So You Want to Be a Home Design Show Star?

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Curb Appeal / HGTV

More than 41 million Americans watch home design shows on TV each week. In a wide-ranging panel at the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver, Dean Hill, ASLA, greenscreen, moderated a discussion among the stars on camera as well as the executives and producers behind the scenes who make these design docudramas, often set in suburbia, a reality. John Gidding, star of Curb Appeal; Steven Lerner, an executive at HGTV and DIY at Scripps Networks Interactive; Michael Williams, Green Harbor Productions; and Mia Holt, Johlt Productions, offered candid advice for residential landscape architects and designers who want to become a home design show star:

  • It’s getting harder to find fresh talent without experience. If you are looking to star on your own home design show, a sizable number of Facebook and Twitter followers is key.
  • It’s all about how you are on TV, not in person. For those interested, make a video demo. Production companies often cast via Skype.
  • Extroverts do better. A TV show star needs to be comfortable being out there. You must be telegenic.
  • It’s less about expertise than about passion. Passion reads well.
  • Viewers need to trust what a design show host is telling them to do to their home.
  • TV can provide the gift of design. Home design shows offer broad rules and expose people to the design process.
  • Landscape design concepts have to be conveyed in a way that people can easily understand and apply at home. Viewers want something that’s doable, not overly complex or expensive.
  • HGTV and similar networks are for homeowners interested in improving the value of their home. A $1 investment in a residential landscape will result in $1.22 in added value.
  • Before and after shots, showing the transformational effect of design, work best. A highly educational or altruistic approach causes ratings to plummet. People can go on YouTube to find out how to actually implement a technical solution.
  • TV is not reality: a $20,000 project in TV world costs about $100,000 in the real world.
  • To get one 22-minute episode of a home design show, producers will film over 420 hours of video. When editing, production companies look for humor and drama.
  • For landscape architects and designers: it will be hard to keep your business going and have a TV show at the same time, but a show can also help in real world business promotion.
  • Taste is constantly changing. What didn’t work just two years ago may work now. And what works now may not in the future.

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