THE ART IN REALITY TELEVISION
“I have observed a common thread that binds together all the experiences from working professionals I know. The ability to spot and say yes to opportunity. In my case, I said yes to being an audio tech for the CBS hit reality show Survivor. The cascading effects of this choice have undeniably shaped the person I am today, and the trajectory of my career.
Fresh out of film school I didn’t envision a career in reality television. Every pre-conception I had has been completely wrong. The amount of art that goes into making good television applies just the same to this medium. Being able to follow story, narrative arcs, and story beats have been invaluable tools. Being a great sound recordist means taking all these elements and ensuring that the essential story elements can be glued together. In the field, being the ears for camera operators and producers means that we have to have a beat on the story. It is this level of collaboration that makes this challenging medium possible.
Survivor has placed me in one of the most challenging environments to learn and hone my craft. The gear takes a punishment from being exposed to the elements, be it a cyclone or general grime from shooting on an isolated island in the South Pacific. Contestants often compete in challenges involving lots of physicality and submersion into the ocean. Through all of this we need to ensure the viewer can immerse themselves in this world and hear the contestants as they go through this experience. Most importantly, ADR isn’t an option. There is no second take.
I get to work alongside some of the humblest yet amazingly talented people. I have picked up some peculiar mannerisms, being that most of the audio team is South African. There is something to be said about walking in someone else’s shoes. As the show has bounced along the globe, we’ve picked up talented crew members with each hop. This international family is made up of Cambodians, Filipinos, Americans, Nicaraguans, Canadians, South Africans, Panamanians, Fijians, and Samoans, and many more. We are stuck with each other on a small island away from our families for three and a half months every year. For some departments it is as long as seven months. It’s one of the sacrifices that comes with this career. In two-years-time, I will have been away for eleven months working on various shows. Behind the glamour of being on an exotic island there can come with it loneliness, and isolation from the outside world. These moments quickly pass as I get to do what I love every single day. I get to hone my craft and grow as a person. And most importantly, it gives me time to reflect on life in a way that most other jobs couldn’t provide.
To those looking to make it in the film and television world, be bold and relentless in your pursuit. Opportunity is out there, you just need to say yes. Your work ethic does not go unnoticed. Every day I go to work I find there is something to learn, and it is this perpetual cycle that motivates me to be better than I was the day before. I look back from where I started and it seems unrecognizably far.”
– Dan Martinez Class of 2015