• February 4, 2005

Restoration Realities – the TV Show

Our experiences being on a DIY television show

Restoration Diary

2/11/05 update: I’ve fixed the link for the pictures from filming the show.

David’s experience:
On Thursday of last week, the crew for the new DIY network show, “Restoration Realities” rolled into our house at 9am bringing cases of cameras, lighting equipment, audio equipment and power tools.

Our garage was transformed into a mini workshop, the back porch became the equipment staging area and our kitchen became the craft-service/break area. People whirled about setting up lights and cameras while the hosts planned out the projects and constructed the pieces needed.

We never knew how much work went into producing a show like this. Not only did they have to get the shots for the show, but off camera, they also had to do construction work. It was non-stop action that lasted till 11pm the first day, where at that point Heather and I were left with “homework” to complete for the next day.

Our job was to stain our newly constructed screen door. We stayed up till 1am completing the job and fell into bed knowing that at 7am it would all start again.

The second day proved to be even more hectic with the pressure to finish both projects (weather stripping the windows, the door and installing the new screen door) plus get all the rest of the shots done for the show.

In the end, it all came together. Although we did not get the security door we wanted, we did end up with a beautiful screen door that fits the period of the house, plus weather stripping. Everyone on the crew was really nice and we had some good times. We can’t wait to see the show!

Our metal security door. The bolts had to be cut off with saws.

Heather’s experience:
When I was a child, I was once in a television commercial for the Carson Perrie Scott department store based out of Chicago. The tv spot was an ad for Father’s Day. The fact that the father in the commercial had red hair and that my Mom was the Art Director made me a shoe-in for the part.

I don’t remember much about the experience except for the fact that the ad ran right after the television show “Gunsmoke.” What 7 year old, growing up in a small town in Indiana, wouldn’t be thrilled to be ON TV right after “Gunsmoke”?

When I was a little older I was on the local public television station’s morning show along with my dad and uncle. We were there to talk about the practice of raising and farming ducks, something that my family knows a thing or two about since that’s what they do for a living. I’m sure that was one riveting episode!

Yet, this impressive background in television didn’t begin to prepare me for being on a home improvement show, albeit a restoration minded one. First of all there is a whole crew of people that descend on your home. There are people in charge of lighting, sound, the cameras, a director, several producers, a production assistant, a lighting assistant, a carpenter and the show’s host. Most of these people come with equipment, large boxes of it.

Then there are the lights. These large, hot lights that are on tripod frames and ceiling height. A lot of time is spent adjusting the lighting and getting the correct angles. But, oh, the first time I saw our house on the monitors used to show what is being filmed, I was taken in by how the lighting made all the colors come alive and appear more vibrant, richer. All the wood trim seemed to almost glow. I wish our house always looked that lovely.

Bungalows are comfortable houses but rarely spacious and they feel much smaller once filled with a film crew, their equipment and all the towering lights. For someone who tends to feel claustrophobic in small spaces and shy around groups of people that I don’t know well, it was a bit overwhelming.

Some of the crew setting up a shot on Day 1.

I discovered the best thing hands down was something called “craft services” which consisted of every type soda pop, Doritos, Pringle, M & M, Kit Kat bar, crackers, nuts, and coffee imaginable. Our kitchen was converted into the craft services area and we were greeted with fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls for breakfast, warm chocolate chip cookies and milk for a snack, and our lunches and dinners were picked up from local fast food restaurants.

Restorations Realities shot three episodes in Los Angeles. Our house was the second location. We felt a little sad when all the treats and sodas were packed up and moved on to the third house. It was easy to get used to such a great spread and someone to take our food order at meal times.

Even though the show is for the Do It Yourself network our screen door was pre-built and shipped in pieces to Los Angeles due the tight two day shooting schedule. If all we had to do was build a door that would be have been entirely do-able within the two day shoot. But, that doesn’t take into account the whole process of filming, and it is a process.

There is an outline or rough script that they follow as far as what needs to be said and shown on camera. The first day someone would tell us where to stand, give us an idea of what they would like us to say and how they would like us to move. Things like you’ll start at Point A and walk to Point B, positioning your body in a certain way so that you aren’t turning your back to the camera.

