Last night, my restaurant partook in the filming of a reality series pilot. And while I wasn’t the focus of the cameras (thank God) it didn’t make it any less weird. The concept of what is tentatively being called Bar Swap on TruTv is to switch bar owners of two establishments. In our case it was our Tex Mex place switching with a higher end cocktail bar. I think both owners had to introduce one menu and one drink item at the other place. In our case the high end cocktails were jamming up our bar. (We have way too high of a volume for someone to be fresh squeezing anything.)
The show (at least for this episode) was hosted by comedian Mo Mandel and all night you heard him telling one liners, over and over again. The repeating of dialogue was deafening at times. Especially, since the bar couldn’t play any music (copyright laws). It was like working in a cafeteria with the glaring bright stage lights and only the noise of restaurant chatter.
Only once did Mo engage me in conversation and with the camera on me I sort of just smirked and tried to ride along. One, he gave me shit about my name and told me I was greedy for having two. Then he tried to harass me about not doing any work but they came over to the host stand and I wasn’t even sure what to do so I just stood there and smiled. I probably could have been working if say, there weren’t f*#king cameras in my face. I kind of shut it down right there and hoped that the interaction wouldn’t make it to tape.
The whole night I watch customers come in slack jawed and confused when the saw the bright lights and cameras. Some walked right out the door, others weren’t too sure they wanted to even be seated, many asked to be put in the old section where there were no cameras. Most of my night was spent pushing cameramen to the side so I can go about my business which wasn’t always easy (especially since they seemed to favor the one spot the entire staff uses to get in and out of the bar). And the few times I had to wait because there was no way to get around the shot, all I could do was hope for the lack of a retake. Of which there were many.
“Ok, that was good, can we do it again.” “I liked that but can you say it this way.” And there were the few times where they engaged customers in the filming so you had to wait to get around those moments. At one point, a handler of some sort rounded up a group of customers, made them go outside and when prompted they had to come in the front door acting super excited to be in the restaurant. So, then again, I had to wait for that to pass.
I will say this. The crew themselves were super nice and very respectful that we still had our jobs to do. Anytime we needed them to move, they did, and over and over again they reiterated that to us. In fact, they seemed to really enjoy being in our restaurant, with our staff and seemed to be having fun themselves. Especially, when some of our drunken regulars decided to heckle Mo toward the end of the night.
Which is why I found it odd so many of my coworkers were stressed out. I think as far as being part of a reality show goes, it was pretty easy. Granted, maybe it helped that I purposely worked out hard three days in advanced, got my hair did and stopped off for a beer before work (which was thankfully bought for me by my bar regulars) but in the end I ignored the cameras and they ignored me. If you see anything of me on camera at best you see my backside walking away from the camera and that’s about it.