'Real Housewives' Contract Allows Show to 'Fictionalize' Footage

Illustration for article titled Real Housewives Contract Allows Show to Fictionalize Footage

A contract for non-cast members appearing on The Real Housewives of New Jersey provides some insight into how your reality TV sausage is made. The terms of the agreement flat out state that the producers reserve the right to not only "fictionalize" footage but also subject those who sign on to "public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation."

The contract, which was obtained by Radar Online, for unpaid participants who film scenes with the regular cast seems to be much more than a standard release form for appearing on camera. These are a few of the 17 terms listed in the document that a signer would need to agree to:

  • "The rights granted herein shall also include the right to edit, delete, dub and fictionalize the Footage and Materials, the Program and the Advertisements as Producer sees fit in Producer’s sole discretion."
  • "[W]aiving any and all rights I may have to any compensation whatsoever."
  • It is not the fault of production of participants are injured, defamed or have "personal, private, surprising, disparaging and embarrassing" details of their lives broadcast on TV.
  • They must "clothing, costumes, accessories and/or makeup" chosen by the producers.
  • Footage may be "exploited throughout the universe at any time, in perpetuity."
  • They cannot run for public office for 12 months after their last scene is shot.

So why would anyone agree to these terms? Well, the contract spells that out too: "a significant element of the consideration I am receiving… is the opportunity for publicity."

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‘We Can Fictionalize The Footage!’: Secret Bravo Contract Exposes How ‘Reality’ TV Shows Are REALLY Made [Radar Online]

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DISCUSSION

As someone who drafts these contracts for reality shows a la Housewives, I don't see what the issue is. Of course footage may be exploited throughout the universe at any time, in perpetuity. That's extremely standard in all television AND film—not just reality TV. All that means is that they can air the show forever if they want. Of course clothing and make up can be chosen by the producers. If you're not getting paid, you have to waive all rights to compensation. And if you're airing your dirty laundry on TV, you have to sign your right to sue for that away, hence the prod not being at fault for disparaging and embarrassing details of their lives. Of course producers have the right to edit, delete, etc the footage—that's what editing is! You have posted a non-story, as this type of language is standard in releases for ALL REALITY SHOWS EVER. I mean, this is on Bravo, which is an NBC network, so I know that the release you got a hold of is a LOT crazier than what you just wrote. NBC has crazy contracts and releases. One talent contract for a DEMO (not even a pilot! It was never going to air!) was 33 pages long. But everything you wrote above is insanely standard for the industry and is nowhere near as scary as you think it is.