behind the scenes at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

(WARNING: for those of you who really really care about the show and cry every week, you should probably stop reading now!)

for the last week or so, my work has been overrun with do-gooders in blue shirts and hardhats. in their quest to build a house for somebody in every state, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition just finished up a house in Maynard, MA. Paul Giunta was severely injured in a car accident when he was driving home from the hospital where his wife had just given birth. he was paralyzed and has been living in a house that can not accommodate a wheelchair. Paul Giunta was forced to live with his parents since getting out of the hospital, while his wife raised their three kids in their non-accessible house.

the Giunta's live just down the road from the lab, and the empty lots around us were used as staging areas for the over 500 volunteers and contractors who came to tear down the old house and build the new.

i learned a lot about the show just by sitting on the sidelines, chatting with the security guards, and secretly letting some of the crew use our bathroom.

having EM:HE come to town is a bit like having the circus come to town. everybody dresses up in their finery (matching t-shirts and hardhats) and their is an infectious aura of good will. huge trucks roll in non-stop. many are delivering, or removing, building supplies. but some bring soda to the volunteers (pepsi and coke both came), some bring things the family will need (an entire truckload of lands-end clothing), many bring the media, both local and national, and tour-buses and a fleet of golf carts drive the spectators and VIP's to and from the build site.

needless to say -- it's chaos.

some of my staff were devastated to get a behind the scenes look at the show. it had never occurred to them that they would do the "surprise early morning door knock" more than once. i think they did it five times, over two different days. ditto with the trademark "MOVE THAT BUS". they often bring in a fake family in a limo to get the shot just right. and they move the bus a few times.

to me, this was as expected. this is, after all, pageantry. but to my staff, it was a little like learning that there is no santa claus.

what did surprise me, however, was the length EM:HE went to include the entire community. the goodwill is genuine. and in a country where people are jaded and sarcastic, everybody was genuinely happy for the Giunta's. So they did the bus trick a few too many times. at the end of the day, a family that has seen hard times got a new handicap accessible house. the neighbors who put up with the mess and the noise and the chaos? they all got presents. every neighbor was given either new appliances from Sears, or cold hard cash. it's hard to begrudge those around you when you hear the hum of the ice-maker in your new stainless steel fridge. the show planted one of their security guards at the entrance to *our* parking lot, just to make sure that our meager parking wasn't poached by onlookers. and over 50 different local tradespeople were given a part of the project, so at the end of the day, even though workers and security and staff were bussed in by the truckload, we could all feel like we were part of a little Home Makeover magic.

many congrats to the Giunta's. we wish you all the best.


cindy*staged4more said...


I love this post that you wrote. Would you mind submitting this to the Blog Carnival of Real Estate Home Staging? It's http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_2606.html

Organizer, Blog Carnival of Real Estate Home Staging

Michelle Harrington said...

Thank you for this insight on how this works! My family is currently in the 'application process'. A couple of people who have nominated us have been contacted by the casting department asking for more photos, info, etc. We found this blog while researching what the selection process is like, how they do what they do, etc.
You can visit my blog at www.pink-n-sparkly.blogspot.com to read about my family's plight. My email is raidergirl71@hotmail.com.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunatly, I have been "behind the scenes" a few too many times. What bothers me the most is that they do not give enough credit to the volunteers. When the volunteers do such things as paint the murals, the designers get all the credit. And as for Ty, a great guy I am sure, but I know that he does very little but act for his "secret project." However I do agree with you that it is great what they are doing. Its just show biz that gets in the way.

Anonymous said...

A project has been going on all this week in our little community of Phelan, Ca. Ty spent a couple hours here, not like what you see on TV. Paul, Paige and Michael have been here and I am sure, working. Hundreds of volunteers working hard to make this happen for the Almquist family, Forever Wild Animal Sanctuary, and it is going to be wonderful. I really feel that us "unskilled" volunteers, many of us here 6-8 hours daily doing clean up, unloading trucks, clearing away recycling etc. have not been appreciated. I am not even going back for the revealing tomorrow. Would be nice if they gave the volunteers special passes so they do not have to stand out in the rain for 6 hours waiting. Today there was a special concert by Billy Ray Cyrus and we were told to go to. Off site about 20 miles away where there is more room. Were told that they would start letting people in at 4:30, so several of us left after volunteering since 7 am at 3 to get there to wait. Got there at 3:45 and were turned away. It seems that only 420 people were allowed to watch and they announced it on a radio station and those listeners were allowed in, not the dedicated volunteers. They definitely need a better system. I am sure they also would pass the hat at the concert for money, and I stopped to get a hundred dollars. The two other volunteers with me were actually crying when we left. Next week I am treating them to a nice dinner with the money.

Anonymous said...

You know when you volunteer youre doing it out of the kindness of your heart not expecting a pat on the back or a free concert. Stop complaining you didn't get something out of it. Why are you volunteering then? The thanks you get is helping a very needy family be taken care of.

Anonymous said...

There was a show done here in NH in Lyme. One of the guys who works for my hubby had his daughter helping out. She was so shocked at the reality! Paige was screaming at volunteers! Ty had fake tears put into his eyes. The "star" designers only showed up for shots in front of the camera. The volunteers were doing all the work! Also at the end, the front door would NOT open! they had to repair it and do the whole shot over! There have been many issues, from what i've heard, with the foundation etc... ah... reality TV... it is NOT reality!

Anonymous said...

I live all the way in South Africa and I watch the show almost everyday. Im reading the posts on this blog and I am so disgusted. I would be proud to be involved in a project like this,we dont get a new house just because we have cancer or our dad died. Be happy that there are people in your country doing great work and You guys might be doing the work but the show is getting the money to put up that house. so shut your mouth if you find it in your hearts to help a family without getting compensated and complaining by all means do if not stay in your house, close your curtains and come out after the bus has been moved. And stop fussing about the reshoots I would think as Americans you guys you would understand that best. Its A SHOW!

Anonymous said...

Same here, without EM:HE there wouldn't be the money, supplies and oppurtunity to do this. They get those things by producing a show that people like to watch. And to do the last thing they have to do reshoots! The show makes people happy and I think if you ask the families that you'll hear nothing bad

Anonymous said...

If you ask the families, they'll say they åre victims. The taxes can increase 500%, electricity ridiculously high and maintance even higher. Just check out the stories after the show. Abandoned, stressed and more broke than they've ever experienced before.