Each “scene” would need to be filmed several times to make sure the correct shots were captured with one of two cameras used. The scene would need to be reshot if someone flubbed a line or the lighting wasn’t just right. Or maybe you didn’t have enough “energy” after you had done a scene a few times so they shot it again to get a better reaction.

A big problem we ran into was noise from the city. We experienced all types of disruptions from planes flying overhead, to obnoxious horns that toot to a tune, lawn mowers or people in the neighborhood stopping by to ask what we were filming. Each of these disruptions required that we stop filming a scene and then start the scene over again after the noise had cleared.

I was most surprised by how much time and work it took to set up the scenes. The cameras had to be set up for the shots and the scene correctly lit. It sometimes took up to an hour to set up a scene and do the run through of where we were to stand and what we were supposed to say.

David and I were split up into teams. I worked on weather stripping with Bill the show’s host, while David worked with Chris the carpenter on the show to put together the screen door. Everything went well except for when I accidentally sanded Bill’s thumb with a power sander. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt and possibly even benefited from the high-powered manicure.

Weather stripping the front door on Day 2.

The first day I had a wonderful time. The crew was very nice and joked around a lot off camera. The mood of the day was light hearted and playful. The first time I saw our screen door I was thrilled to see that it was finely crafted out of thick fir wood and beautiful. The quality of the craftsmanship was very high.

But, the second day just didn’t seem to go as well. I was too keyed up to sleep much after our first day of filming so I was tired. There was also some tension between people on the show which kind-of made the second day less fun. Things felt rushed and there was a lot less time spent explaining to us what was going to happen or what was being done to our house.

The way a door is to be hung or a threshold installed probably didn’t seem like a big deal to people working on the show but to someone who has spent the last two years of her life painstakingly restoring her house, those seemingly minor details were HUGE details to me. It just didn’t seem like there was enough time to explain what was going to happen and that caused me to feel very anxious.

About half way through the second day I really had doubts about why we decided to do the show and truthfully, I wanted everyone and their equipment out of our house. It is difficult to really describe what it is like to have people that you don’t know very well in and out of your house, moving around in frantic activity to adjust huge lights and cameras while projects are being done to your house. Projects that you are a part of but more in a secondary role because the projects have been planned out and are mainly being carried out by someone else.

The homeowners agree to the overall project idea upfront but in our experience, they have little say so as to what shape that project takes or how it is carried out. It is a strange feeling to be relegated to the role of sidekick after being the driving force in the restoration of your home.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the film crew because that couldn’t be further from the truth. They bent over backwards to be nice to us. They are wonderful people who I genuinely enjoyed meeting and getting to know.

Having all this activity in the house was such a drastic change from my quite days spent with the dogs working from home. I started feeling very overwhelmed by the experience and upset because I didn’t understand how the projects were going to progress and come together in the end. Most importantly, I didn’t know what we would be left with after the film crew packed up and moved on to the next house.

Halfway through Day 2. If you know me well you can tell by the look on my face I’m stressed out but trying to play it off. This is my “just smile” only half a day left to go look. David is having a great time and going with the flow!

It was at this tense, meltdown moment that I had to film my personal interview. This is where they film you individually and ask you questions about your house, your hobbies and other get to know you better type of questions. It didn’t go well. If you watch the show I will be the woman with no hobby.

You mean that people who have full time jobs and restore their houses full time also have time for hobbies? Huh, how does that work? Watching television and sleeping didn’t seem to qualify. David, on the other hand, apparently sky dives in his free time! They say the wife is always the last know.

This is from a man who won’t tackle any home improvement project unless he’s clad head to toe in a hazmat suit, yet he wants America to believe he is jumping out of airplanes on the weekends. The David that does home improvement projects on tv is a very adventurous guy. In addition to sky diving he also engages in rock climbing. He might think this is really funny until he gets sky diving lessons for his birthday. That’s right, my husband thought it was fun to make up his hobbies, recounted bitterly by the woman who has NO hobby.

