News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Producing with Purpose

Creative Producer, Kimberly Goodman ('Selling Sunset', 'Project Runway'), shares insights on creating unscripted TV and the genre's continued success through the years.
April 27, 2022
EP BLOG_WIDE-Kimberly Goodman-2

For many of us, watching a good TV show is a chance to escape our everyday lives. For a few hours, we can follow characters through a jungle on a remote island or a mansion in Beverly Hills. But what keeps us tuning in to episode after episode of our favorite reality show?

To better understand unscripted TV and its continued success through the years, Kimberly Goodman shares with us her insider’s perspective. Goodman is the producer of popular shows including 'Selling Sunset', 'Love is Blind', 'Married at First Sight', 'Project Runway', 'MasterChef', and the recently launched 'Watch Out For The Big Grrrls' featuring Grammy-award winning singer, songwriter (and flautist!) Lizzo.

Reality has the power to impact, for better or for worse, the contestants on the show and the viewers watching it. Lizzo is using the platform to expand representation for plus-sized dancers, and transform the way dancers are viewed by the industry and the world.

With this mindset shift, Goodman realizes the weight of her role in shaping the perspective of millions, and her aim is to produce with purpose. She finds it especially rewarding when she can guide contestants on their journey by helping them discover their own special story. As she explains, “My hope is to help them come to these ‘aha!’ moments because I am seeing things in them that they are not seeing in themselves. It is rewarding when I can ask them questions that guide them to grow. If our team of cast members and crew can leave a project all the better, then it makes it all worth it."

Early days of reality shows

Unscripted television first surfaced over 30 years ago, with the introduction of 'Candid Microphone'a radio show in 1947 that soon transitioned over to TV a year later and was renamed Candid Camera. Every episode involved hiding cameras that captured the reactions of people who encountered pranks played on them.

This mixture of people’s routines fueled by conflict and stakes gave birth to reality TV and led to MTV’s documentary-like series 'The Real World' in 1992Reality television as it was known then, however, did not break into mainstream programming until around the time of 'Survivor' when more than 50 million viewers tuned in to watch the season finale in 2000.

Significantly less expensive to produce, but still drawing viewership comparable to popular sitcoms of the day, like ‘Friends’, networks and advertisers saw an opportunity to grow the market. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s there were just a handful of reality shows; today, a whopping 32% of shows are unscripted, and viewership has continued to grow. During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, networks saw a spike in ratings with shows like 'Tiger King' drawing 64 million viewers and 'Love is Blind' attracting 30 million.

Unscripted television can cost between $100-500K per episode, compared to scripted shows like the 'Mandalorian', which can come in at a hefty $15M per episode. In addition to the smaller budgets, they can also be produced much faster. When the pandemic shutdowns stalled production and schedules fell behind, networks and streamers opted for an increase in unscripted content to fill their production calendars, buying more time for scripted shows to return.

F726BF99-A0B1-4C9A-A837-950FF820CB18-800.jpg
Courtesy of Kimberly Goodman

But according to the Observer, even as scripted production ramps up, there are no signs that unscripted TV shows are going away anytime soon. Netflix and Hulu lead the pack with the most reality TV content available, and production continues growing as Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+, and other streamers pick up more unscripted projects.

Unscripted television genres

Unlike reality shows today that often set out as an experiment to test a theory, Goodman explains, “Early unscripted television creators thought of outrageous situations and proceeded to put real people in them.”

Since then, the shows have grown more sophisticated and have expanded into various categories. Goodman highlights a few of the most popular ones: 

  • Competition | 'Project Runway', 'MasterChef', 'Full Bloom'

“Those shows involve people competing around a certain skill set doing bigger-than-life and unusual competitions to gain a prize or a job at the end of it. If it’s celebrity driven, there can also be a charitable component involved where the celebrities donate their earnings.”  

  • Docu Follow | 'Real Housewives', 'Selling Sunset', 'Keeping Up with The Kardashians' 

“This is the closest to a documentary, where you're following a group of people in their day-to-day lives and then watch how they intermingle with each other.” 

