Sunday, April 22, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Escape Routes - Everglades Style

Part two of a two-part series behind-the-scenes on the set of Ford Escape Routes.  Click here for Part One.

Day two of my behind-the-scenes shenanigans with Ford's reality tv show Escape Routes was even better than the first, since we schlepped out to the Sawgrass Recreation Park just outside the gates to Alligator Alley in Weston. And you know I love me some Glades; I wear a silver crocodile ring, for pete's sake.

For Everglades newbies, this is an ideal area to explore the River of Grass without getting too hardcore deep into the mucky wilderness. You can see the Panthers Stadium in the distance, so you know you're at the border of civilization.


Each team of Escape Routes had to row and troll an aluminum skiff across a man-made canal, retrieve "show" alligators and snakes from the handlers, put them in pens or bags, return to the other bank and place the "captured" critters behind competitor's cars.

The animal handler I interviewed said that the alligators who were part of the competition were raised in captivity and used to this kind of thing. But the human cast? Most certainly not!

Rossi Morreale with Colombian Boa
Host Rossi Morreale looks very comfortable with his slithery friend and that's because he once owned a Colombian boa -- and no, not the kind a drag queen would wear.

It was a hoot to watch them get waist-deep into the water in their camouflage snake boots, rowing like mad and some not quite sure how to use the trolling motor. Folks, it's like using an immersion blender when you purée hot soup: stick it in the water if you don't want it to splash and sputter!


The whole competition took about an hour, but we waited quite a few more before it happened. So I had time to poke around when I wasn't annoying the field production manager with questions about how close I could get without appearing in frame. (He was a very nice guy, by the way.)

Behind the Scenes ford escape routes
The scene before shooting.  I was filming behind the jib, hoping it wouldn't knock me on the head when it swiveled.

Yours Truly with Video Gear canon ax10 filming in everglades
Yours truly with her humble gear. That steady stick is a lifesaver. I'd have no arms or shoulders left by the end of the day if it weren't for that gadget.

Prior to this week, I'd never been behind-the-scenes on a reality TV show set. The competition was interesting, to be sure, but seeing all the production technology set up in the Glades, almost in the middle of nowhere, was quite impressive.

The director's tent was hooked up to massive servers, cameras were rigged wirelessly to a huge monitor, standing microphone receptors were placed along the levee -- all powered by one single portable generator.

Unlike many other reality tv shows, this one is filmed Monday through Thursday with an air time of Saturday evening. I bet the director and editors never sleep. As well, because of the show's in-depth social media engagement, there's much online content to process. It's an intense six weeks not only for the cast, but for the crews and creative teams that make it happen.

But back to the competition! Terence was one of the first to be eliminated and it was fun to hear him from the peanut gallery as the others raced to finish. Each team worked well together, huffing and puffing to get the job done. The lovely ladies of Team Yellow won -- not bad for two models who had never stuck a foot in gator-infested waters!


By the way, it was a bit ironic that snakes and gators would be featured on the same show. You know, we have a little problem here in South Florida with invasive pythons, just ask the USGS.  And remember this photo of a python bursting out of a gator's belly?

But I can assure you, all the animals on the set were captive and treated royally. If you do go out into the Everglades, make sure you know the difference between your native and non-native reptiles. Learn more at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission website.

And don't forget to follow the gang on Escape Routes, airing for another two weeks on NBC at 8PM.

More photos on Flickr:



Yes, I was paid to write this, get over it. All opinions mine and I drive GM car.

1 comment:

Terence said...

Awesome pictures.