! What the fuck? She's 17 years old!

Me: Look, here is my idea. We make video games and we want to open an office in the Caribbean because we think that would be a good market. Tobago is absolutely beautiful. We can have the show cover a game from start to finish, where we have to come up with the design and Maria and I, who are the least laid back people you ever meet, hire our crew from the island and have Julia I-can't-get-up-before-noon as one of our interns. Trying to get a game done on schedule is drama and tension in itself but add in starting with a new team and cultural differences and I think it will naturally get to the point of me wanting to kill people. I am sure I can set up teaching judo at some of the local clubs. Hopefully it will help them and I'll need it with the stress. Ronda says she'll drop in for a fourth of the episodes, lend advice on game design and testing, party with the locals and try to keep the peace.

Producer: I'm going to give you my honest opinion. This show will never sell. Your family is too boring. You don't have a million kids. You aren't little people. You have successful children and you all love each other. No one wants to watch that. They want to see people drunk and puking, screaming at each other, crying, talking about their addiction. They want to see a family that is a dumpster fire so after they watch it they can feel good about themselves.

We talked to six producers and I actually thought all of them were pretty good people but for various reasons, we didn't end up doing the show. Three of them passed on us, two of them we declined and one was mutual.

As for this particular producer we actually had a very nice, funny discussion. This was one person's honest opinion. I appreciated the honesty although I disagree.

from the north woods to New York City

Our family is not boring. We just need better writers

I think if you can make a show about people losing weight where standing on the scale is drama, if you can make a show about baking cakes and another about cupcakes and ... well, I think you could make an interesting show about us.

Take today, for example. Maria gave a talk about making games in DC at a conference with 1,200 kids - which still went on despite the government shutdown and the fact that she rewrote her talk at 4 am. It was great, by the way. Then, she was mobbed by kids wanting to play our games.

Ronda was doing a live wrestling show in Orlando. She travels so much that I actually had to look it up on the internet to what city she was in.

Julia took off for London where she is going to be living for the next five months.
The last time we'll all be in the same place until June


I went into the office to work on a proposal for a new game, discussed the design of a game in progress, tried to figure out how to renew my visa for Chile, came home and taught an online class on biostatistics with all kinds of technical glitches, then created a video on exploring data.

Okay, well, my day was not that exciting today, but there have been other days in the past year when I've climbed a mountain to see the condors, went hiking in the driest desert in the world, watched hoop dancing at a pow-wow, been stuck in a hotel during a blizzard in North Dakota. Every year, I'm everywhere from the north woods to New York City. I'm scheduled to be in four states and three countries in the first five months of this year - and that's only what has been confirmed as of the first week in January!

Let's face it. I don't care who you are or what you do, much of your daily life is pretty mundane. (Unless you are working with Producer #2 .) You get up, have some coffee, take a shower, drive to work, go to a meeting, read your email, eat a sandwich. The winning competitions you didn't enter (strange, but true), laying on a Caribbean beach or heart-felt discussions with your children about life are just a fraction of that. Even Harry Potter and Hermione spent most of their time studying, sleeping and eating.

Speaking of sleep, I have to get some.


Buy Parenting Like I Know What I'm Doing , by me and Maria Burns Ortiz for only $1.99 



Monday, January 7, 2019

Rowdy Family Business Reality Show: What I was doing three years ago

 Searching an old email address, I came across this email sent 2 1/2 years ago when my lovely daughters and I were discussing a reality show.

Think Duck Dynasty Meets Silicon Valley with some very attractive real-life CEOs


The opening RouseyOrtizDeMarsTaylor group text begins


Mom: I'm in North Dakota, freezing my ass. 
Ronda: I'm doing a Sports Illustrated photo shoot from an undisclosed island location. Someone is currently painting my ass. 
Maria: Salt Lake City, pitching investors. I do not discuss asses. This is why I am the CEO
Julia: I'm in hell, commonly known as high school.
Jenn:  In 20 minutes, I have to go back to teaching middle schoolers about the constitution. Why are you people bothering me?

The series centers around Maria Burns Ortiz and AnnMaria De Mars, a daughter and mother who are the CEO and president of an educational video game start-up, with frequent appearances by younger sisters Ronda Rousey, a professional athlete, actress and entrepreneur and Julia De Mars, a soon-to-be college student and aspiring actress.

Maria balances three children aged 1-8 with a husband running his own journalism start-up and trying to cope with her unconventional extended family. Mom gave up the job as CEO to Maria because,

"Someone needs to wear a suit and not tell potential investors to go fuck themselves if they say something incredibly stupid. I am not that person."


Episode 1 has Maria and younger sister, Ronda, trying to convince the family that a reality show would be good for business. The first, literal, sign this may not be easy is the sign that hangs on Mom's office door, which reads "First of all, no. Second of all, no." When they enter their mom's office, she starts the conversation with,

"No."

They point out that they haven't even said anything yet, to which she replies that every time they come to her with that look it has been some crazy ass idea. Ronda wanted a monkey. Maria wanted to move into her own apartment when she was in high school because her sisters were annoying, etc.

They try Dennis, step-father and CTO (bit of back story on Dennis coming into their lives after Ron died makes him seem a sympathetic figure). He refuses to open the office door 

"Only if you don't show me on television."

One of the daughters asks,
"What if we just record you through the door?"

The sisters regroup to a coffee shop to plot and the final scene is a game design meeting in the conference room of the company offices, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Annmaria, with Dennis on Google hangout, is running through artwork, game mechanics and some esoteric coding and statistical details, with Maria adding information on the story line and characters. At the end of the agenda when AnnMaria asks if there is any new business, Ronda enters the conference room.

She says we need to discuss this reality show idea. Half the developers immediately find somewhere else they need to be. Maria and Ronda give a convincing 2-minute summary on why this would be good for the company and, as a result, help children everywhere get access to the games and a better education.

AnnMaria grudgingly agrees and the final scene has her saying to the computer, 

I'm going to regret this aren't I?  

Dennis answers from Google hangout - probably

So, whatever happened with the reality show? Well, we had a few discussions with producers but for the rest of the story you'll have to read the next blog post.