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Monday, July 11, 2011
How to get your home a TV makeover
How to get your home a TV makeover Hint: It’s less about your house, more about your personality
By Amy Hoak
It’s easy to get drawn into watching a home makeover program. Invest a couple of minutes in getting to know a homeowner and her drab living room, and it’s hard to look away before the big reveal at the end.
And from time to time, while trying to anticipate what improvements the designers will make, it’s easy to glance around your own house and wonder what they’d make of your home’s look.
If you’ve ever wanted your home to be featured on one of these programs, read on. Below is a cheat sheet on what producers are looking for in a home — and, more importantly, a homeowner — when they make their casting decisions.
HGTV’s lineup relies heavily on homeowners willingness to let cameras into their homes, so it depends on a stream of applications received from viewers. Casting calls on HGTV.com look for people ranging from families needing help getting organized to empty nesters who want to transform their space.
Each program has different instructions on how to apply, but many applicants have been submitting videos to campaign for a makeover, said Kathleen Finch, senior vice president and general manager of HGTV. That’s where they get the first look at your personality, so make it count.
“The first thing you look at is not the home in need of a makeover, but the homeowners. The most important thing is someone who really wants to be on television,” Finch said. “We need the stories to be relatable to many people. We’re looking for people who have the dark, dank basement but really need a family room or the young couple expecting twins as a surprise and need to put on an addition.”
But, when applying, it’s important to remember that not all programming has the same ground rules, she said. Budgets range by show, and not all involve a free makeover. Some require input or help from the homeowner, while others require that they cede complete control to the designer — or, as in a new show, control is given to HGTV’s online community.
Makeover shows typically receive the most applications, Finch said.
One show doesn’t require any application at all. Those picked to be on “Room Crashers” are simply in the right place at the right time — they’re found shopping for home items in stores, and the host convinces them to bring him back to the house for a makeover.
But, even then, fans are being resourceful in their efforts to get picked: “What we keep reading on our Facebook page and Twitter is people trying to figure out where Todd is going to show up next,” she said.
‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’
The application for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” will take awhile to complete. It asks for information about your family, house and background. You’re expected to submit photos or video of your home to make the case for why you — or a family you’re nominating — should be selected.
After turning the application in, you’ll play a waiting game for a few months to a couple of years before finding out if you’re on the shortlist. “We receive hundreds and hundreds of letters a week,” said George Verschoor, executive producer for the show. “We look at them, and ABC looks at them.”
Promising entries go to the next level, which includes extensive background checks, meetings with the family and people in the community, as well as finding a potential builder. Finding the right local builder is crucial because the builder has to agree to donate all work, he said.
Anyone who has watched the show knows that producers like to feature people who have an inspiring story or have faced a challenge they’ve worked to rise above. Their story must also be related to their homes in some way; in one episode, a family with a special-needs child had home improvements made to incorporate design and architecture that would enhance the child’s — and the family’s — quality of life.
“Many people watch the show and shoot a home tape that looks like what they see on the show,” Verschoor said. Instead of trying to mimic the show, tell the producers how your story is unique and special — as well as why you’re deserving of the makeover.
“The most important thing is authenticity, and be real and be yourself and tell your story,” Verschoor said. “How does the home affect your life story and how would a new home help you transform and change to move beyond [an event or circumstance]?”
‘This Old House’
“This Old House” was renovating homes on television before it became popular. The show’s roots go back to 1979, said senior series producer Deborah Hood.
Once a school, this historic structure in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., has been returned to use as a single-family home. The property includes a 7,000-square-foot main house plus a carriage house.
There’s less financial gain for the homeowners featured on this show because they pay for their own projects, though they do occasionally get discounted goods and services. When the idea for the show was hatched, the goal was to follow a real renovation that viewers could learn from, she said.
“It’s a different crowd. They don’t call us because they want free things,” Hood said. “They are preservation-minded,” she said, and homeowners who apply want to have access to the show’s “brain trust,” the skilled people who will help make their home renovation a success.
To apply, people can email firstname.lastname@example.org with their story. When writing, it’s important to be clear: “People who can communicate in a clear and concise way will be easy to work with,” Hood said.
If you catch the eye of the producer, expect a couple more rounds of scouting before you’re chosen. The show looks for interesting neighborhoods, good family stories and compelling home styles indicative of the area they’re filming in.
Here’s the biggest catch: “This Old House” works on two houses every year, and one is in the Boston area so that general contractor Tom Silva has easy access. A year’s second house is located elsewhere in the country.
Producers of A&E’s “Sell This House” find their featured houses in a couple of ways: from viewers who write in to them via the show’s website and by scouring local home listings, said the show’s executive producer, Lee Christofferson.
“We look at the pictures, find the ugly-looking houses, call their agents, and then they let the homeowners know,” Christofferson said.
The premise of the program is to fix up a house on a budget of about $1,000 or less, with the goal of getting it ready to sell. Designers focus on drawing a potential buyer’s eyes to the things that are great about the house, and ask homeowners to roll up their sleeves and work with the crew.