IN THE BEGINNING…
The first thing I’m going to lead with is the same thing Jake Zweig told me when I interviewed the instigator about his role on Top Shot Season 3:
It’s a TV Show. Reality or not. That’s all it is. The only things that are real are the people and what you choose to believe. It’s a TV Show.
Over half a year ago I posted a casting call I found online for the Discovery Channel TV show known as American Guns. We had some pretty cool gun ideas presented my personal favorite being a 1861 LeMat Revolver made from scratch. Well it turns out since I didn’t really have a hefty a mount (or any for that matter) of money to bring to the table the original ideas presented were tabled or forgotten and we moved forward with the final product you’ll be seeing tonight.
The show follows a family and their gun shop [Gunsmoke] based out of Wheat Ridge, Colorado (or Golden as they say to sound more glamorous no doubt) and the custom work and mega-gun deals as they buy, sell, trade and blow stuff up. It’s a “REALITY” TV show in the sense that they use real people on the show rather than actors. Some of the deals are real and some are staged. Some deals are real but planned and some of them really are walk-ins. Some people walk in and demand to be put on TV and Rich or Brian or Bob or whoever else will promptly tell them to take a walk, at which point the angered gun diva will spew gallons of hate on the interwebs, forums and google reviews. Everything posted on the web is true, right?
MY IMPRESSION OF RICH WYATT…
What’s Rich Wyatt like in real life? Honestly I didn’t know what to think because I’d spent time on Google and forums and lots of people didn’t have kind things to say about him or his shop. But Rich was honest, spoke clearly and concisely and spoke what was on his mind. Gunsmoke is not a price point shop and he didn’t apologize about this. He told me while looking me in the eye and unwavering that he does American Guns for 2 reasons: First, to get the word out about guns. Guns are cool, they’re okay, they can be used for fun, protection and sport, and second, “To make some money.” Just like that. He didn’t tell me he sold out, and he didn’t apologize for making bank with the show. Apparently before we started filming when he found out about Haus of Guns he went online, looked me up, saw what I was about and had to say then grilled me with questions. He really seemed genuinely interested in the site and what we’re all about. So much so that I’ve been invited back to attend one of their concealed carry firearm courses to see what I think and do a write up on it.
MY 3 FAVORITE THINGS:
- The “Haggling” scene with Rich Wyatt at the counter in the store. We had to do it over and over, but if you’re a haggler and enjoy arguing over the price of something you understand how much fun that can be. So when you see my personal rifle set on the counter I offered up for “trade” (for show purposes only, I still have the rifle) and see Rich and I going at it over price that part was real. It was a lot of fun. We laughed, kidded around and almost forgot the cameras were there. Hopefully it comes across when the scene airs.
- The “REVEAL” and wrap up day was long. 9 hours in the wide open heat with no shade and the SAME thing over and over. Me walking with the newly renovated shotgun, looking for fake targets with Rich shouting in my ear. You can tell he’s a pro at the reality TV filming game. But the camera work we did was insane. The Ultra High Speed camera you’ll see the super slow-mo shots from films at 5300 FRAMES PER SECOND! The filming for those shots was exhausting, but seeing the end result on the viewfinder was uber cool.
- Renee is an absolute sweetheart. She was fun, encouraging and not fake at all. If her feet hurt because she has to wear obnoxious heels she’d say so but without whining. When she got tired of standing in the sun she sat in the shade and never once did I hear her demean even the lowliest of production assistants (or “PA” as we say in the biz 😉 ). She was complimentary and encouraging towards me and even open to talking about their family and offering plenty of questions about mine.
What I’m about to tell you next may ruin reality TV for you but it’s important you come back to earth and get a grip on what’s real and not.
You feel like an idiot on the show. On the individual interview parts where you’re sort of doing your monologue the directors make you amp up the excitement to the point of feeling fake. To tell you the truth I’m afraid I’ll look like a fool with what they were driving me to say. And when you’re on set filming you can see why they have you do this. The scenes are filmed over and over so many times that everything loses it’s luster. Stuff gets repetitive and it can be easy to lose interest when fatigue and boredom begin to set in. There were parts where I felt so ridiculous and fake that I considered just walking away. I didn’t for the sole purpose that I gave my word to show up and do my thing, but it’s worth noting that it crossed my mind.
The whole time we filmed the producers pushed me to sell a story not mine that wasn’t real. Because I wouldn’t bring in my grandfather’s ACTUAL 1952 Sears & Roebuck J.C. Higgins 12 Gauge shotgun to be ravaged and overhauled for my episode, the show peeps snatched an old beat up Remington 870 Wingmaster from the shelves of Gunsmoke and we ran with it for the story line. Stories of break-ins and fears about an unsafe environment were firsthand stories of other customers and some of the filming crew, not my own. The best way I can think to describe my role was to come on the show as myself but also as an actor without a script.
FURTHER… the explosions were real and filmed on the spot, but because of possibly destroying the wires for detonating the plastic explosives, I didn’t actually get to shoot the targets as they popped up. I did get to fire live rounds, but they were all sent into a hillside either over the top or to the side of the moving targets. You’ll be happy to know I hit the bushes I was aiming for. Most of me running the course they set up that you’ll see was doing so on about a dozen “DRY” runs with the gun unloaded. Remember what I said about false excitement, AND this being a TV show? Everything done is for the audience sitting at home watching, not us in front of the cameras.
Rich Wyatt and the firearms safety instructor were very complimentary about my gun handling habits and proficiency. Rich actually told me that if you watch the show most of the time as soon as the customer shoots and the gun goes empty you’ll see him snatch the gun away from them immediately. Which I had noticed and did bring up. The safety guy was kind enough to say I was the most capable shooter they’d had on the show yet and with that gave me the trust of letting me handle the shotgun all day which I did with pleasure.
In the end it was a positive experience. I did learn that I don’t ever want to be on a reality TV show like Top Shot or maybe even have my own TV show. EVER. The repetition is boring and exhausting and the things you do for TV made me feel like I was compromising who I was. If REAL reality TV isn’t real enough to make it entertaining or a good sell, I’m not interested. Also, I would never even consider defiling an heirloom shotgun into something of the tactical variety. Though the story we presented was cute, it’s not what I would do under those circumstances. And while the guys at Gunsmoke did a fine job transforming the beat up old Wingmaster into a tacticool dream, the work they did isn’t anything I wouldn’t feel confident doing myself in my own shop… for a QUARTER of the price.