As part of the Beyond Reality podcast series, I interviewed Grant Phillips, a story producer and challenge producer who has worked on shows such as Australian Survivor, Big Brother and The Bachelor. He shared his story of starting out in TV and how he turned his reality TV obsession into a successful career in TV.
To listen to the full interview, check out the Beyond Reality podcast here: Beyond Reality Podcast – Grant Phillips
Did you always want to work in TV?
I always wanted to work in TV or film and it was at the age of 11 when I decided I wanted to be a reality TV producer. It was very specific. I was sitting on the couch and I watched the very first episode of American Survivor. At first I couldn’t quite understand what it was – it was just this documentary game show and I was instantly hooked! The obsession just grew from there. I just got so into the idea of everyday people put in extraordinary situations with a big prize at the end and seeing how hard they had to fight to get it.
Did you go to University and if so, what did you study?
The first step to getting into TV for me was working out where I was going to study. The Queensland University of Technology was one that kept coming up as having a good television production degree. I graduated from QUT with a Bachelor of Creative Industries – Television.
What was your first job in TV and how did you land it?
QUT had a program with Network 10 in Brisbane, where if you had a certain GPA, you could get an internship at Channel 10 for a semester. I decided to take the path less travelled and use my internship to go into camera and audio side of things. So I got the internship and I learnt a lot of skills that came in handy when I did make the move to the producer world. When a producer job opened up on a new preschool show in-house at 10, I got the job on Wurrawhy.
What was your first job in reality TV?
I had been working on Studio 10 for about 3 years and Network 10 announced a local edition of Survivor. It was just the best news ever. I saw them tweet it the night they had their Upfronts and that night I didn’t sleep because I just started putting my plan together of how I was going to get a job on Survivor. I managed to get a meeting with the executive producer of Australian Survivor and I didn’t shut up the entire time, I didn’t think she was left with any opportunity but to give me the job! I took unpaid leave from Studio 10 and worked on Australian Survivor as an challenge associate producer. I was absolutely hooked and have worked in reality TV ever since.
What different roles have you done in reality TV and how did you get to where you are now?
I’ve been a challenge associate producer, challenge producer, date producer, senior date producer, post associate producer, casting producer, junior story producer and story producer.
What’s the best thing about working in reality TV?
My absolute favourite thing about working in reality tv is the teams and the people. I have worked with some of the most talented creative people I’ve ever met in my life. Every day I feel like I’m learning something brand new. We just have so much fun, when you’re following a story and not sure where it’s going to end up it feels like you have this this comradery within your team of all just being on the ride together and waiting to see how it ends!
What is the worst thing about working in reality TV?
There are some days when the days are huge and on those days you can be exhausted. If you’re happy to work long days and get on with the job, then there won’t be a worst part. When you see that final product on TV, it’s so rewarding. It’s like a really terrifying ride at a theme park that you just get off and jump back in the queue for!
What’s your best piece of advice for someone starting out in TV?
Be persistent. Go for any role. Don’t have an ego! If you have to take a backwards step but it’s what you want to do, then take that backwards step. I had to take a backwards step when I transitioned from breakfast TV into reality TV. If you really want to do it, check your ego at the door and do whatever you need to do to work in the industry, whether it’s going to get coffees, driving that truck – whatever you need to do to make those contacts!