Exclusive live chat with the co-exec producer of Brat Camp. How they felt behind the scenes.
Do you think maybe Brat Camp sends the wrong message in that these kids are not brats and just need help and may have issues in their lives that make them this way?
Do you think you're damaging the lives of those on this show?
Actually, I really feel the show has been a great help to the kids involved. I wouldn't have gotten involved with it otherwise.
I keep in touch with all the families...and though I won't tell you all their outcomes, as that's the last episode, I can say that it wasn't harmful to any of them
How did you choose that particular wilderness program, Sagewalk, for your tv show? Were any of the counselors added just for the show?
We chose SageWalk after researching dozens of camps across the nation. We considered it to be the best. And no, we didn't add any staff. All the Field Instructors and therapists on the show are real SageWalk employees
Do you think the presence of cameras effected the kids progress at Sagewalk?
We were really concerned about that possibility when we started, and tried hard to make ourselves as much of the background as possible. For instance, when the kids were doing therapy we were shooting from quite a distance, using long lenses to catch the action. We weren't 'shoving cameras in their faces' as we've been accused by some of the press.
Also, on any show I've worked on, it seems people become very indifferent to the cameras after a couple of days...and we were at SageWalk for over 40 days.
So they didn't care about us, especially since the camera people wouldn't respond to the kids at all
They certainly weren't playing for the cameras, they were too involved in the process they were going to. And unlike other reality shows, none of them have aspirations to act, or have taken any acting classes. Except I think Jada wants to be a singer one day
Did they have to take any extra security measures because it was a ‘show’ and not just the camp?
All of us involved in the production had to go through FBI background checks, which I thought was great. As for actual security, the SageWalk camp was sooooo far from civilization, that we never saw another human being the whole time we were shooting
SageWalk was very careful about us...and rightfully suspicious of Hollywood to begin with. We had to earn their trust
So much of reality tv is based around entertainment and in that sense, exploitive of the subjects. How did you approach a show like Brat Camp which is using children, and also showcasing people in need, differently than other shows you work on?
On BRAT CAMP, we didn't create any of the situations or purposefully put the kids in stressful situations. They went through the normal SageWalk program, and we simply documented the process. Even our interviews with the kids were limited to once a week, and were monitored by the SageWalk Therapists, who could stop us if they considered our questioning to be detrimental to the kids. They never stopped us once, by the way, which I'm very proud of.
It was a whole different animal than any other show I've ever done!
Lexie.. when Lexie came off the cliff, were you there?
I was not there when Lexie rappelled down the cliff face, if that's what you mean...I was back in the edit bays that day. But was thrilled when I saw the footage.
Whenever Lexie cried in this show, I cry...even though I've seen it hundreds of times
No other show I've worked on has emotionally moved me so much
What was the hardest part for the kids? The discipline, the lack of modern conveniences, the inability to light up?
I think the kids missed their TV's, internet and music the most. Though it was REALLY cold out there, and that quickly became the focus of their complaints!
They seemed to respond well to the discipline, which is very interesting.
Does SageWalk continue with their connection with the kids after they leave? Isaiah Alarcon was charged with a hate crime over the weekend, with the counselors be in touch with him??
Yeh, I spoke to Isaiah this afternoon, and he claims he didn't do what he was charged with. I want to believe him and hope that's the case. I'm sure his SageWalk counselors will be involved soon.
When the children return home are the parents also taught new parenting skills in how to deal with the children?
The parents actually had lengthy calls with the Counselors weekly, to help them deal with all the issues. We only showed a little bit of that therapy, as we didn't have cameras living with the parents, and they were all over the country
I HAVE to ask this one LOL!!!!! M3gabyt3: Did Arnold make them eat PB&J?
no PB&J in the field! LOL...just oats, lentils and some cheese
How much involvement do the parents have in the production of brat camp?
The parents were not involved in the production aspects of the show, but SageWalk kept them up to date on the progress of the show, as I do each week. I warn them about what's coming up each week so they can better prepare themselves and their kids for all the emotions
oh you still do that now!
Yes, I've been calling the parents whose kids are the focus of each week's episode, and letting them know what to expect
I don't want them to be shocked.
I wanted this to be a good experience for everyone involved, and Arnold and Allison have always been that way with their shows. That’s why I work so much with them.
