Script Your Own Reality

The All New Pond Stars

In life you never truly know how one thing is going to lead to another do you? Often the most challenging of situations create opportunities that wouldn’t have existed if you didn’t persevere through life’s trials and tribulations. It’s hard sometimes in the moment to conceptualize how something good could come out of something so dire. Filming our Reality Series Pond Stars is one such example.

As silly as it sounds I consider filming our Reality Series one of the three hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The physical aspect of laboring outside for upwards of 16 hour days, 6 days a week was exhausting enough in itself. However, the real draining part was the emotional toll that went into creating our show. First off “our” show is a misnomer. The network and in particular the production company they hired to produce Pond Stars called all the shots. For my co-stars this wasn’t a big deal. For me, the last time I had a boss I was 20 years old and working as a lifeguard.

My boss on set was the “Showrunner” that is the person hired to “run the show.” I run the show! But on Pond Stars I was considered merely “talent.” Although my wife and friends might scoff at that description, the reality of my situation was I had zero editorial control. Now, if you’re thinking at this point I’m just thinking like a spoiled brat and need to fall in line, you might be right. However, let me add one more caveat to this story that might explain my mindset.

I considered landing a Reality Show the pinnacle of my adult life. I turned my hobby into a business and birthed what would eventually become the largest business of its kind in the world. Aquascape was my baby, a big fish in a small pond. Pond Stars was our coming out party to quite literally the world! And someone else would be tasked with telling my story. It was an impossible situation for them and a horrifying one for me. I remember the excruciating months from the time filming wrapped, till the time we saw the first show. Although we were there for all of it, none of us had seen any of the edited footage despite filming thousands and thousands of hours. Someone else was tasked with telling a story about me, about my team, my dream and I had no input into what they were going say.

I was scripted as “The Boss” (not a stretch there) and repeatedly told to keep everything at a 5th grader’s level (easier for some of us than others). With this footage, whether they portrayed me as a buffoon or worse yet a jerk, was completely their call. But it didn’t stop with how we would be portrayed on camera. Would what we do at Aquascape be shown in the light we wanted it to? I didn’t know, I wasn’t consulted, and the bottom line reality of “our” reality show was I wasn’t in charge of telling my story, our story, the Aquascape story to the largest audience we’ve ever had the privilege to be in front of. Stressful is an understatement!

In the end we liked what we saw. We thought the production company did a great job and the network too. We also knew we could be so much more than we were portrayed.

Today we’ve come full circle. We are currently filming what we want and how we want to do it. We are telling the stories the way we want to and portraying ourselves by being ourselves. In other words, we are producing REALity TV. To say I feel freed would be an understatement. I earned my undergrad in what goes into creating a series working for someone else. Today I’m working for myself on my Masters by producing my own show. But I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m doing nearly as effectively if I hadn’t experienced what I went through taking orders and direction from someone else.

The life lesson for me is this: Not once during the filming of Pond Stars did I consider that I was being educated in the process for what I’d be doing today. Yet here I am bouncing out of bed in the morning after another restless night of dreaming of what could be, than going to “work” to make it be. Invigorating to say the least! Going forward when experiencing frustrating situations beyond my control, I want to remember my out-of-control experience with Pond Stars. Because pain often leads to gain as long as you’re open to it. Again, how one thing leads to another is rarely evident when you’re in the situation you’re in. I guess that’s why success is a journey and not a destination. I had my “fifteen minutes of fame” with someone else writing the script. As an entrepreneur I’d much rather be the author of my own destiny every hour, of every day. Stay tuned to see just what that looks like when the Aquascape Pond Squad debuts! Carpe Diem