How to Get on HGTV
A couple of years ago, my husband and I were on the HGTV show Carter Can. They turned our empty basement hell into an unbelievably sick entertainment room complete with tiered seating and a HD-projector television screen roughly the size of Rhode Island. It still runs on reruns here and there, as well as being up on Hulu now, and whenever people see it they ask the same question: how did you get on the show?
Well, truthfully, it was easy. And a year and a half later we are still thrilled with the result. So, without any further ado, I will more than happily share my secrets with you.
1. Own your house
This is pretty simple, but if you don’t have the rights to the place you want to get redone, it’s not going to happen.
2. Be in need
We bought, what is known in the trade, as a fixer-upper of a house. Every wall was literally painted a different color, and that was just for starters. What that gave us was a house that needed a lot of work. What that gave HGTV was a great ‘before shot’ of the room they would do, which makes the ultimate transformation all the more dramatic when they are done. Note: Once we knew HGTV was interested in the basement, I sweetened the deal by using it as unpacked storage hell. Well, that’s not true. It was always unpacked storage hell, but I kept it that way for them.
3. Go online
Number one misconception: people think we had an ‘in’ with HGTV. We did not. We knew no one there. We got selected the old fashioned way: by the Internet. Knowing our house needed way more work than we could afford, I went onto the HGTV website the day we closed and scoured for every show that was casting in LA. Then I applied.
4. You don’t have to be in LA
While the majority of HGTV shows may tape in LA, by far from all of them do. Some tape in New York, Denver, Atlanta–it just depends on the show, the season–whatever they’ve got going right now. So it’s definitely worth checking–and then checking back–no matter where you are. Because their shows–and who/where they’re casting–change by the season.
5. Don’t be a control freak
If you have a particular show you think you’d be good for, that’s great, and will probably help your application. And it might help you feel more comfortable if you’re nervous about giving over the keys to your kitchen remodel. Our feeling, however, was that anything would be an improvement.
6. Some shows are better than others
Also known as: budget. What we noticed when we were applying was some shows have a budget for the remodel. Others ask that you pay for the remodel yourself, but just that they either get to film it or design it. We didn’t have a big budget, nor were we interested in being on TV just for the privilege of being on TV. So we only applied for the shows that had some sort of a budget with which to do the work, although some of them asked if you would be able to kick in a certain amount if necessary. We thought that was fair.
7. Apply yourself
I don’t mean that you should spend 78 hours putting together a perfect prospectus and send them over a singing telegram, just put some thought into what you say, answer all their questions, and follow all their instructions. On top of that, including good pictures (those every-color walls were a true help) and giving them a good angle to work with helps. In our case, I was an entertainment journalist who wanted an entertainment room. This, it turns out, was a good angle.
This sounds like a no brainer, but our biggest potential barrier to getting cast was the fact that we live on a tight, winding street with a steep driveway that would make it hard for them to get their giant tool and production trucks around or have a place to put them. This is a very real consideration for them. Yes, they will take care of getting the filming permits that will clear parking spaces if need be, but let’s just say the easier it is for them the more appealing you are.
9. Size matters
There is an unbelievable amount of production people who will be in your house during filming. We have an actual house and it was bursting at the gills. If you live in a studio apartment, it probably won’t work.
10. Be flexible.
Did I already say this? Well, it matters. HGTV asked us about possible angles for our episode, what we wanted to have done to the house, etc. If we had said, ‘It must look like X or else we will die,’ I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have been their people. The element of many of their shows is surprise, and they take it seriously. We really were banished from our house for a whole day while they completed their work, and when we came back no one could talk to us until we saw the room. That’s their money shot and they take it seriously. And they love it. So did we.
(Photo By: Jeremy Levine Design)