Did the kids agree to be filmed? How did the idea come about?
The kids knew we were filming them for a documentary regarding teens and their issues, which would air on ABC. But they did not know the content of the show, unless their parents decided to tell them about the camp.
The kids were all very excited to tell us their problems with their parents...though they were pretty pissed with our field producers when they ended up at camp! Though most got over it.
Jada's parents told her she was going to SageWalk, a camp in Oregon...and she asked them how many pairs of sandals she should bring!
Do you think the episodic style of TV adds/detracts from the human story of the kids? Would you prefer to to attempt this documentary style?
This was actually more doc than any network show I've ever worked on...I thought it was really brave of ABC to take that risk. And luckily it turned out well, which may mean more documentary style shows will find their way to networks in the future. I like both types of programming, and feel there's room for both!
Ok a follow up to the previous question. So they knew but did they agree to being filmed there's a big difference?
Yes, they agreed to being filmed. They voluntarily signed releases and they knew that anything they said was fair game to be used on television. As is evidenced by their interviews in the show, these kids LOVED to talk
How much, if any, contact were the kids allowed with back home?
They were only allowed to communicate with their parents through hand-written letters. There were many letters, though, and that was a big part of the process.
no phone calls, right?
no phone calls
This show is very similar to and I'm sure closely based on the UK Brat Camp. Follow up on the kids from that show showed several went back to their former juvenile delinquent ways. Do you follow up these kids to gauge your success? And will there be a follow up show?
We did shoot follow ups with the kids, and you'll see those in the last episode
How would you rate the success of Brat Camp, and will there be another season?
I haven't even checked the ratings :|
BRAT CAMP is more successful than I ever hoped for! We've been in the top ten shows of the WEEK, every week since we started. Between 8.5 and 10.5 million viewers have watched each episode
Do you think the older the children are, the less success in changing them your program will have? In other words, what is the motivation for a 17 year old who is about to become 18 to change their behaviors?
That's a good question...I guess we'll see. The older kids certainly have more understanding about the fact that maybe turning their life around is a good thing.
Did you learn any lessons from the UK Brat Camp? What did you change as a result?
I liked the UK show, though it was a lot more random than our show. Not many Americans watched it when it aired on ABC Family Channel, so I don't think it was structured to suit American tastes. Also, the title came from the UK show...and I've certainly found out that some people in this country get offended more easily than our British cousins
Did you experience resistance when you pitched this program to the networks? Has this changed and have advertisers been supportive to the project?
Actually, ABC bought the British series and then asked Shapiro/Grodner Productions to make an American version. I think because families are watching this show together, that advertisers are happy!
Did you think the program was too hard on some of the kids, especially the long hikes on the younger, smaller children like Derek?
I don't think the hikes hurt the kids at all. Some people are up in arms saying we abused those kids...but that's nonsense! Every kid came out of the program stronger and more fit than ever before. I feel we're too lax as a society with our kids. I think that's part of the problem. At the end of the blizzard hike, Derek certainly had enough strength to pick up the pace and make it to the end. perhaps he was just whining?
How has the response been to SageWalk since this started airing? ie. New inquiries from parents wanting to send their kids
SageWalk's website had 200 hits the day the show premiered...and 9 to 10 THOUSAND HITS the next day. I wish them luck!
Did those filming and editing find themselves emotionally invested in these kids? Cheering when they have a break through and crying when they were upset?
Oh my God...we all become sooooo invested in the kids. We rooted for them behind the scenes in the field...and we cried in the edit bay. I'm still very protective of them, and am making sure the media doesn't jump all over them. they're not your typical 'reality stars'...they're kids!
Can you remember the scene that touched you the most?
In last week's episode, I cried when Lexie was talking to Mother Raven...I cried when Lauren was talking to her father's spirit. And I cried right up front during the impact letters. I don't want to tell you what happens in the episodes to come...but it gets even more emotional, if you can believe it
Omg were you bawling when Glacier gave his pulok to Lexie? Wow that’s a powerful moment!
It was AMAZING! Glacier's the coolest. I love that guy!
John...I looked at Sagewalk's website and noticed the cost is very high...did you guys help parents with the costs for being on the show??
We covered the cost of tuition for all involved.
Thanks for the chat, John!
THANKS FOR WATCHING!! I think it's important and hope it makes the world a tiny bit better place!