After my meltdown moment which I tried to play off, it is never a good idea to completely freak out in front of people you barely just met who are there for the purpose of capturing your likeness, house and spouse on film, I pulled myself together. It was 9 p.m. or later by the time we wrapped up the final shots which made for a long day for everyone. The crew had arrived at 7 a.m.

Filming the final shots on Day 2.

After having a week to reflect on the experience of being on a home improvement television show, I feel overall doing the show was a lot of fun. There were some tense, not so fun moments or hours, but in the end we were left with a beautiful screen door that we both love and a front entrance that is weather proofed. The show left our house in a better state than it us in when they arrived, were super nice to us and our dogs, plus they fed us tasty treats. Really, what more could any homeowner ask for?

I’m not sure how the screen door is going to work out for us long term from a security standpoint? We have considered putting a double cylinder deadbolt on the screen door but couldn’t bring ourselves to put a hole in our new door. A deadbolt also kind-of takes away from the welcoming aspect of a screen door.

The television show is called “Restoration Realities” on the DIY network. This is a brand new show and the first episode airs around March 6th. We don’t know when the episode we are on will air, they said it might not be until 2006, but we’ll keep you posted!

Our front entrance with the new screen door.

See more pics of from filming the show.

Read about how we were selected to be on the show.

Simon and Lulu photographed through the new screen door. So far they have been pretty good about not scratching it. They spent most of the two days we filmed upstairs and out of the way. Although, they were not very happy to miss out on getting attention from complete strangers – one of their great thrills in life!

Comments { 10 }
  1. Michelle

    Hey Guys!

    Wow! What a difference, I still remember the first pictures you sent when you started. I love the website. Maybe Claus and I should do one for our house, “P.O.S. Ranch”. :)

  2. Jess

    Can’t wait to see the episode. 6 degrees of seperation, huh?

    LOL about David making up his hobbies. At least he didn’t say, “underwater Tibetan basketweaving”, or the like.

  3. Leah

    Hey I was wondering what happened to the two of you! Now I see you took a well-deserved blogging break after your whirlwind TV experience. You got me all stressed out, Heather, just READING about your being left in the dark while they attacked your front entrance! You have my sympathies. I am also quite getting used to tackling projects myself, after a lifetime of just sitting back and watching, so I can understand how this sudden lack of control and insight could have been so nail-biting.

    Especially when your husband tries to upstage you by making up hobbies ;) (Pretty clever there, David.)

    But it turned out great you guys and I hope I get to catch the episode some day!

    Leah @ Raise The Ranch

  4. deb

    That sounds like the experience of a lifetime! Congratulations on your new entrance!
    BTW, your blog is awesome, one of the best! You, and others, have inspired us to create our own…Keep up the great work you two!

    deb@kensington bungalow

  5. Kristin

    I’ve always wanted to be on an HGTV, DIY or TLC show, but I figure they’ll never make it to good ol’ Eutaw, Alabama, population: 1,900.

    Sounds like you had quite an experience!

  6. Nick

    Very very cool. By your description I’m questioning whether the show will meet its promise of showing the “reality” side of restoring a home, but I guess we’ll find out in March!

  7. Jill

    Your house is really to die for. I’ve been following your progress and you are doing a wonderful job. I love bungalows, but alas, don’t live in one. [/covet] *grin* At any rate, I’m looking forward to the new series in general, and your episode in particular.

  8. merideth

    I’m so excited for y’all and your place in tv history. Cant wait to see the episode as well as the continuing (beautiful) work on your house!

  9. Chris Babcock

    David & Heather!

    Incredible web site! I think its better than our show! It was fun to be a part of it with you, and Im sorry for stressing you out so bad! We never got back to see the door in the daylight, but the pictures you posted look great! One of these days, I’ll get my drill bit back from you two! Better yet, use it on another project. Just show a picture of it sometime so I know its loved!

    And by the way David, get back to work!


  10. Dave

    Interesting reading all the comments. It was a good show and I like the screen door. I am suprised they would cut your windows! Why not just use the foam on the inside of where the windows press up against? no cutting needed… or if you needed to trim a little, it would be on this sash pieces and not the window frames themselves.

    Did you get any sort of compensation for the show using your house besides the free food and screen door?

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