Of course they had volunteered. Low budget; volunteers instead of actors. It’s cheaper that way and, if you’re lucky, more interesting.
That’s the core of reality TV.
You will have seen the shows; weird experiments and challenges or just a group locked inside a bungalow and manipulated to hate and attack and love each other.
Now, not all shows make it to your TV screens. Some because they are too boring. Some because the test audiences turn their thumbs down. And some because of accidents.
Accidents, that’s what you could call it.
Of course, they all volunteered and they all volunteered all liability away. Those blanko contracts are strong; even with such unusual cases. The director had trouble and we a bit too – but our studio got off with just a bit of paper money to keep things quiet.
TV works in very simple ways. With ratings and advertisers in your back there is no room for creativity. Creativity dies a slow and dry death the higher you climb the ladder. I saw quite a few that lost their creativity first, then their honor, then their soul.
That thing that actresses sleep with directors – well, think not of the director as that evil or the actress as a slut. It’s a simple business transaction. The director lost his soul; there is nothing left in his life and he has long learned that the power he seems to hold is in reality just a sham and illusion; the power to do what you are told. He does it to own at least some power; to exert what he can and feel like a man again.
The actress, of course, just wants her dream fulfilled. She sells her soul because she thinks her life’s dream will be fulfilled. Then she finds that selling your soul once is not enough. That most shows tanks before they are ever seen and that even when they are seen they will likely will tank soon after. It’s the plot. The way it goes. There are exceptions, of course, actresses and actors – oh, don’t ask me whatthey have to do to get a role – that keep their morality and standing and some of them even succeed. But for far too many the pleasure of the film becomes a trap for their souls and bodies; to consume them until they are too exhausted or too ugly to be consumed any further.
There are too many stories from inside. Too many shoe-licking and sensitive-part-massaging stories to be told.
With those soulless creatures wandering the studios reality TV often seems like a relief. Characters so desperate to be famous that they lose all their shame and soul for free. Volunteers to be sacrificed to the viewers’ voyeurism.
Now, but there are different volunteers. Those that know and those that don’t.
Some know what show they are in. They go to castings and make it through the rounds until they are herded into a room where they can be prostituted to the audience.
But the more interesting ones are those that don’t know. They volunteer. They fill out questionnaires, are quickly taped to show their bodies and voices and then they sign a document that says they are ready for everything.
Times were different back then, TV was still big and invading all our minds. Still, it’s not even ten years ago. It doesn’t work much different now. It probably could still happen today. I’m wondering whether we are the only ones that did such a thing.
Ready for everything the studio chooses for them. They resign their fate; they give their soul for free and don’t even know in what way it will be abused.
Now, we got 10 of those. Five men and five women. All good looking, of course, nobody wants to see the ugly reality on TV. Some stupid, some smart. All loud and opinionated, as it should be, but two of them shy for good measure.
As said there is no creativity. Creativity has no place in the film and show business. It’s all about safety and sure ratings and sure ad revenue.
So we took a concept – I’m sure you’ll know which – and tweaked it a bit.
They are locked not in a house, but a room instead.
Not so outrageous, is it? That’s what the studio bosses thought too. So we spiced it up a little.
They didn’t know that it was just a show.
We thought about leading them into the room; telling them that there would be a casting or free viewing or one of the other things that attention-seekers crave for. Then someone, and I don’t remember who but I hope it wasn’t me, had the glorious idea.
“What if,” that person said. “We pretend to abduct them?”
Now, really, I hope that wasn’t me.
Their relatives were in on it, of course. That’s why we later had to pay a lot.
One snatched from her car.
Another on his way home from work.
A third in the shopping mall bathroom.
The fourth on his forest jog.
The fifth, the youngest one, pulled into a car on her way home from school.
The sixth, the shy accountant, taken as a fake hostage in a fake police shootout.
The seventh pulled under water and chloroformed on her beach holidays.
For the eighth, a father of two, we took his sons and told him to come to get them back. That hacked off little boy’s hand was surely well done. Never heard a man scream like that.
The ninth taken from her bedroom at night. We made sure to knock her out. Then to tie her up well. Then to wait for her to wake. Oh, how she squeamed on the way to the car.
The tenth, of course, our favorite. On his way to class, followed by four men. He noticed them but ran too slow. He tried to fight back when they cuffed and gagged him. When they pulled his trousers down he only cried. Of course, nothing was really inside him. But they were convincing, I have to say that.
