TV Cameras & Checking Things Off The List

So, here’s a thing… in two weeks there is going to be a film crew at my house, ostensibly to shoot some footage of me building an outdoor table to go under the finished pergola in my back yard.

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Ah…..

Well. So. I guess I should finish the pergola in my back yard?

I probably should.

I mean, I hear you can fake a lot of shit with TV magic but a.) not my style, guys, and b.) we’re not filming the goddamn Avengers here… I don’t think the budget would  reasonably allow for faking that mess into looking like an actual finished pergola. Soooo… any guesses on what I was working on last weekend?

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OH LOOK. THE PERGOLA.

Okay, listen, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for pergolas (not just because when I was building the badass pergola at my first house one of my dearest friends kept forgetting the word “pergola” and called it a “chalupa” but… yeah, that might be why actually.) Also that badass pergola was the first significant structural thing I’ve ever built. That was close to 11 years ago, and since then I’ve built houses and parts of houses and chicken houses and all kinds of things that I suspect are more impressive than a couple of posts with a few boards on top of them, but still… here I am, building a pergola again. That shit always comes full-circle. But I also have finishing this thing on my list for this summer, so I’m not sad to have an excuse to work on it.

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I’m also not sad to have a tractor to help with the heavy lifting this time, thank you life.

So here’s the deal. My mom and I cut back all the weeds, tacked down garden fabric (with the help of a Nug, obv)…

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And then covered the whole area with gravel.

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It’s real easy to lose perspective on things like this when you’re surrounded by wide open spaces, but that gravel area is something like 30×15… so bigger than the kitchen in my actual house. That’s cute. And raking all that out is the kind of core workout that makes you want to cry for the next two days when you do things like try to get out of bed, or sit down, or, like, breathe.

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Then I took all the crossbeams down and sawed off the top of the posts which is something I should have done a year ago but didn’t because I knew it was going to be a miserable job. I was right. I’m pretty sure the vibrations from using the sawsall on the 6×6 posts dislocated my esophagus… THESE ARE THE THINGS I DO FOR CHALUPAS.

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So here we are. I’ve got one more weekend to get the rest of the crossbeams up (I’m doubling up on each post) and possibly the rafters. We’ll see how things go.

Then there are going to be a bunch of cameras in my face while I build what I think is going to be a pretty awesome outdoor table to go under the thing, followed by a bunch of my friends and family coming over to eat dinner on said table under my finished pergola. No pressure.

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And this is the point where I should probably say a few things about TV, right?

Here’s a real thing… I don’t talk about potentially being on TV because I don’t know how to talk about potentially being on TV without sounding like an asshole. Is this a humblebrag? An actual brag? Am I being ungrateful if I make fun of this shit? Are all the producers going to read this and be like THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT CLUB IS YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB. I have no idea. The closest I get to “filming things” is getting drunk and singing songs about my power tools so…guys, I’m just going to do the thing I know how to do here, and tell an authentic story. Regardless of the consequences, that’s always going to be the most important thing to me.

So, four years ago was the first time someone contacted me about doing a “DIY show” for network TV, and a few of my coworkers (and drinking buddies) came over and helped me film this video as a demo for them. Since then the market for “girls who build shit” has become increasingly active, apparently, because I’ve been contacted by new production companies probably twice a week for the last two years about potential shows.

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No joke.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about the process of “selling a show” to a network. There are thousands upon thousands of production companies out there who are all trying to sell shows to the big networks (I have to figure the production-company-to-network ratio is something like 1000:1, and even that may be generous.) So there are a bunch of people out there looking for the “next big thing” that networks will buy, and I’m guessing they are pitched thousands of shows every season… only, what? 10-15 of them actually make it to TV? I still can’t figure out why anyone actually starts a production company as a job… seems like a long shot to me, and I like having a paycheck with which to buy tools whenever the hell I want. But that’s me.

So, most of these production companies I just flat-out say no to because:

1.) The money isn’t good. A lot of times they’re asking me to totally uproot myself and live “one the road” for 10-12 weeks a year (usually in the summer), which would mean giving up my day job and being away from the farm for months at a time. First of all, none of the people who pitch these shows have read this website or they would know that I work my ass off every damn day for the simple joy of catching a sunset in my back yard. It would take a hell of a lot to entice me away from that, and I certainly wouldn’t do it for something that compromised me financially. What I’ve learned is that in TV “3” is the magic number, so you basically make shit money for the first two seasons, and if you make it past that point (most don’t) you may actually start making a return on the investment of your time. You basically have no negotiating power, and also, a fair amount of your income comes from pimping yourself out to companies to sell their products, not the actual TV show. There’s a reason why I don’t do that now on this website: Because the thing that I love doing is telling real stories about real life… not selling you shit.

2.) I basically have three rules about life. One: Family first. Two: Don’t give your word unless you can keep it. (And when you do give your word, you fucking keep it.) Three: Don’t ever let someone else tell your story.

