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.
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?
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.
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)…
And then covered the whole area with gravel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.