George Verschoor interview on Fox’s Home Free Season 2

Posted on July 1st, 2016

George Verschoor with Tim Tebow and Mike Holmes

Reality Blurred

http://www.realityblurred.com/realitytv/2016/06/home-free-season-2-changes-interview/

by  30 JUN. 2016 | 1:30 PM

The big reality TV surprise for me last summer was Fox’s Home Free, a competition on which couples competed to win a home by first renovating homes for deserving families. The twist came at the end of every episode, when the eliminated couple would be asked by host Mike Holmes if they wanted to meet the deserving family whose house they’d just helped renovate. Holmes surprised them by pulling out a photo of the couple.

Yes, the people who just thought they’d lost discovered they’d won, and the reactions often turned them—and me—into emotional wrecks.

Because the magic hinged on that surprise—the rest of the show was okay but that moment was absolutely the best part—I never thought a season two would be possible, so I was delighted when Fox announced its return.

But the first two episodes have made Home Free seem like a dramatically different show—individuals competing and forming alliances; punitive judging; an elimination challenge—one that lacks season one’s joy.

I wanted to learn more about the changes. Yesterday, I interviewed Home Free’s showrunner, George Verschoor, who’s been involved with reality television since the beginning, producing and directing the first four seasons of The Real World, and going on to produce shows such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, MTV’s Fear, and Nashville Star.

The second season twist
Season one had a “terrific twist that the audience responded to, but once that’s secret’s out,” Verschoor told me, “we couldn’t very well go out and cast another season, call it Home Free, and then say, Let’s find people we’re going to surprise again, because everyone would be aware of it. How do we keep that twist in the show? The idea was let’s find individuals who want to pay back somebody who’s had an enormous impact on their life, and they’ll be in on the twist with us, and they can surprise that individual.”

Home Free’s producers never thought of it as a once-and-done series. “We thought at the core of the show it could go on for some time,” Verschoor said. “It’s our job to find inventive ways [to do that] in season two, three, four, five, and so on.”

Verschoor said “this season it’s all about the heroes, and the question that came about that drove the show this year was, How far will you go for your hero? This person did it all for you and never gave up on you; how far will you go for them? Are you going to give up in house one, two, three, four, or are you going to go all the way and try to win the very best for them?”

Telling the contestants the losers would win
Season one’s twist wasn’t revealed to the losing couple until after the non-eliminated contestants had been driven away in a bus. In season two’s first episode, though, all of the contestants learned that the losing contestants’ heroes would still get a house.

Why tell them? And was there any thought about not revealing that twist?

“There was literally months of debate about this question,” Verschoor told me. “I think we all agreed, anyone who’s on Home Free knows, and anybody who sees that there are 10 homes is going to predict that: Look, we’re all going to get a home.”

“I think the audience would have figured it out after two or three episodes. What lie is sustaining this? You’d have construct some misdirect—we thought of many—but they were all a bit of an insult. Any lie that we come up with is just not going to be very plausible, so let’s just own it,” he said.

“But, the question is, Which home? And if you want the best for your hero, how long are you going to stay in the game? There is a sense of stakes because the homes get better and there’s $100,000 for whoever makes it to the very end.”

The $100,000 cash prize
Since the contestants know that they’ll win a house for their heroes if they lose, I asked if the prize was added to give them something to compete for, to add additional stakes.

“That wasn’t the motive for it, no,” Verschoor said. “This is a reward for whoever makes it to the end. When you ask these contestants, they all felt like they all wanted to keep going and going and going. They were motivated to stay in the game. So it really wasn’t necessary as a driver.”

Alliances, strategy, and game play
The game has taken a more strategic turn so far this season. Verschoor said. “I think when you ask the contestants, as we did during the course of the show, How far are you willing to go for your hero? you can see that they click into game mode, that some of them played the game very strategically: forming alliances, trying to eliminate others, and took more of a strategic approach. And others said, Look, I’m going to change who I am to play the game; I’m just going to do my very best and let the chips fall where they may. But I’m not going to start conniving.”

