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.

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.

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”.

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

EP Blog_SQUARE_1st AC Matt Sanderson

Meet the First Assistant Camera

A conversation with 1st AC Matt Sanderson ('Everything Everywhere All At Once')
Topic: Spotlight
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...
Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)

Meet the Script Supervisor

A conversation with Rachel Connors Phillippe (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘Only Murders in the Building’)
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_SQUARE-Pitching Reality Tv-blue

Pitching and Financing Unscripted Television

Ready to sell your big idea for a reality TV program? This guide will help prepare you for the road ahead.
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

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

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

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

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

Meet EP’s resident residual domain expert, Anthony De La Rosa, and learn what inspired him to enhance and...

Meet the Executive Producer

A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

Film Community and Industry Jobs Grow in Washington State

Thanks to new funding and a continuous effort by Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks,...
Changes to UK Pensions Act

Proposed Changes to the UK Pensions Act Could Impact Production Budgets

Reintroduced bill seeks to give UK government the power to extend pensions auto-enrollment to young and...
Topic: UK
UK Gov Growth Plan

Mini Budget; Big Changes: What the UK Government’s Growth Plan Means for Production 

UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announces new Growth Plan (aka the “mini budget”) and a big shake up of the...
Topic: UK

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural...
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
Compliant crew contracting panel-square

Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

Learn how to ensure your crew contracts are compliant with UK regulations and why the Production Portal is...
Topic: UK
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Tax Incentives and Legal Affairs

Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_Residuals and the streaming model

Residuals and the Streaming Model

How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_World Revenues_global currencies

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

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

How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

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

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

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)

Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal

Six Elements for Enforceable UK Crew Contracts

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

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

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

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

Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP blog-square-tax day

Tips for Tax Day 2022

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

Opening Career Doors

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

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

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

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

How IndieCollect is preserving Black independent films to reflect a more honest view of America and of...
EP Blog_SQUARE_International Film Financing

The Beginner’s Guide to International Film Financing

What to know before you begin an international financing plan.
Crew contracting in the UK-panel

Quick and Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

Neisha Glynternick and Sarmad Saleh from UK-based entertainment law firm Sheridans discuss crew...
Topic: Legal

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.