A pleasure, all of them in the same room. Some cried and some screamed. Mostly they fought against each other.
They never so much as thought of the contract they had signed. They never so much as noticed the cameras above.
It was good to watch them try and scale the walls. There was a fist fight early on, but they got calmer soon after.
“We have to work together,” said one of them.
They tried to build a pyramid but failed every time. Too weak, even the men, and the walls too high.
The bathroom was meant to be a good joke. Something practical, to keep things fresh. When the first man went we let him in and out just fine. But when the first woman went, the young thing, well, let’s say she was surprised that the walls came down and that all was dark around her.
We saw her, of course, with the right camera you can see enough. It was sure to be a good show with the girl scratching her fingers open on the bare metal wall.
The others were not so helpful as expected. Without thought they banged against the metal wall and tried to ram it to open.
Poor thing. Admittedly, we too were at fault. We should have known that the noise would be reflected inside the small room; that the one inside would hear too much and too loud.
Still, legally all fine. They signed it. No problem there and fun enough for us.
Now, it wasn’t really planned that way with her promise. She promised she would take her clothes off if she was let out.
We found that funny enough and opened the wall. We didn’t really expect her to follow through. But she did.
Those eyes. If I could describe those greedy eyes in full tones I would, but they cannot be described.
You would think the men would have pity – oh, but no. Some showed shame and pretended to look away, but they all stared. The women, too, they all stared. Two of them were even laughing among themselves, giggling at the young thing’s misfortune.
We thought about ending it there, or about a bit more instruction. But it can all be censored, after all, and as the slogan goes – sex sells. Too late anyway. She waived those rights, so all was good. Still I’m happy that those tapes were never seen by the police.
They didn’t know that it was just a show.
It got a bit worse from then on. We had it planned for two weeks. Food thrown in from above – bread at first, then insects. Hungry people eat many things. Nothing bad about that anyway – some are even quite tasty. Grilled of course, I never ate them raw.
Things were going too fast for our taste. So we tightened the plan a bit and skipped the bread.
Now, the other thing we had not planned was their fear. It seems none of them wanted to use the toilet anymore; particularly not after the young thing put her underwear back on and we made the door close and open two times; just for good measure. She took it off again, if you are wondering.
The mess was pretty quick. First they had a corner where they did it and the others looked away. But the floor was a bit too even for that purpose. The liquids spread until they were all huddled on just one side.
Probably we should have stopped it then. But the lawyers said it was okay. The girl was legal age – we checked twice – and would be well payed to stop any complaints. The others, of course, were all still fine, except for the mess on the floor.
But what are feet in a bit of feces? Not so bad in the end. Everybody has a toilet leak once or twice in their life.
Water, just so you know, was okay. They had their water through a small hole in a wall. Big enough for a mouth to go in and drink; but the drainage too small for anything to be pushed inside.
That bug thing did not work out so great as we thought. They landed on the ground and quickly huddled deep in the, well, mud. Not such a good choice for food. The ten were complaining of hunger a lot.
We dropped a few other items; just to see what they would do. Paper airplanes were good fun but didn’t live long. Then balloons worked quite well. There were a few pieces of wooden and special matches made without heads. They had a few hours of fun trying to get those to make a fire. Who knows what they would have done with a fire.
I want to be honest here, after all this is all about honesty. We were excited when the first man took a bite of his own, well, product.
“Not as horrible as I thought.”
We thought that would be a good episode title.
Our accountant grew bolder that day. He was the one to say “I can’t stand it” and enter the toilet again.
It was meant as a joke. You have to believe that. We didn’t mean to truly hurt him. Just to lower the wall so he would be caught too and the girl not alone.
Really, it was his fault that he kept his hand outside; that he thought that his hand would stop the door.
That was one loud cracking sound and one loud scream.
We wanted to get him out; we really did. It was just not that easy. When we lowered the rope one of the other men climbed on it. We had to swing him against the wall until he fell back down; right in the black and yellow mud and on the stack of bugs.
There was not really a way to open it all up; to calm them down and continue the show. There were not even doors down there; the only way would be to pull them up.
It was just going to be a day anyway. We had a doctor tell us it would be okay; that it could all be healed. Not that it mattered to us. We knew the money would be good enough for him to stay quiet. Money and a false fame; that’s all that people need and want.