Last year, Home Free had lots of camaraderie and connection—after all, the final two couples were shared a deep bond, “the Mormons and the lesbians, together at last.”

Not so much this year. I agree with one contestant, Brian, who said last week, “To team up on me, it’s smart strategy, but at the same time, it’s ugly.”

I asked Verschoor if it was a surprise to the producers how quickly contestants went into game mode.

“It is a heartwarming show about celebrating heroes, and right when you think you’ve lost, you’ve won, so that was the driving force of this,” he said. “Yet at the same time we wanted to make it a bigger competition, and the way they decided to play was, What’s going to help me stay in the game the longest? Some chose alliances; others didn’t. I wasn’t surprised by it; I think it’s a natural inclination. And it’s a game.”

Verschoor added, “This rift between James and Maggie is probably one of the largest—one of the bigger fallouts of the question, How are you going to play the game? Moving forward, it really becomes about the challenges, the work, and the relationships—although the alliance with Maggie and Nick does have an impact in the long run.”

Casting individuals instead of couples
Season one’s cast members were all competing in pairs: there was one pair of siblings, and the rest were couples in various stages of their relationships. Season two has just individuals competing against each other to try to win a dream home for their personal hero.

“We felt because … we had the individual and hero, so there’s already two people—it’s that relationship we’re going to tell the story through,” Verschoor said. “So this season you really get to know the individuals through these heroes, through that story and connection. We felt like that was enough in terms of the amount of characters.”

Adding a co-host, Tim Tebow
The other major casting change was the addition of Tim Tebow. “We wanted to add someone who could be in the show from start to finish in every episode who went to this component of, How will you go for your hero? How far will you go in service of others? How far will you push yourself in service of others?” Verschoor said.

“We met Tim and it was just such a perfect match because he’s someone who lives his life to serve others, as well as he’s one of the most fierce competitors you’ll ever meet, who’s driven just beyond belief.” Tebow is “somebody who also knows, at the end of the day, do what’s best to help and serve others and change lives. He’s about all that.”

“That was his role that we wanted him to play to help Mike Holmes: to motivate these contestants, to push themselves beyond their limits, to help them someone change someone’s life like they’ve changed theirs,” Verschoor said.

Filming in one location
The production changed locations for every episode in season one, moving from house to house. All of season two takes place in an Atlanta suburb—Dallas, Georgia—and on the same street of a new subdivision, Oakleigh Pointe.

Did the production find its new home because it’d be easier to stay in one location?

“Yes, it was really hard to move every single week last year from location to location, though that wasn’t the deciding factor in this,” Verschoor said. “It was really about scale. We wanted to make the show bigger, we wanted to make the challenge of this more epic and feel larger than last season.”

“I did Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for many years, and we all wanted to take on something no one had ever attempted, which was build an entire neighborhood, build 11 houses. That was the bar we set. We didn’t even know if we could pull it off, so we set out to try to find a location where we could do it, and we were fortunate enough to find this development in the outskirts of Atlanta, where we were able to take over the entire development which hadn’t been started yet. So we were able to build the first street and then have enough room for our production footprint, which was enormous, and the space to spread out and have these challenge fields.”

Home Free constructed gates at the end of the street they built, and that “provided a game board for us,” he said. “In the development of this season, we wanted it to have that competitive, bigger game feel, and it enabled us to create this game board, if you will. Home Free Boulevard, with gates at either end, felt like a world you were entering into. It gave you that sense of an arena that you were coming into.”

Adding a challenge field
The location also has a dedicated space for challenge builds. Season one’s challenges often took place outside the renovated home, and were sometimes tied to the renovation (such as removing trash from a house), though were still obviously challenges (i.e. the trash looked like it had been placed there to give them a challenge).

I pointed out that the challenges felt even more disconnected this season, even though they’re pretty strong reality challenges.