  • Social Experiment | 'Love is Blind', 'Married at First Sight', 'Too Hot to Handle'

"This is a newer genre, that in the most recent years is an experiment, usually based around relationships. These experiments put people together to test a question. This question could be, 'is love really blind?' You challenge these people to test the question all along the way to the very end to see if it worked.”

What makes a good reality show? 

Kimberly produces shows that she is genuinely interested in, saying, “If you are interested in your topic and passionate about it, that is when you can sell it. I am looking for great characters and asking questions like, ‘What's happening in the world? What do we need?’ I lean more towards the ‘feel good’ shows where people are going after their dreams.”

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, new findings back up Kimberly’s interest, explaining that trends are leaning towards a future of cause-driven, unscripted content serving minority groups. And we are seeing that play out now with her recently wrapped project, Lizzo’s 'Watch Out For The Big Grrrls'. 

It is rewarding when I can ask [the cast] questions that guide them to grow. If our team of cast members and crew can leave a project all the better, then it makes it all worth it."

What are some of the ingredients of a successful unscripted show? Goodman laughs, “Well, if I knew the answer to that, I would be producing shows right, left, and center! That is the golden question.”  

While it is uncertain which shows are going to be a hit, there are still a few special ingredients that help set up a show to succeed. Goldman's formula for success:

  1. Find the right type of space/niche.

    “What hasn’t been done before or what has a twist on the current landscape of projects? You want to look in a space that has not been done already, and if you are going to go into that space where shows have been done, like food, dance, or performance, it must be something different. The Voice was a great answer to American Idol. It is the same kind of concept, but it was different enough and with a great cast. That is what makes a good show!” 
  2. Make it about a relatable question or topic.

    “If you are doing a social experiment show, make sure that question that you are going to answer is something that hasn't already been answered already, or add a twist to it. Love is Blind is a great example of that. Is love really blind? That is the question that is being answered on every season of Love is Blind. Love, relationships, family, friendships…these are all things that are relatable and where we can see ourselves in others.
  3. Let your characters be who they are.

    “Depending upon the genre, you really need characters with big personalities who are willing to go there. When I say willing to go there, I mean they don't try to hide or pretend to be something they are not. Somebody who really owns who they are. Christine Quinn from Selling Sunset owns who she is, and it works. Who is going to own their personality? That is the biggest question in terms of what will make a good docu-follow.

KG_2-800.jpg
Courtesy of Kimberly Goodman

Above all else, casting

When Goodman is brought on to produce or run a show, she knows that a show is only as good as the characters in it. When in the casting process, Goodman first starts with a leading question: “What are we wanting to do and say as a show?”

By first understanding the show's concept and style (docu-follow, competition, etc.), Goodman casts a wide net to find the right people for the roles, weaving their personal stories into the framework of the show.

She does this by asking questions about their backstory, gleaning the ‘why’ behind their motivation to compete and how their personal story blends with the archetype. She explains, “They're the ones who are guiding their narrative by telling me who they are, and I'm just listening.”

While acknowledging that some shows can be scripted or manipulative, she knows that’s not her goal. “We as producers will always probe, prod, and push people, to be their authentic selves and share their feelings – otherwise we will not be able to tell their truth”.

C2F6421F-EC63-46DD-A9C2-CB5E4359AF46_1_105_c-800.jpg
Courtesy of Kimberly Goodman

Goodman sees her role as a mentor who guides the cast in discovering their own special stories saying, “We all know that we are making a TV show, for example…in a competition show, we are tracking their journey. Yes, they are competing against other people, but they are [also] competing against themselves. Anytime anybody goes after their passion, their own insecurities get in the way and they self-sabotage themselves. As a producer, I am observing them through this whole experience. Sometimes I can help just by asking questions. Sometimes if you ask the right question, someone is going to look at [the situation] from a unique perspective, and suddenly a light bulb goes off, or a turning point happens...”

These conversations are what continue to motivate Goodman in her producing role. As unscripted television continues to grow, there is untapped potential ahead for new revenue streams and social media extensions for fans to interact with cast members. But most importantly, there are opportunities to use these shows as empowering platforms to spark the change that Goodman consistently seeks in every project she produces. Change sparked by those ‘aha!’ moments, which can shift the mindset and perspective of both in the cast of the show and the viewing audience at home.

