Read the original article in this week’s TV Guide Magazine.
In the wake of a Cops death, a producer reflects.
The recent death of Cops crew member, Bryce Dion, who was accidentally shot by a police officer during a robbery in Omaha, stunned the tight-knit reality-TV community. Wicked Tuna and Dirty Jobs producer, Craig Piligian, who is unaffiliated with Cops, explains how camera operators, audio technicians, and their teams are the unsung heroes of unscripted television.
“These are really the brave men and women on the front lines, dedicating their lives to getting the great shot. I started on Real Stories of the Highway Patrol, and there was always a possibility that somebody would get in the line of fire. You think about [safety] all the time. We think about it on Wicked Tuna. We thought about it on Survivor. It’s a real thing in our business, especially when you want to do extreme reality. The crew has to be smart; they’ve got to have great instincts and a feel for story. Now you look at what’s on TV and everyone wants to go farther, faster, higher. You’ve got to remember that the crew members are doing the same thing as subjects they’re following, but with 50-pound cameras on their shoulders, and walking backward!”
“It can be scary. There’s always bumps and bruises along the way. I think [Dion’s death] was just sad — the wrong place, wrong time. I imagine the cop feels horrible. It’s a testament to the show’s safety protocol and rules that this is the first time in Cops‘ history that this ever happened. ”
“Cameramen and women are colorful characters. I’ve met them all and I’ve probably argued with half of them. There’s a real camaraderie among them. It’s a dangerous occupation, and it’s always ‘safety first.’ I give our directors of photography and our camera operators all the credit. Without them, we would have no good shows. They really are the backbone of any great television show.”