“I see your point to some extent,” Verschoor said, “but I think this season, they were being tested on skill, will, and strategy. So a lot of these challenges were skill-based challenges or will-based tests that brought forth their abilities. And we could only somehow do that within the context of these games we could construct.”

The change in judging and Mike Holmes’ red tags
Some challenges do take place in the houses, Work Order tasks that Mike Holmes gives the teams. Verschoor pointed that out that “the red tags bring you the connection to the build. The whole middle of the show is still very connected to the construction of the house and their ownership of the house.”

The “red tags” he’s referring to are issued by Mike Holmes and signal that someone has failed to do a task properly, and anyone with a red tag is up for elimination at the end of the episode. For me, that’s turned Mike into a petty, punitive judge—issuing red tags for accidentally getting paint on a ceiling, for example.

By contrast, season one had Holmes and a pair of design experts judge the projects that the couples were assigned to complete, and Holmes was more supportive throughout.

Verschoor told me, “They’re still being judged on the same things. Skill is still skill. Last year was quality of work. It’s the same thing, so I would argue it’s a lateral step. They’re still being judged on that to determine who goes home.”

“And last year, it was the same: who built a table, who painted a room correctly, who scraped a ceiling, who built the picket fence at the front,” he said. “Last year, the judging occurred at the end of the show; this year it’s as we go. So Mike this season was judging that work and assessing it in the moment versus at the end, looking at the end result.”

How much work the contestants do
What’s clear on-camera is that the contestants don’t do all of the work constructing these brand-new homes (in season two) and doing massive renovations (in season one).

Verschoor said “that didn’t change. Mike Holmes and his team and our team do the lion’s share of the work. I don’t think there’s any misconception of that from last year or this year; it’s virtually the same. There are a lot of workers that are required to construct these houses in four days. That’s really what’s happening; these houses are really going up fast.”

He added, “to some extent argue this year they did probably more work in the house than last year. Last year they did a lot of DIY projects, design projects, and this year more it was more construction projects, flooring, drywall, roofing, and the like, you know, patios and things like that. They probably did more this year.”

The core of Home Free season two’s changes
“Yes, the format has changed has season to some extent. The game is bigger, the game is tougher,” Verschoor told me. “Every single one of these individuals is pushing to their limits to pay back somebody who changed their life, and I think that’s different than last year, which was serving themselves.”

“They’re playing a game to pay somebody else back,” he said. “I think that’s the shift in perspective.”

Building Wild Season 2 – Premieres Feb 24th!

Posted on February 5th, 2015

NEW EPISODE OF DIE TRYING AIRS TOMORROW MORNING – OCTOBER 16th

Posted on October 15th, 2014

Hello HFPLA Fans!

A new episode of our brand new series, DIE TRYING, A Hoosick Falls Production by Executive Producer George Verschoor, is airing tomorrow morning (11:30am ET) on the National Geographic Channel!


Tune in tomorrow morning at 11:30AM ET, for the new episode Yosemite Death Climb , where you will join prolific rock climber Alex Honnold on his daring attempt to set a world record by free soloing a trio of harrowing cliffs without any safety lines. One of climbing’s most decorated prodigies, Honnold has set his sights on the daring, ambitious and dangerous goal of scaling the faces of Yosemite National Park’s Triple Crown: Mt. Watkins, The Nose and the Regular Half Face of Half Dome. And he plans to do it all in under 24 hours.

Die Trying is a documentary series about six high-risk, high-reward expeditions that highlight the capacity for determined men and women to conquer unprecedented scientific and human challenges.  Crisscrossing the globe from the frozen Alaskan arctic to a fiery crater in a Turkmen desert, Die Trying presents unforgettable stories and characters pushing themselves to their absolute limits for the chance to bring groundbreaking knowledge to the world’s attention, for the very first time.

