Name: Matthew Hartwell
A handful of credits: I got my start on Intervention, and have worked on a bunch of different shows, including Bar Rescue, My Cat From Hell, and Billion Dollar Buyer.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Pittsburgh, but grew up all over, Little Rock, Mobile, Tallahassee. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade at this point.
I met Matt when he was a post-production production assistant (post-pro PA...) on the long running A&E series Intervention and I was the night logger (as explained in my Dreams & Reality here). I would arrive at the end of his shift and he would pass the baton as it were, and give me my assignment for the evening. He'd tell me what episode we were working on, should I prioritize this footage over that, etc. He was my point person to the rest of the show.
What could have been a standard debriefing every work evening was actually a nice moment of my day where I talked to a funny, witty fellow before my long night shift alone in an empty office building.
Matt and I struck up a friendship due to our mutual love of writing and booze and our shared disdain for night logging.
So, Matt, how did you get into Reality TV?
By accident, really. I had been interning in scripted comedy in New York, and then moved out to LA, but didn’t know anybody working in that out here. An ex hooked me up with a transcription job, that turned into night logging, that turned into a post-PA position that turned into story editing that turned into story producing that turned into an anxiety ulcer.
What's a weird thing about Reality TV that no one thinks about?
You already mentioned bathroom mics, so I can’t use that one.
I think one of the weird things is how much people trust you, even though they know you’re there to get drama from them. I don’t enjoy this aspect of the job, but often times, I’m asked by the person in my earpiece to make you cry in an interview (not because it’s fun to watch people cry, but because it shows that things we’re talking about or working on are important to you, and that you’re emotionally invested - on Bar Rescue, we’d have a lot of stoic dudes as bar owners, and it’s hard to relate to someone who sometimes seems like they don’t give a shit if their bar fails or not - I’d be asked to find out WHY the bar matters to them, and oftentimes, it was almost as if it was news to them too), and I learn pretty soon into our relationship how to make you do it. People open up to reality producers way too quickly. I think a lot of subjects use us as a therapist.
I don't have a ton of experience "in the field" aka on-set or on location but I've watched hundreds of hours of interviews and it's true. The subjects on the show Intervention especially opened up to the crew in ways that they wouldn't open up to their friends and family.
Matt, you're also a writer! Talk about your writing and the difficulty (or ease?) of writing while working long hours.
It’s not easy.
In my imagination, I still have the kind of free time you have right after college, and I can still fit in videogames, books, hanging out, and learning new hobbies all alongside actual important things like building my relationship, focusing on my writing career, and actually sitting down and doing the writing.
It’s hard to prioritize those things after a long day working on reality TV, and they can definitely be long days. When you’re in the field, you’re often working a 14-hour day on set, and then going back to your hotel room to prep for the next day, which might mean cutting footage, writing interview questions, or even having a full meeting to discuss a twist in the storyline nobody saw coming.
I have a writing partner, and for a long time, we were very diligent about meeting twice a week, rain or shine, and we’ve let that slip a bit, and moved to an ongoing conversation in Slack and Google Docs. When we carve out all-day sessions on the weekends, they’re infinitely more valuable.
My big goal this year is reprioritizing my writing - too much in the past two years, we’ve been chasing projects brought to us by producers and companies, and these are definitely valuable and help us build our network and skills, but we weren’t also writing our own stuff on top of that.
You're currently working on a cool project that is NOT reality TV, can you talk about it at all??
I’m in a binding NDA right now.
Ooh, secretsssss. I'll be sure to post about the project once it's okay for you to share.
Do you have any other fun projects you're working on?
I produce a podcast called Ginspeak.
We’re on hiatus right now, but the first three episodes from the pilot season are available, with a second season beginning production next month. I talk about booze and cocktail culture, with a focus on gin, but touching anything distilled, really. The second season is going to be wildly different from the first, with a focus on interviews and roundtable discussions as opposed to the more history and process focused one-man-band of season one.
You can find us on iTunes or at www.ginspeak.com!
Thanks Matt!! Hey Reality TV friends! I'd like to interview YOU! Please email me at TheHappenstances at gmail.com or message me on Facebook or whatever. THANK YOU!!!