 When you sign up to do a TV show, you’re basically giving your story away to a big network… and as awesome as some of their shows are, they don’t give a shit about being authentic, and certainly not about accurately representing your story. They care about what sells, and do you know what sells? The real housewives of whereverhtefuck, and the Kardashians, and shows where people “do a bathroom renovation in a weekend” (they damn well don’t.)  When you sign up to do these things, you’re commoditizing yourself. You’re signing up to be a thing that other people use to sell shit. And what they give you in return is… fame? Maybe? Here are things producers have actually said to me: “We just need you to talk on camera and we’ll have actual builders around to do all the hard work.” and–when I expressed reservations about leaving my job because I manage a lot of people who I felt needed me at the time–“Well you’ll just have to decide if you want to be a manager or be famous.” 

Uh… pardon? 

I don’t think I need to articulate a response to that shit, because you probably know exactly what I would say and it includes all the good swears.

3.) Politics. Apparently the road to having a TV show is fraught with them, and I’ve never been good at dealing with that shit… nor, at this point in my life, do I have any reason to because I’m not in goddanmn high school any more. Most production companies are a little shady (they never tell you the full story) and apparently it doesn’t take much for a producer or network to get their panties in a bunch about whothehellknowswhat. For the most part, these are not my people.

However…

Okay, so you’re probably wondering why the hell I’m even entertaining the idea of TV (or other things that require cameras in my face) anyway then. Fair. Me too.

So, here’s why: in the last 4 years, out of hundreds of production companies that have contacted me, I’ve talked to four production teams that I would actually be excited to work with. The kind of people I’d drink beer and build shit with, regardless of whether or not there are cameras involved. In my experience awesome things come from working with awesome people, and I’m always in for that.

I’ve also had a few interesting offers that would give me a good excuse to do things I wouldn’t otherwise have a reason to do. Like, uh, hypothetically, say…  building tiny houses? Yes. I don’t need half a dozen tiny houses because I have a huge farmhouse and three barns– nor do I have a legitimate need to build them for income– but would I jump at the excuse to build a few for TV? Yeah. I might.

And here’s the other thing… it may be idealistic, but one of the producers I talked to once said, “here’s the thing we want women to think when they see this show: hey, that person is like me, and if she can do these things, I can do them too.” That’s a powerful fucking message. If I had a part in telling that story to the world (even if it wasn’t my own story) I’d be proud to be part of something like that. Because, guys, I’m not anything particularly special. I’m just a girl, and I also happen to believe in myself and have a lot of really good power tools… as far as I’m concerned, that’s all it takes to be a fucking badass if you want to be, but I feel like that’s the best kept secret in the world. Like most people out there are just sitting around waiting for someone, somewhere to grant them permission to be a badass. Because we all have the ability– the potential– to be that shit, but only a few of us really realize it.

I haven’t figured out why that is, but I do believe that by telling my stories I’m helping people understand that if I can do it, they can do it. And that’s important to me.

So… I’m going to spend a couple of days shooting some video on how to build a 15-foot picnic table, and maybe this turns into the kind of TV show I’d be willing to do (and you’d be willing to watch) and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, at the end of next weekend I’ll have another awesome spot to entertain on the farm, and it’s a good excuse to take a day off work to drink beer and build shit… I don’t require much more than that these days.

25 Responses

  1. Why the hell not – sounds like great fun even if it never goes further.
    soon….. toward the end of your summer, could you do a progress report on your blackboard list for this year? I think you’ve done heaps of it

  2. I can’t wait to see the finished pergola. I had wanted to put one up this summer until I calculated the lumber costs. It was more important to have a fence to contain our big dogs.

    As always I’m amazed by the amount of work you accomplish.

  3. Nothing like having company over to light a fire under your ass, especially when that company is a TV crew. When your family and friends sit down at your newly made table, serve chalupas. Your blog fans will be tickled pink.

  4. You just totally made me feel better about turning down a book contract last year that I had in hand because it would have meant me partnering with a person I would have regretted forever just for….fame. Not interested. Turned it down. Thank you. You are so right.

  5. I want you to know that that is 100% the reason I follow your blog – I think to myself, if SHE can do it, so can I! I’m a single woman who owns her first home and, up until this point, I’ve not had a huge amount of experience with DIY. But my situation is forcing me to learn. And so often I feel overwhelmed and think to myself “How can I possibly do that by myself??”. Your blog helps me to believe that not only can I, but that I can do it well. Thanks so much for the constant inspiration!

  6. I paid special attention when you got to the TV stuff, and especially to this: “Because, guys, I’m not anything particularly special. I’m just a girl, and I also happen to believe in myself and have a lot of really good power tools… as far as I’m concerned, that’s all it takes to be a fucking badass if you want to be, but I feel like that’s the best kept secret in the world. Like most people out there are just sitting around waiting for someone, somewhere to grant them permission to be a badass. Because we all have the ability– the potential– to be that shit, but only a few of us really realize it.”

    There’s no market at all for 70-year-old-fat-bald-guys doing a TV show, but that is exactly how I feel about this subject. I have done some construction work, but I am much more a cabinetmaker than a contractor type. I didn’t make my first project (a breakfront bookcase) until I was 45. At age 49 I began five years of woodworking classes at a junior college. Since then I have not done things anywhere nearly as awesome of some of the woodworkers I know here in San Diego, but it is fair to say I hold my own. But I did what I did the same way you have—by simply believing that I could.