 

 

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/die-trying/

 

‘Building Wild’ cast at Brown’s Hoosick facility for fundraiser

Posted on August 20th, 2014

Posted on August 19, 2014 | By 

TIMESUNION.COM

Brown’s Brewing Co. is hosting an event called Wild BBQ from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27. It will feature a meet-and-greet with the stars of the hit National Geographic show “Building Wild.” There will be barbecued chicken, live music by the local Americanan rockers Eastbound Jesus and a live auction called by Ron and Kyle Seifert, who appeared on an episode of the History Channel’s “American Pickers” this year. The event will be hosted in the retail space at Brown’s Walloomsac production brewery in Hoosick Falls.

The stars of “Building Wild,” a crew called the Cabin Kings that is headed by Hoosick resident Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” star Paul “Paulie” DeMeo, will be on hand with Hoosick native and show executive producer George Verschooer to celebrate the conclusion of “Building Wild’s” second season of filming. The event is a fundraiser for the Greenwich-based Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), a nonprofit land trust helping landowners conserve farmland in Washington and Rensselaer counties.

Admission is $10 per person and proceeds go to the ASA. Chicken barbecue with Moses Farm corn and Brown’s beer will be available at additional charge. Tickets are available online and at Brown’s Taproom bar in Troy and Thorpe’s Pharmacy and Bagel & Brew in Hoosick Falls.

“Wild BBQ” will commemorate the first major event at Brown’s Walloomsac Taproom, located at its new, 20,000-barrel production brewery in Hoosick Falls. The taproom is scheduled to open full time to the public at the end of September and will sell pints of beer, growlers and bottled beer to go in addition to a small selection of local cheese and bread. Brewery tours will be available as well.

Brown’s Brewing Co.’s Walloomsac Brewery is located at 50 Factory Hill Road in North Hoosick.

 

See Article Here: http://blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping/44820/building-wild-cast-at-browns-hoosick-facility-for-fundraiser/

Dropping in on Turkmenistan’s ‘door to hell’ – in pictures

Posted on July 19th, 2014

Forty years ago, a vast molten cavity known as the Darvaza crater – nicknamed the “door to hell” – opened up in the desert of north Turkmenistan, and has been burning ever since. Now, Canadian explorer George Kourounis has become the first to make the descent into the fiery pit to look for signs of life.

-THE GUARDIAN

The origin of Turkmenistan’s Darvaza Crater – nicknamed the “door to hell” – is disputed, but the theory most widely accepted involves a Soviet expedition to explore for gas.

A Turkmen geologist claims the borehole was set alight in 1971 after fears it was emitting poisonous gases. It has now been burning for 40 years.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The crater, which is 69 metres wide and 30 metres deep, is located in a natural gas field in Ahal Province in Turkmenistan, which has the sixth largest reserves in the world.

George Kourounis, a Canadian explorer, became the first person known to have ventured into the pit last year, though footage of his expedition first aired this week on National Geographic, which partly funded the expedition. The aim was to collect soil samples from the bottom of the pit, to try to establish whether life can exist in such a harsh environment.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

“The story behind how [the crater] came into existence has been sort of shrouded in mystery, and there’s no other place like it on Earth,” Kourounis told National Geographic. “It is very unique, in that there’s no other place where there is this pit of burning methane that’s being ejected from the ground at high pressure”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The project took 18 months to plan. The team set up a rope-rigging system over a river gorge to practice lowering Kourounis in. He even had a Hollywood stunt expert set him on fire a few times, to “prepare myself for not panicking being up close around flame”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Kourounis admits he was a little nervous before the expedition.

“When you first set eyes on the crater, it’s like something out of a science fiction film,” he says. “You’ve got this vast, sprawling desert with almost nothing there, and then there’s this gaping, burning pit… The heat coming off of it is scorching.

“You have to shield your face with your hand just standing at the crater’s edge. Here I am thinking, ok , maybe I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew.”

