Interesting article about how much they get paid.
Weighing the cost of reality.
Is it worth quitting your job or uprooting for weeks or months for uncertain payout?
March 28, 2010
BY PAIGE WISER TV Critic
Ali Fedotowsky became a working-girl hero when she chose her career over love on “The Bachelor” last season. Rather than stay and vie for Jake Pavelka’s hand, she left the show to save her dream job, selling advertising for Facebook.
“You traded a relationship with him for, like, a Wednesday at work,” noted Jimmy Kimmel when she guested on his show.
Ali Fedotowsky cuddles up to Jake Pavelka on the last installment of "The Bachelor.
But she’s since announced that she quit her job after all — to star as next season’s “The Bachelorette.” (“I’m going to fight to get that job back when this is over,” Fedotowsky explained.)
So this time she’s traded her career for 50 first dates, and the question remains: Is it ever a financially sound idea to go on a reality show?
“If you’re going on a reality TV show in order to make money, it’s probably not your best bet,” says Andy Dehnart, who reports any contract details he comes across at his Web site, realityblurred.com. “If you go on ‘Survivor,’ sure, you have a 1 in 16 or 1 in 20 shot at a million dollars, which is pretty fantastic. But the first person voted out gets about $2,500.
“Granted, you get the experience, not to mention a trip, but you take eight weeks away from your life and make $2,500. Is that worth quitting your job for?”
Reality show contestants sign contracts that let producers edit footage however they want. “They can turn you into something unrecognizable,” Dehnart says. “Even if your boss gave you a couple months off to go on the show, your behavior could lead you to not have a job when you get back.”
The prizes got smaller, too, he says. A million dollars used to be the standard, but “Fear Factor” offered a grand prize of just $50,000. “Is it worth $50,000 to be humiliated?” Dehnart asks.
But Erin Brodie understands Fedotowsky’s decision. “She’s in the exact same boat I was in,” says Brodie, who years ago thought she was trying out for a travel show titled “Around the World in 80 Dates.” It turned out to be 2003’s “For Love or Money.” She chose a paycheck over stud Rob Campos on the show, earning her $1 million. Then she was offered a starring role in “For Love or Money 2” — and she nabbed another million.
Her advice for Fedotowsky? “My recommendation would be to just go for it,” Brodie says. But not for the money.
Her winnings were annuity-based, paying over 40 years. “I ended up taking a lump sum up front, but they take out all the interest,” Brodie says. “You end up with about half of what they project.” Brodie also gave $500,000 to the boyfriend she met on the show.
She took a year and a half off work, but ultimately got her job back in business development for an accounting software company.
On the other end of the spectrum: the vast majority of reality show contestants who receive a minimal stipend to cover their bills while they’re gone. Former “Big Brother” players have confirmed that they earned $750 a week. If they make it to the jury house, that maxes out to around $9,000 for 11½ weeks of “work” (plus any prizes they win while in the BB house). The “all-star” contestants were reported to have gotten a raise to $4,000 a week.
Talk show appearances afterward won’t make them rich, either. Reality alumni can expect the AFTRA minimum rate — around $400.
“We didn’t know if we’d be paid at all,” says Bradford Cohen, who was sacrificed in the boardroom during season two of “The Apprentice.”
Trump’s show is in a class all its own, Cohen says. And money wasn’t the point. “It was a chance to go up against the best of the best from all across the country.”
It’s certainly difficult to put a price tag on Trump-level networking, and six years later, Cohen says he still profits from the association. He works as a criminal defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and still chats with Donald Jr. via Facebook. When the Donald calls for legal advice, Cohen always takes his calls.
There are ways to stretch a reality payday — personal appearances at nightclubs, for instance. “I went to a Trivial Pursuit launch,” Brodie says. “I think I made, like, $10,000 or $15,000.”
Marc Marcuse was once a reality contestant, on 2003’s “Average Joe.” “We made zero dollars,” he says. The cast signed a game-show contract, which didn’t even provide a per diem.
Since then, he’s started a company that strictly represents former reality stars (reelmanagement.com). He has more than 400 stars from about 50 shows on his roster.
“My ‘Project Runway’ people do really well,” says Marcuse; he hooked up season one winner Jay McCarroll with the current season of “Celebrity Fit Club,” and season two’s Nick Verreos is on a Macy’s minitour. Marcuse got Joey Kovar from “The Real World: Hollywood” onto “Celebrity Rehab.” College lectures pay around $3,000, he says, but some popular contestants get $15,000.
Cohen was memorable enough to get offers, too. “But that’s only for the first six months after the show,” he says. Then the next batch of reality contestants hit the circuit.
“If you have no skills and no talent, you’re not going to be wealthy overnight,” Dehnart says.
The key word is “skills,” says Will Kirby, a dermatologist who became known as the Evil Doctor on “Big Brother 2.” His reverse psychology charmed both viewers and the jury house, which awarded him the $500,000 prize.
Kirby parlayed his notoriety and medical expertise into additional gigs: “Big Brother All-Stars,” “Dr. 90210,” “The Doctors” and even “L.A. Ink.” Neutrogena hired him to sell its products on QVC.
That kind of money can add up. Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich fell in love on the first all-star edition of “Survivor,” then went on to “The Amazing Race.” They got married on TV, too. They reportedly earned $2.6 million for all three shows. (And Mariano is still competing on the current all-star “Survivor.”)
Even with a lucrative side career, though, most winners keep their day jobs. Kirby still practices medicine. “A reality show shouldn’t change your life path, is my suggestion,” the doctor says. “As a dermatologist, I have a lot to offer. It’s not like I go on ‘Jersey Shore’ and wrestle with Snooki.”
If you’re a student and jobless — if you have nothing to lose — then by all means, try out for reality shows, Kirby says. Otherwise, “it’s not a good idea.”
As luck would have it, a few years ago Kirby was invited to appear on Kathy Griffin’s special on reality show winners. It wasn’t much of a payday (AFTRA minimum), but there was a significant perk: That’s where he met “For Love or Money’s” Erin Brodie.
Now, the reality couple is expecting their first child, a boy. They’ve already picked out a middle name for him: Cash.
How much can you really make on reality TV? :: Naperville Sun :: Entertainment