Goodman’s recent project with Lizzo is available now on Amazon Prime Video. Check out the trailer here.

Topic: Spotlight

Related Content

Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

3/16/2022
A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
Topic: Spotlight
More
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

3/1/2022
A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)
creating-a-winter-wonderland-elf

Creating a Winter Wonderland

12/21/2021
How ‘Elf’ Production Designer, Rusty Smith, Produces the Perfect Snowy Scenes for Film and Television
Shiran-Amir-Randy-Bricker-Meet-the-Editors

Meet the Editor

12/7/2021
‘Chucky’ editors Randy Bricker and Shiran Amir on navigating the entertainment industry and how they...
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.
Master Series Panelists-World Revenues, Foreign Sales, Senior Debt

Film Financing Explained: World Revenues, Foreign Sales, and Senior Debt

4/27/2022
Learn how working with agents, international distributors, and gap financiers can all factor into...
EP Blog_SQUARE_meet the cinematographer-dan-laustsen

Meet the Cinematographer

4/12/2022
A conversation with Dan Laustsen ('John Wick', 'Nightmare Alley').
Anthony De La Rosa-EVP-Residuals

Spotlight: Anthony De La Rosa, Executive Vice President, Residuals

3/8/2022
Meet EP’s resident residual domain expert, Anthony De La Rosa, and learn what inspired him to enhance and...
meet-the-executive-producer-just-mercy-sq

Meet the Executive Producer

2/8/2022
A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...
EP-Blog-Meet-the-Set-Decorator-2

Meet the Set Decorator

1/19/2022
A Conversation with Claire Kaufman ('Little Women')
EP BLOG_Gucci

How Costumes, Hair, and Makeup Tell the 'House of Gucci' Story

12/28/2021
Talented production crew leaders Marco Alzari, Federica Castelli, Stefania Pellegrini, and Romina Ronzani...
John Hadity-Sandra Schulberg-Hybrid Financing Master Series

Film Financing Explained: Hybrid Financing

10/27/2021
Sandra Schulberg joins John Hadity for a spirited discussion on Hybrid Financing and how filmmakers can...
Master Series Thumbnail-Best practices for accurate payroll tax withholding

Best Practices for Accurate Incentive Payroll Tax Withholding

10/22/2021
Learn how payroll tax withholding impacts a production incentive or film tax credit, and how productions...

Designing for Horror

8/13/2021
Daniel Farrands and Andrew Murdock share insights on how filmmakers create fear through visual techniques
EP Blog_SQUARE_World Revenues

The Beginner's Guide to World Revenues, Foreign Sales, and Senior Debt

5/17/2022
Learn how shopping your project around the world to secure funding commitments for distribution rights can...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

5/2/2022
Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
More
six-elements-for-uk-contracts-LC

Six Elements for Enforceable UK Crew Contracts

5/2/2022
Although parties to a crew contract can largely enter into whatever terms they choose, certain elements...
Topic: UK
More
recycling conversation

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

4/22/2022
Nikki Saunders on sustainable filming practices, COVID-19, and why carbon offsetting isn’t a...
EP Blog_The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

4/20/2022
Film and television studios are embracing the green movement in a big way. Here’s what you can expect to...
Master Series Panel-Solving the crew shortage

Solving the Crew Shortage

4/13/2022
Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Tips for tax day

Tips for Tax Day 2022

4/5/2022
Your ultimate tax filing checklist - the deadline this year is Monday, April 18th!
EP Blog_Marge Dean

Opening Career Doors

3/29/2022
How WIA President, Marge Dean, is shaping the future of animation and empowering underrepresented genders
Master Series Women in Animation-thumbnail

Women in Animation: A 3D View

3/24/2022
Marge Dean, Mandy Tankenson, and other women leaders from across animation come together to celebrate...
EP Blog-proud to support-square

Proud to Support: Celebrating Client Nominations at the 94th Academy Awards

3/22/2022
A look at the evolution of the Oscars and the notable films powered by Entertainment Partners technology.
International Film Financing panel-featured

Film Financing Explained: International Financing

3/10/2022
International production experts discuss how producers can utilize financing systems outside of the US,...
EP Blog_Uncovering Treasures_IndieCollect