We really wanted to make it easier. I wouldn’t say it was my idea but I would lie if I said that I didn’t have at least some contribution to it.
I swear with all my soul that the paper said “Only one more day” when we threw it into the room and went to lunch after that.
We expected a frenzy – excitement and hope and maybe even celebration.
Sure, it fell in the mud, but they must have ripped it somehow. Ripped it in half.
“Only one,” that’s what they read.
They took it a bit different from what we thought.
It was the father of two. I think that’s what made it; he had kids and didn’t want to risk a thing.
He got his hands on one of pieces of wood; a long one.
We were at lunch. There were only two interns in the room and not the smartest ones at that. By the time they called us it was all a bit too late.
He was quick; you have to leave him that. He started thrashing on another man’s head and within just a moment that man was with his face in the mud; the legs twitching but the arms calm.
Before the father made another move another man pushed him to the ground. He hit the man’s back until there was blood, but the others managed to hold him down and wrest the piece of wood from his hand and smash it on his head instead.
But that man, the one that now had the piece of wood, he too understood.
He must have done some sort of martial arts. He got the accountant pretty quick and the other man right in the bathroom. The interns should have locked him in there, who knows why they didn’t know how to close that door.
He went for the women next. They were huddled together at the other end, right where the mud was. But the moment he came they ran to the sides and only one slipped and had his foot on her head until she stopped moving. The other women didn’t try to help.
They found more pieces of wood though and assembled on the other side. When the man came running the young thing threw her stick at him and must have got an eye because he screamed and slipped and a moment later the women had their clubs on his face. He pulled one of them down and choked her, but the others made sure that he stopped moving soon after.
That must have been the time when the interns found us; not ten minutes after the paper was dropped inside.
I remember how the girl was screaming and crying and it took us a minute to calm her down enough that she could tell us to quickly go back.
That minute would maybe have saved one of them. Not sure about that.
When the man stopped moving the women were the quick ones. One said “Stop! Stop!” and the young thing stopped but the third one standing was quick to hit the club on the choked woman’s face – just to make sure.
The young thing stumbled backwards and fell over the father of two and with her ass in the mud. The two other women both got their clubs and went one after the other around the place while the young thing pretended to be out cold.
While running one got the other’s hair and they both fell and one club hit a face and the other a head from the side. They both fell and struggled and the clubs fell out of their hands. There were fingers in eyes. Once you’ve heard those screams, even just from tape, believe me, you don’t forget them again.
One still had an eye and was on her knees when she’d choked the other.
That’s when the young thing saw her chance.
“Now or never,” that’s what she must have thought.
A piece of wood on the woman’s head and she too was out on the floor. Funny to learn later that she wasn’t dead, really, she drowned instead from the brown liquid on the floor or maybe her own blood.
We got the young thing out. Got her a towel and the camera. The “You’re on television” moment didn’t go as well as we had planned it the weeks before.
Was easy to keep the girl quiet. She’d done things and she knew it.
The bodies on a boat and the boat sent out and sank. Told the coast guard a wrong location and they never even found the wreck.
We made a trailer and pilot and all. Thought to at least get some of the cost back. The studio bosses stopped us. Better sunk cost then the risk to get any news about it out. It was just a room after all; we could have said it all happened on a boat. But the bosses thought it could get too much trouble even with the last few minutes left out.
Those tapes were all meant to be destroyed. Who knows whether that was done. I sure as hell wouldn’t have. Just hope no one finds it before I’m dead.
It’s funny, I saw that room once again. In a martial arts movie. Guess they only cleaned it up and didn’t even bother to take it apart.
We, the crew, got out of the mess. We pretended to be nice little sheep that didn’t know a thing about the boat being dangerous. That’s the wonder of a good lawyer.
The director was less lucky. Had a court case scheduled but jumped his bail and drowned on the way to Cuba. Might have been less of an accident.
The girl, well, that’s the only one I’m really sad about.
I was told she kept talking about bugs nibbling on the bodies while she was waiting to be saved. Lost half her weight. Had nightmares and such things. Cut her wrists once and failed.
They drugged her pretty bad in that institution.
Supposedly she never talked about it. Funny actually. They said she got better with the drugs and allowed her out for half a day. She went straight to a supermarket and that time she did the cuts deep enough.
And all that because they didn’t know that it was just a show.