  7. I went to a women’s retreat this year, and I was shocked, SHOCKED, when during an exercise to talk about yourself, almost every woman struggled to state something they are good at, either because they didn’t want to brag or they actually believed they weren’t good at anything worth mentioning. In fact, all of these women were amazing, yet they lacked the confidence to recognize it in themselves and tell a small group of other women about their amazing-ness (is that a word?). It frustrated me greatly to witness this, and I suffer from having a big head so I had a hard time understanding why, but in the end, I think it comes from the world constantly telling women they just aren’t quite good enough. I love your reason for going on tv, and I think it will help show all of our sisters that they have it within themselves to do what they want to do, and for the love of pete, lets all brag a little…..it wont hurt anything!

    1. BRAVO! I agree with your point about media reinforcing the idea that women don’t measure up to some imaginary standard. I think this widespread confidence problem is also a legacy of the historical tendency to view women as ornaments, rather than as actors in the world.

      Signed, Birdie Badass

  8. you and sarah inspired me 4 years ago to think about it and say “hey, i bet i can do some of that shit!” even though the closest i’d come to a power tool was a drill. and now, 4 years later, i just completed MY first substantial structure, a catio/cat enclosure in the back yard which my kitties are over the moon for. you are awesome, kit, and i think you help way more women realize their potential than you probably realize! i love that you always remain true to yourself no matter what. looking forward to seeing how the cameras in your face works out! thank you for being YOU! and for sharing your stories with us.

  9. Just watched the door & jam video, and it’s SMART. The word that came to mind, because I am tired of being spoon fed one-liners and not explanations, reasons and thought.

    And ya gotta love watching a “DIY show” when they don’t even fully submerge a plant in the earth. Apparently, the target demographic is: oblivious.

  10. Kit, just reading this blog is often enough to make me say “hey, that person is like me, and if she can do these things, I can do them too!” ^_^ Thanks for being you and always being authentic!

  11. Ah, if only all those TV types had the altruistic motive to provide a good example for girls and women… and boys and men as well, for that matter. Unfortunately it’s mostly an industry you couldn’t get me near, for many of the reasons you mention. I don’t want to be famous and I’d cringe if someone said that to me. Teaching, setting a good example… those are things that would interest me. But only on a small scale. I’m really a farmer at heart and I don’t want the world beating a path to my door. Just perhaps a few like-minded folks.

  12. Of your many wonderful traits, maybe honesty is the best. Everything I’ve read here over the last 3 year or so seems to be an extension of a couple virtues that you’ve really maxed out.

    You’re 100% right about just being a regular woman doing your best with what’s in front of you; but in reality there’s something very special about how you go about your business. I admire the hell out of it.

    Thanks so much for giving your voice and enthusiasm to random strangers on the internet. It can’t be easy but sure is appreciated. If getting a show proves to be the best new thing for joyful sharing, go get ’em! You’ll be great.

  13. You are absolutely one of the main reasons why I started to try and DIY. I have been reading your blog for years and years and you continuously inspired me to be my true bad-ass self. Thank you for continuing to tell your stories and including us on your journey! I’m really excited to see what happens on camera!

  14. I’m a long time lurker and I’m coming out of lurkerdom for this post. There is absolutely no reason why little girls can’t aspire to be electricians or plumbers. It’s that little girls are actively discouraged from these fields. I want role models for my daughters who are independent, intelligent women who don’t have any problem getting dirty. Girls need to know that they can get dirty, work hard, and can do and be anything they want to be including electricians and plumbers. When someone like you is on TV and says, “I’m building this table under a pergola I built all by myself” little girls pay attention!

  15. I have no experience with the TV thing. However, I’m desperate for a pergola over our patio, and my darling husband keeps calling it a “pagoda”. At this point, I’d just take a chalupa.

  16. I’ve been reading your site for a couple of years now. And… just… please… if you’re going to be on TV, as an inspiration and a role-model to empower people to tackle DIY projects, please wear safety glasses and gloves. Please! 🙂

  17. You are some of the reason I decided to do my kitchen remodel myself this summer after the handyman/installer quit. I’ve done diy landscaping and rough building projects for years, but it was still a hurdle to get over to do work in the kitchen where people will be expecting some level of competent carpentry. To screw up my courage I went looking for diy blogs from women & found yours. Entertaining and inspiring! The surprise is how much FUN the kitchen installation is. I think it’s the sense of accomplishment and learning something new. So, thanks! People are never too old (53) to use a good role model….

  18. I think I can safely speak for all of your blog fans when I say you don’t need to justify shit to us! Your authenticity rings through in your writing, and I hope I get to watch you build a 15 foot picnic table on tv sometime soon!

    Also sweet chocolate cake I have always wanted to build my own tiny house. Both for the experience and fun of building it and to have a little nook that was mine from the inside out. With a big comfy chair inside for reading and a glass of wine 🙂

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