Uncovering Lost Treasures of Independent Film

2/23/2022
How IndieCollect is preserving Black independent films to reflect a more honest view of America and of...
International Financing-John Hadity-ft

The Beginner’s Guide to International Film Financing

2/15/2022
What to know before you begin an international financing plan
Crew contracting in the UK-panel

Quick and Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

2/9/2022
Neisha Glynternick and Sarmad Saleh from UK-based entertainment law firm Sheridans discuss crew...
Topic: Legal
Watch
EP BLOG_Decoding-Your-Paystub-S

Decoding Your Paystub in 2022

2/2/2022
What deductions may look different in the new year

PayTalk: The Recipe for a Successful Payroll 2022 (Part One)

1/13/2022
Davida Lara joins the PayTalk podcast to share strategies for leading successful teams
Future-of-production-virtual stages

The Future of Film and Television Production

1/4/2022
Virtual stages, remote production offices, and other advances in technology drive the evolution of...
2022 Budgeting-sq

Budgeting for 2022: A Production Accountant's Guide

12/15/2021
EP's Payroll Tax, Production Incentives, and Business Development experts explain how inflation,...
EP BLOG_Payroll_Cleanup_Becky_Harshberger_sq

Everything You Need to Know About End-of-Year Production Payroll Cleanup

11/30/2021
Reconciling payroll errors and generating accurate W-2s can be a tedious process. These proactive steps...
film-budget-meeting-sq

Why Accurate Payroll Tax Withholding Matters to Film Budgets

11/16/2021
Wendy Black, EP’s Vice President of Incentive Operations, shares tips for ensuring your production...
Best Practices for Year-End Payroll Cleanup-Panelists-sq

Best Practices for Year-End Payroll Cleanup

11/15/2021
Payroll tax expert Becky Harshberger shares best practices to help production accounting teams prepare for...
john hadity-beginners guide to hybrid film financing

The Beginner's Guide to Hybrid Film Financing

11/3/2021
How to successfully navigate working with foundations and investors to finance your next social-impact...
American Film Market logo

AFM 2021 Online: Entertainment Partners Explores the Future of Production

11/1/2021
Content creators, production technology developers, production finance experts, and media thought leaders...
Psychology-of-terror-steve-wang-todd-masters-feature

The Psychology of Terror

10/29/2021
How our deepest personal fears inspire cinematic monster makers Todd Masters and Steve Wang
woman-man-filming-production-sq

Mission: NOT Impossible

10/20/2021
Production incentives give producers options, increase infrastructure development and jobs promoting...
Identity Security Film Production-sq

Identity Security in Production

10/13/2021
5 Strategies to Manage Risk and Resist Cyberattacks in the Entertainment Industry

Spotlight: Martin Mazor, SVP, Infrastructure & Security

10/5/2021
Meet the industry-veteran leading EP's dedicated security team
5 top payroll tax errors-Becky Harshberger

5 Top Payroll Tax Errors and How to Prevent Them

9/28/2021
Production payroll can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Payroll Tax expert Becky Harshberger...

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

9/14/2021
Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD

Meet the Paymasters

9/9/2021
The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks

How to solve a compounding problem?

9/8/2021
The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

Film Financing Explained: Soft Money Financing

9/2/2021
Vivian Hua joins our panel of financing and incentive experts to discuss funding film and television...
Canadian flag

5 Things to Know Before Working in Canada

8/31/2021
Prepare for your next job in Canada with this checklist of payroll considerations
Topic: Canada
More
 John Hadity-Guide to Soft Money Financing-sq

The Beginner’s Guide to Soft Money Financing

8/25/2021
How filmmakers can capitalize on incentives, film funds, and more to finance their next project
 Adjusting the W4-Becky Harshberger-Sq

How to Adjust Your Tax Withholdings Using the New W-4

8/17/2021
Making small adjustments throughout the year can save production workers big at tax time!

Digital Production Studio

Production Finance StudioProduction Management StudioEnterprise Management Hub

EP Sites

Central CastingEntertainment PartnersEP StoreSyncOnSetThe Production CommunityWe Got POP
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.