Reality TV producers believe they are being overlooked in Bethenny Frankel’s fight for unionization and have demanded their plight be heard alongside the complaints from ‘exploited’ stars.
Former Real Housewives of New York alum Frankel, 52, has been leading the charge against NBC Universal and Bravo, claiming that talent has endured ‘grotesque and depraved’ treatment on set and that they deserve residual pay.
Last month, she was among a slate of unnamed television personalities to send a bombshell letter accusing the network of ‘covering up sexual violence, condoning revenge porn, and exploiting minors and denying mental health treatment.’
Current and former stars also claimed they have been ‘mentally, physically, and financially victimized,’ to which NBC said they are ‘committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for cast and crew on our reality shows.’
Leading the way: Former Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel, 52, has been at the helm of the movement, which she has called the ‘reality reckoning’
A recent follow-up letter from the celebrities’ attorney Bryan Freedman alleged ‘draconian terms of NBC’s contracts’ and that the ‘breadth and scope of wrongdoing is greater than previously believed.’
DailyMail.com has heard from Bravo reality TV producers past and present who stand in solidarity with Frankel’s mission – but feel as though they are being overshadowed and left out of the conversation in the fight for better rights.
‘I think this is the right time for a change of some sort, but I think the messaging is getting lost,’ one frustrated producer, who has worked on several Bravo shows, including Real Housewives of Dallas, said.
‘We want better pay, and health care, but when you release a 60-page document with all of these allegations of depriving people sleeping and feeding them alcohol, that feels very different.’
A former Bravo producer, who has since quit reality in favor of a different TV genre, agreed, telling DailyMail.com that they hope the production teams are listened to.
‘I hope that Bethenny will hear the call if she’s sitting here advocating,’ they said. ‘I’m not saying to take away from the talent needs by any means, but I hope that she can help the production side of it, too. I mean, we’ve all been shouting into the void for years.’
‘She’s very concerned about talent,’ a third producer added. ‘And talent is very coddled and very fairly compensated at the Bethenny Frankel stage.’
While reality stars have alleged exploitation from reality networks, including claims that they have been denied food, producers told DailyMail.com their behind-the-scenes horror stories – including nasty treatment by the talent.
Damning allegations: NBC has been accused by its reality show stars of a series of disturbing cover ups
Bravo alum: Network chiefs are accused of victimizing reality stars ‘on innumerable occasions’. Pictured (L-R) the cast of NBC hit show Real Housewives of New York City Ramona Singer, Jill Zarin, Lu-Ann DeLesseps, Bethenny Frankel, Alex McCord
‘I think that cast members, especially people like Bethenny, who are not nicest people, at times, they forget that we are people too,’ one producer said.
‘When we come to do a show, we leave our lives behind. I’ve been called a lot of derogatory things because I didn’t do or did something.’
‘There’s this sense of entitlement,’ shared another who worked on the likes of Real Housewives of The OC, revealing that reality stars have spewed lines such as ‘I don’t have to do this, if I don’t want to!’ and ‘you don’t have a show without me!”
Another shed light on the ‘toxic culture’ and said that they ended up quitting the reality television world because of the unsustainable work life balance.
‘I almost had a meltdown because I was told I could leave at 12 if I came in early, and then 12 came up, I was getting ready to go and I was told no, I had to stay,’ they said.
‘And to me, as a first-time mom, having left my house before my baby even woke up… I was stoked to get home before he went to bed so that I could see him for maybe 30 minutes.’
‘[Network bosses] don’t care,’ they added. ‘They don’t give a sh**. Sadly, it is [a toxic culture]. I was early on in my career and I was working 15 to 20 hours a day. It’s also just not sustainable.’
Speaking out: Bravo producers told DailyMail.com they feel left out of the conversation
Overlooked: They claimed that reality stars are ‘coddled’ while also pointing out they have been subjected to unfair treatment
Producers, however, are united with Frankel when it comes to the unionization of the reality sphere and believe that networks have been taking advantage of talent and crew for decades.
‘I definitely agree with Bethenny,’ said one. ‘I think it’s a long time coming. Right now, we work in an unprotected segment of the industry. There are no residuals, there is no anything to be honest. It’s like lab rats in a social experiment.
‘It’s all a sham. I get that it’s capitalism at its best but it’s like pure advantage. If you end up taking a reality show to a network, they want to own your show. They’re owning people’s IP and taking people’s creative ideas because they’re not creating a damn thing.
‘And it’s not just Bravo shows. Thank God that Bethenny is lighting the match. This is happening nationwide. This is happening across the board.’
Echoing a similar sentiment, another told DailyMail.com: ‘You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. Right now, everybody is clamoring for content and everyone is being listened to. People are being heard. And if they’re going to be changes, while there is a mechanism for change, you should speak up.’
As it stands, SAG-AFTRA, which is the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, has been on strike since July 14 after failing to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
The union represents around 160,000 actors across the US and has expressed concerns over pay and the use of artificial intelligence.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has also been on strike since May 2.
Hollywood on strike: SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July 14 after failing to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)
Earlier this month, SAG-AFRA announced they are supporting television personalities in unionizing and fighting against production companies.
In a statement, they said: ‘SAG-AFTRA has engaged in discussions with Bryan Freedman at the Freedman + Taitelman, LLP law firm who has been retained by Bethenny Frankel around the subject of treatment of reality performers.
‘SAG-AFTRA is the Union that represents reality performers. Depending on the structure of the production and the performers involved, we can cover these performers under our Network Code Agreement.
‘We stand ready to assist Bethenny Frankel, Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos along with reality performers and our members in the fight and are tired of studios and production companies trying to circumvent the Union in order to exploit the talent that they rely upon to make their product.’
SAG added that they are encouraging reality performers and members to reach out ‘so we may work together toward the protection of the reality performers ending the exploitative practices that have developed in this area and to engage in a new path to Union coverage.’