Facing Reality

March 26th, 2007 → Leave a comment

My show in Philadelphia went amazingly well. I got two great write ups in the local Philly press, was greeted after the show with standing ovations, and had great crowds. Some women who greeting me after were teary eyed. One woman said, “I didn’t think it’d be good, but it was.” I was really surprised by the cross section of people in the audience. It really is true what I was told once: “There’s no such thing as an ‘Asian American Following’ or a ‘Black Following,’ you create the work and the audience forms around it.” It’s amazing to do theater and see a lot of folks come out and take a chance on a stranger. It was totally moving and humbling to show up in a town where I didn’t know a lot of people but people came out to see me.

Today I spent the day hanging out with Jessie, a Theater Phd student who is writing about me for her thesis about craft and performance. Yes! I can always depend on academia to immortalize my work! She drove 8 hours to see the show! We ate outside at a cafe and it was freezing. Then we sat in a local yarn store oogling yarn and talking about my show last night.

Next up for me is Ithaca, NY (Cornell) and Mt. Holyoke College. Then a stint in the Midwest! I hope my cat is ok with the subletter.

So everyone has been asking… what’s the verdict with the reality tv show? Am I going to do it?

No. I’m not going to do it.

Some of my friends are like, “What?! But you could be so big! Look at Jennifer Hudson! This could be your shot at the big time.”

Ugh, I’m so over this.

It’s created so much stress this week. I’ve spent a lot of the week that should have been spent working on the show, doing conference calls with the production company, talking to lawyers, agents, et al. I literally was doing run-thrus of my show and was so fraught with stress about whether or not to do the reality show that I could barely remember what my lines. I’d stop in the middle of my rehearsals with my director and start screaming and cussing, “F**! I can’t do this!”

But I think I’ve made a great decision and have really learned about what I’m worth in the process.

Here’s why the reality show route isn’t for me right now.

I’ve been advised against it professionally.
Both my agents and an entertainment laywer friend I talked to think that it will actually hinder my ability to work as I would be signing away all of my rights. And I am pretty sure my agents would drop me if I did this as they said they would never recommend that their clients do a reality show.

There’s no union protection on a reality show. And no residuals.
It’s amazing how much these shows make off of actors they don’t pay SAG rates and how much this could be aired over and over again.

The contract is way too binding and gives way too much power.
Without going into detail about this 14 page single spaced contract, I’d have to give away a lot of my rights, including the rights to my life story. And any material generated during the show would become their property. Did I mention I’d sign away A LOT of my rights?

They also wanted me to fill out this long and involved background form that would describe friends and family I’m “estranged” from, every drug I’ve done and when, every dating site I’ve ever used, every place I ever lived, and all sorts of TMI. Oh yeah, I’m so sure none of this would end up in the show.

The prize is tiny compared to what you give to get it.
The development deal prize is something like 15k and you are tied to the network for a few months. 15k?! That’s it?! I could get 25k for eating cockroaches on Fear Factor! I can’t cover my therapy bills with that! And much of the time, development deals don’t necessarily turn into shows that air. Especially with so much reality TV taking over.

I have too much to lose.
My lawyer friend asked, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to you on this show?” I said, “I would have a nervous breakdown on TV, not be funny, not win and have cancelled some key runs of my shows (including my show in NY) for nothing, and be ridiculed on the show and be totally unmarketable and unemployable after.” He said, “Ok, well, there you go.”

I can’t afford to live on the weekly stipend they give contestants and would actually have to dip into my savings to do the show.
It’s paltry and insulting. And they make way more off re-airing the show over and over again.

Exposure is great, but not being exposed.
There were no clauses in the contract about not being taped in the bathroom, but there were plenty that said we might be recorded secretly, recorded at all hours and pretty much any setting. And I would have to somehow get all my friends and family members to sign release forms. I don’t look too great waking up in the morning and fart in my sleep. No need to share that on TV. Better to share on blogs.

I’m not 20 and I’m not 40.
A reality show like this is a great opportunity for someone not in the union who just got out of school or has nothing going for her in her career and needs to get some quick exposure. I am already at the place where I write, perform and tour my own work and would have too much to lose by being part of a reality show. I’d have to cancel my shows in LA and New York. I’m also pretty sure I’d end up having a nervous breakdown on TV because that’s how I rock it.

Development Deals Aren’t That Rare.

Sure, I haven’t had one yet. But having already taken meetings at different networks, I don’t think it’s necessary to humiliate myself on TV to get a development deal. I’m already working on packaging several projects that I’d rather spend the next few months working on that than getting embroiled in the BS of a reality show.

I’ve been watching reality shows lately, especially the ones on VH1.
I think that says it.

Believe it or not, I actually like having privacy.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know, I do autobiographical shows and blog about being a crazy cat lady, I’ve been interviewed by several documentary crews in my adult life, and even cried on camera a few times about crazy shit from my past. And I’ve let cameras see everything from my bed and messy apartment. But I chose it. And I need to be able to choose to take time away from it. And I can always tell the cameras that have come to talk to me to turn off and stop. Can’t do that on reality TV.

It didn’t feel good.
It felt scary and precarious, not exciting or positive. And that’s not the energy I wanted to move towards. Doing my live shows feels good and exciting. Spending the month of May in LA to be with my friends, knitting, and doing my show for people in LA who’ve been waiting to see it feels good. That’s the energy I want to move towards.

Category: Blog

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