The Reality of Reality TV

Friday, 25 January 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kristina and I have just returned from 10 days in Mexico. Sounds like the good life, right? Well not quite. It was good in that we were there shooting an episode for a new show and I am grateful to have work. But boy oh boy I had to keep reminding myself to be thankful because this was, without a doubt, the most painful week of work in my life.

Now, I can’t tell you much about exactly what we were doing because that would ruin the show.  But let me just say this:  I only made it to day two before I cried.  I think Kristina made it to day four – she’s a toughie.  Almost every single member of our crew was brought to tears at some point, mostly due to sheer exhaustion.  

Learned some amazing cooking techniques from this woman in Oaxaca, Mexico!

I got a sunburn, bumped my head on a tuc tuc, and dug an ominous, 8-foot by 4-foot ditch in which to cook some sheep.  A lot of that you’ll see, but some of it you won’t because part of what’s unfortunate for the audience of shows like this one – any show really – is that you never see the entire story of “the making of”: the drama between crew members, getting lost, having to pay people off, dealing with accommodations, which, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, typically leave a lot to be desired.  

On this particular trip, I left the crew behind at one point in search of a hotel that had heat.  It was unseasonably freezing in Mexico and few things matter more to me then a warm bed.

Well that’s not quite true. Food matters just as much.  And the television and film industry is unique in that we, as producers, always arrange food for crews.  When shooting at home, we have it catered.  But on the road, our crews are small and it’s usually restaurants.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it needs to be on the healthy side and plentiful.

One of our wonderful host families in Oaxaca, Mexico

On this trip, we often found ourselves shooting at someone’s home and they wanted us to join them for lunch. Considering we were a group of about 12 and that we were working with people who, really, have so little, it was a very generous offer and indeed rude to decline.  

But looking at those chickens that had been sitting in sun for hours and were covered in flies, well, my stomach churned.  But eat it we did and washed it back with no-name orange pop and mescal.  

Only one of our crew members barfed.

Our crew enjoying a meal

And then there was the day I didn’t pee for 11 hours. I had the choice between a sketchy outhouse that was being shared with 200 mescal-swilling others, or a field, also shared with 200. I choose dehydration.

Audiences will also never see the constant agonizing over what we call continuity.  That is, when shooting one scene that will follow another, does my make up match?  Was my watch on my left wrist or right?  Kristina lost her Ray Bans and now this scene won’t match the last one.  So someone has to race to town to find a store that sells green Ray Bans.  No luck there, so she wears a pair that aren’t her best look and we hope no one notices.  On a big budget feature film there is someone who does this job exclusively.


Filming in Tlacolula Square, Oaxaca, with La Asuncion church in the background

We started at the crack of dawn every morning and went late into the night.  One day I was up for 22 hours, so please forgive those bags under my eyes if you see the show.  

On this trip, we put our lives at risk on Mexican highways, where speed limits, drinking and driving restrictions, lighting and basic rules of the road are only guidelines.

We had car trouble more than once that had us looking for help in a place we don’t speak the language.  I tried to get by on my “Fritalian” – the combination of French and Italian I would blurt out whenever addressed, in hopes that would help me communicate.  “Merci, arrivederci!”  That, and my miming.  My act for “Please hurry, we’re late” is hilarious if not effective.

The show will run next fall on W Network (in Canada) and we look forward to your feedback! But please be gentle; we were exhausted. And that’s the reality of reality TV!


Hamming it up. Laughter is the best medicine!
Braving a chilly breeze!

Yay, we’re so glad to be home!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/carol.newsom Carol Newsom

    Aw, I’m glad you’re home safe! Looking forward to seeing the episode!

    • Anna Wallner

      Thanks Carol!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathon.nash Jonathon Nash

    Wow. That sounds like an awful trip. Makes for a good read though. You guys should consider airing a “special episode” that shows a lot of the behind the scenes stuff.Make it an hour long speacial. I think a lot of people would find that really intresting. Plus, its when the two of you, are not quite polished, that you are your most endearing and entertaining, in my humble opinion. Cant wait for the episode!

    • Anna Wallner

      Thanks for the suggestions, Jonathon. We’ve been thinking about it! We’ll see…

  • Suzette from White Rock

    I also would love to see a behind the scene ofrom a few of your trips. It would show us what you go through to put a show together. It would be interesting.

    • Anna Wallner

      Thanks, Suzette! We may try something out. We’ll see!

  • John from GTA

    OK, lots of movies and TV programs have blooper reels that make it to YouTube. I think you owe us — your _devoted_ audience who have followed you from Shopping bags to Grocery bags to … I wonder what the name of the new series will be: UnderMyEyes bags? Tote bags? — to have a behind the scenes look at what you went through. So I second Jonathon’s and Suzette’s request: outtakes, please!

    • Anna Wallner

      Thanks John! We will see what all the footage holds. A lot of the drama didn’t actually happen in front of the cameras though. Will have to keep that in mind for next time!

  • june

    glad to see you are back in beautiful b.c. I am looking forward to your new show but do love the old ones . You are 2 special ladies love you both

  • http://www.facebook.com/yvette.atamanchuk Yvette Atamanchuk

    You ladies are beautiful and awesome! I love the connection you share! Happy to hear you survived Mexico; sounds like now you deserve a one week inclusive in the Mayan Riviera!

  • http://twitter.com/ChefMikedotca Chef Mike Benninger

    I’ve shot lots of TV as well, and no one watching really knows just how much practice, planning and effort it takes to make it look spontaneous and clean. I shot a commercial for a trade group that was 90 seconds long and it took 5 hours!!..and then I got edited out!!
    I would love a behind the scenes-clip-bloopers show, it would be so funny!!

  • Shirley Daniels

    When will grocery bag be on dvd and on own in the usa

    • http://www.annaandkristina.com/ Kristina

      Hi Shirley, as yet no plans to put Grocery Bag on DVD and while it used to be on OWN US, it isn’t any longer!

      • Shirley Daniels

        Thank you for replying I miss you guys my dynamic duo please consider putting them on dvd many blessings to you both

  • Lindsay

    Any chance of another ‘Cooked’ episode, re-runs of A & K’s grocery bag can only sustain me for so long!