Letter from LA LA Land ~ Tristan Milani ACS July 2015

A postcard from


The great news here in LA LA is my favourite reality show Naked and Afraid (Nat Geo Channel) has been nominated for an Emmy this year in the TV reality unstructured section. This series puts two naked people in the jungle, that don’t even know each other, to survive on their wits for 21 days totally in the buff. The show is my new favourite and taken over from my preference of other favourites including Redneck Island and Say yes To The Dress, New Jersey.

Reality television is booming in LA and many production crew are happy to work on the shows because they can remain in LA and not have to travel interstate. In my wildest dreams I never imagined I would ever be involved in a “reality” production but last year I helped a director out and shot a pilot.

These shows often run with 8 to 10 cameras, each with an AC, sound recordist and producer. On some shows there are more than 20 producers. There is an explosion of camera rental houses now in LA that just cater to the “reality” world of TV. So Cal and Rgear are but two I am going to mention. The cameras come with a huge technical dept to wrangle the cameras and data all beamed by microwaves into a central control room. In the control room the director sits closest to the screens, then the 3 EPs and then the network. The story producers all have their own monitors on the other side of the room.

Most of the “reality” series are non-union so there is no time and a half on the sixth day. More often than not the shows shoot for 24hrs and bring on an entire new camera team after 12 hours. There are between 8 to 12 remote cameras recording as well with an operator in the control room. These productions are huge I had 10 electrics working for 3 weeks to pre light the spaces…

What I found is that the young camera operators are a force to themselves. They carry these very heavy cameras (approx 20-25 lbs) on their backs for hours on end and if a light is in their way they just move it. Forget old school this is the new way. I had a Cam Op even ask the gaffer to move a light out of his way. This happened on multiple occasions. The ADs have little or no regard for the director’s opinions because the cameras are constantly rolling. There is no off button…

If you find yourself on one of these reality productions as a Cam Op please take great care of your backs. When I suggest to these young people what they are doing to look after their spines I just get stared at. They just look right through me!

Reality TV is on the up and up and up. It is very cheap to make, no union issues and no cast costs! It didn’t take long to discover is was not my thing! I prefer to watch the silliness than make it…

Tristan Milani ACS