Behind the Scenes of HGTV's "Design School"

Behind the Scenes of HGTV's "Design School"

Marcia Prentice
Nov 9, 2010

I have spent many Saturday and Sunday afternoons fixated on HGTV's wealth of design shows. I never could have guessed that I would one day be behind the screen and the one having to create the designs while thousands of viewers look on and critique my work and personality. Welcome to HGTV's new docu-reality series, "Design School," filmed at Los Angeles' premier design school, FIDM. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. What is it like designing for TV with the pressure of very tight deadlines and having to always be "on"? Stay tuned after the jump.

Cast Members (From Left to Right): Paul Templeman-Holmes, Gianna Costa, Olivia Sibert, Mark Griffin, Ashleigh Conn, Chris Cushingham, Me, and Danny Luna

Designing for TV is a very different challenge than designing for a regular client. The job requires equal talent and personality. Also, can I tell you just how hard it is to watch yourself on television for the first time. No matter how cool you thought you were, having a real reality check to how you show up to others is pretty harsh. It is almost impossible not to critique yourself on silly expressions, gestures, subconscious habits, and every spoken word.

Editing Myth Revealed:

Editing Facts: Editing one week's worth of content into a one-hour episode requires including only the strongest design footage and fun or interesting moments that either move the story forward or keep the viewers excited. I can only speak from my experience being a cast member on "Design School" and watching the final aired episode. I was surprised just how true it was to the actual events and personalities of each design student. Technology hasn't advanced to the level yet where we can manipulate someone's mouth to lip a particular opinion or critique.

Acting Myth Revealed:

Acting Facts: I often wondered if my favorite reality show was made up of actors or are any of the dramatic events staged. I can attest that the personalities and events on "Design School" are real through the good and the bad. I would find a hard time tying to focus on acting when there is an urgent design task at hand. Everyone was chosen for the show based on both talent and an interesting personality. However, you must always be "on" and vocalize thoughts and feelings.

Deadline Myth Revealed:

Deadline Facts: I have never been on such short deadlines compared to the few day deadlines to complete a major design concept, renderings, and prepare for a client presentation. The deadlines given on screen are pretty close to our actual time frames. Because the producers have to stick to their production schedule, there are not many allowances for extended deadlines. Of course, any design project or installation has to be presentable for television, so when needed we were given minimum off-camera extensions.

The "Design School" series airs on HGTV on Fridays at 2:00PM PST, but check your TV listings because for certain cable providers the time is 11:00AM on Fridays. The next episode is designing an event suite for the Staples Center, which is my favorite assignment.

MORE INFO: HGTV's "Design School"

Images: HGTV, FIDM, Zap2It

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