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8 Things to Know about Getting on a Home Improvement Reality Show

Did you ever armchair-quarterback a home improvement reality show, telling the contractors on the screen what to do next and critiquing their skills?

Home renovation shows are wildly popular for a reason: Most homeowners deal with contractors at some point and love getting the inside scoop on what works and what doesn’t – at the other guy’s expense, of course. And many contractors love seeing how others handle cranky customers, unexpected problems and picky hosts.

While casting calls are perpetually open for the endless carousel of shows, it takes more than professional excellence to get on – and getting on may or may not deliver the benefits you expect. Here are tips from show pros on what you need to know if you’re hoping to win a star turn.

  1. “Yes, skill counts, but you also have to have camera skills,” says Frank Fontana, a Chicago-area resident who co-stars with his wife on FYI’s Downtown Shabby, a show about renovating vintage urban homes. “The reality is that it’s less about how good your woodworking is and more about how big your personality is on camera.”
  1. Your audition tape should be less shop class show-and-tell and more slice-of-life, showing you with your colleagues, customers, in your shop and interacting with potential customers.
  1. Be ok with going with the flow and expect drama. After all, points out Fontana, the drama is entertaining. “Nobody wants to watch a show in which everything goes right,” he says. “Where’s the fun in that? If that’s what you want, just go to Houzz and look at pictures.”
  1. Don’t expect straightforward storytelling. The show will involve multiple retakes and reshoots under various conditions. That includes the tour of the “before” as well as the “after.”
  1. Know what you want to get out of it…and that might not be what you think you’ll get. There’s a reason why many T-shirt logos are digitally blurred on shows and why you’ll never catch a recognizable brand on a realty agent’s lawn sign: Producers sell advertising, and they’ll scrub anything that looks like it’s free. In other words, don’t assume that you’ll trade a couple days on camera for an eternity in free advertising through endless reruns.
  1. But on the other hand, says Fontana, everything’s negotiable. Depending on how urgently the producers need to fill that spot, the show’s policies and what you really want, you might be able to get a credit line that mentions your company in a box on the screen, or a credit line when the show ends.
  1. Always be prepared to pitch to a producer or casting agent. Have a professional headshot and bio ready to send from any device, at any time.
  1. Practice doing Skype auditions so that you know where to look and how to handle the slight transmission delay.

Still interested? Sign up at these casting sites to learn about new opportunities: HGTV, DIY Casting and AuditionsFree. Or follow busy production companies like Pietown Productions on Facebook and Twitter to learn about last-minute casting needs. Who knows? You might just get a lucky break.

Joanne Cleaver is a widely published freelance business author, writer and former deputy business/real estate editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She and her husband have renovated three historic homes.

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