The lighting is perfect, the cast look gorgeous, the story is compelling, the dialogue is brilliant and the delivery good enough to rival any serial drama.
There’s nothing more satisfying than looking into a monitor and seeing one of my shows come to life. And what is most remarkable is that there are no actors, scripts or rehearsals.
Welcome to the world of constructed reality.
When people claim the shows are fake it doesn’t bother me at all because it means I’m doing my job right. The whole point of this genre is to capture real people’s lives in a cinematic way.
As the executive producer of Made in Chelsea and co-creator of The Only Way Is Essex I have tried to create windows into fascinatingly different worlds.
When I went into Essex it was like I was looking at this faux LA within England. They thought nothing of having boob jobs at 19, they were going for fake tans every other day, they were vajazzling each other and it was hilarious.
Made in Chelsea’s appeal was much more aspirational. The first series hit the screens at just the right time – we went on air just two weeks after the whole world went nuts for the royal wedding – suddenly it was OK to be posh and people couldn’t get enough of the little pocket of London the Middleton sisters inhabited.
But along with this, it’s crucial to draw viewers in emotionally and to do that, casting is vital.
After I had approached people for The Only Way Is Essex they would contact me constantly asking if they were going to be on the show – it was like their life depended on it.They almost began producing themselves – they’d ring and try to win me over with their real-life storylines.
Casting Made in Chelsea was very, very different. I think there was a lot more at stake; this cast had jobs in the city, in property or even owning their own companies. They wanted to know that I wasn’t going to stitch them up.
In order to reassure them I had to immerse myself in their world completely. When I began The Only Way Is Essex I started going out to their local clubs and getting spray tans. That approach pays off when you find a couple like Lauren and Mark in The Only Way Is Essex, or Caggie and Spencer Made in Chelsea.
Their relationship has been fascinating to follow. Spencer could get anyone in Chelsea – apart from this one girl. Ollie and his new girlfriend Chloe Green (Sir Philip Green’s daughter) have the same potential in series two.
I always start out with a wish list of storylines – it gives me a blueprint to work to. The difference with constructed reality is that your goalposts can change on an hourly basis. You have to be reactive to what’s going on in a set of real lives… although I am disappointed I still haven’t got my dream storyline of a wedding – yet.
We have viewings every Monday night with the cast of Made in Chelsea where we watch the show together. It’s the best way to form trust and I don’t think I can be more transparent than that.
It’s very rare that a cast member has a problem with what they see on TV, but when they do it’s always because they’re annoyed with themselves for their actions and are looking for a punchbag. You give them 24 hours and you get an apology.
The show I’m working on completely takes up my world – I lived away from home for two and a half years. When you’re right at the heart of a production you don’t miss a call from a cast member. That call could be your next story. You have to pick up because they’re the most important people. Their life is on camera and they’re giving you everything, so you have to give that much back.