Fly on a Wall film making refers to a style of shooting in which the camera crew is as unobtrusive as possible. The people who are filmed are real people, not actors, and the situations they are put in are also real. As a huge fan of the reality show Survivor, I immediately associated this technique with the show, and as we researched this in class I found I was not alone. Among Survivor were other reality shows like Big Brother, Deadliest Catch, etc. All of these were referred to as using the fly on the wall technique.
In my ongoing obsession with perception however, is Survivor and other reality shows really exemplifying this technique. At first this style was attributed to documentary film makers before they took offense to it as it ignores all the work as well as bias inherent in making a film. What we perceive to be fly on the wall film making really isn’t so when it comes to a show like Survivor.
Let me tell you why. Every season of Survivor completes production (the “shooting” phase of making the show, the actual 39 days) about a year before we the public get to view it. From there it is subject to a years worth of editing, cutting, and splicing. This means that the editors of Survivor basically know who will win the show, and therefore can develop a narrative appealing to be viewed by the mass public that will increase their ratings (which is always the goal) and make them money. Let me be the first to say I love Survivor, I’m a fan all the way, through and through, but this is also part of the reason why I love the show. It’s entertaining, there’s conflict and drama, but its important to remember that we are shown exactly what the producers want us to see. They can cut the scenes any way they like to make people look either good or bad, crazy or sane.
Its also important to remember that the show takes days of interactions and sums it all up in less than an hour. Knowing this, it is impossible not to conclude that there will be some misrepresentation, and former cast members often have said that they felt the show didn’t do them justice or portrayed them differently than they felt at the time.
The illusion of reality TV is that it is real, when we all now know that most shows like Pawn Stars or Storage Wars are completely fabricated with actors and directors and a behind-the-scenes crew, shot like TV shows using the guise of the fly on the wall technique. Its an important reminder to not form judgements too quickly and make sure your opinions are well thought out and not just based on headlines or tidbits of information, or else risk the bliss of ignorance.