Today, we will share with you one single story, in an effort to illustrate in some small way the perils of a completely unregulated industry with virtually no worker protections. This story was sent to us by a decade-long veteran of reality TV who has worked at all levels of the industry. It concerns her very first reality gig, as a "story assistant" on the groundbreakingly skanky FOX show Temptation Island, filmed on the Ambergris Caye in Belize. Enjoy.
My first reality job was on Temptation Island. I worked in 90+ degree heat in Belize for 3 weeks straight without a day off, 18 hour days, and every third night I was required to pull an overnight shift until the next night - so a 36 hour shift every 3rd day. (They wanted 24/7 coverage but didn't want to pay for a night crew, so they rotated us through.) People were dropping like flies from heat stroke and exhaustion, but the show must go on, right?
The day after we wrapped and sent the cast and half the crew home, I had my first day off...only a class 4 hurricane hit (Hurricane Keith). When our hotel flooded (water up to our waists) I was forced to sleep for several nights in one room with 6 coworkers with no electricity or running water or food other than random craft services snacks like candy bars while 140 mph winds threatened to break the windows. There was a cholera outbreak (we'd been vaccinated at least) and someone not on the crew but affiliated with one of our locations died. [ed.: The writer clarified that a hotel worker died from the hurricane's rough seas]. After the hurricane passed, did FOX send a rescue plane for the starving and traumatized crew members? Nope. They expected us to go to the airport and use our prepurchased tickets. There weren't enough seats on the planes to send all of us home in one day, so they sent 1/3 of us home each day, alphabetically P.S. I was paid $600/week for this job...
When we got back, they ordered us to one session of group counseling, where I learned that several crew members had genuinely feared their own deaths. I guess it's better I spent my time being really pissed off.
I suppose death is a small price to pay for the knowledge that you helped to play a role in Temptation Island.
[Pictures above of the storm and its aftermath provided by our tipster.]