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

To withstand the intense heat, Kourounis wore special breathing apparatus, a heat-reflective suit, and a custom-made climbing harness made out of Kevlar so that it would not melt.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The crater has become a minor tourist attraction in Turkmenistan, though Kourounis says he didn’t have any trouble with crowds of people turning up to watch him. Only a few “tourist outfits” and a couple of people with camels passed by.

“Once you’re there – if you can find the place – you can drive up, get out of your car, walk over to the edge, and jump right in, if you want,” he says. “The choice is yours. And I’m so far the only person who has actually done that”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Kourounis compared his experience of descending into the pit with what it might feel like to land on another planet. He describes it as a “coliseum of fire” made up of thousands of small flames, which together sound as loud as a jet engine.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

“You feel very, very small and very vulnerable in a place like that,” says Kourounis.

Flying over fire

Kourounis and the team were happy with the results of their expedition, and believe it may even help to inform potential space missions in the future searching for signs of life outside of our solar system.

“We did find some bacteria living at the bottom that are very comfortable living in those high temperatures, and the most important thing was that they were not found in any of the surrounding soil outside of the crater,” he says. “Outside of our solar system, there are planets that do resemble the conditions inside this pit, and [knowing that] can help us expand the number of places where we can confidently start looking for life outside of our solar system.”

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated countries in the world, yet its fledgling tourism industry hopes to capitalise on crater as an attraction for thrillseekers. Because it’s not fenced off, visitors can stand right on the edge of the crater, despite the safety hazards.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

 

Check out the original article HERE

 

NEW SERIES “DIE TRYING” Airs tonight July 9th @ 10pm ET

Posted on July 9th, 2014

Hello HFPLA Fans!

Our new series, DIE TRYING, A Hoosick Falls Production by Executive Producer George Verschoor, is airing tonight (10pm ET) on the National Geographic Channel!


Tune in tonight at 10PM ET, for the first episode Polars Vs. Grizzlies, where Nat Geo’s veteran bear expert Casey Anderson and seasoned naturalist Jason Matthews plunge into some of the most dangerous bear country in the world, the Alaskan Arctic, determined to collect conclusive DNA evidence and visual footage of a different breed of bear: what they call the Super Bear. Half polar and half grizzly, this hybrid Super Bear has the DNA makeup of two of the world’s most tremendous predators.

Die Trying is a documentary series about six high-risk, high-reward expeditions that highlight the capacity for determined men and women to conquer unprecedented scientific and human challenges.  Crisscrossing the globe from the frozen Alaskan arctic to a fiery crater in a Turkmen desert, Die Trying presents unforgettable stories and characters pushing themselves to their absolute limits for the chance to bring groundbreaking knowledge to the world’s attention, for the very first time.

 

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/die-trying/

 

Judd Winick Tweets Old-School ‘Real World: San Francisco’ Photos 20 Years After Filming

Posted on February 14th, 2014

posted 02/13/2014 3:36:42 pm by matthew scott donnelly in real world, top tv shows.

Judd Winick, Pedro Zamora and Pam Ling enjoy a San Francisco brunch in 1994.

This season’s “Real World” is putting a twist on the iconic series by bunking housemates with their exes in San Francisco, but when the show first hit Fog City in 1994, it was all about strangers simply getting to know each other. With memorable cast members like AIDS activist Pedro Zamora and medical student Pam Ling, Season 3 is still a favorite among longtime viewers, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its filming, cast member Judd Winick is taking a look back.

Today, the twentysomething housemate best known for his mission to find the perfect girl and land a syndicated cartoon strip tweeted photos from his time in San Francisco, and even a couple from his cast’s vacation in Hawaii. Between brunch with good friends, a tandem bike ride and braving the rainforest, the experiences Judd has shared are clear reminders of why the first “Real World: San Francisco” is still so beloved. (Plus, can’t you just tell that he and Pam, who are now married, would become a thing?)

Check out the pics for a proper blast from the past, and keep up with 2014′s “Real World” Wednesday nights at 10/9c!

Judd Winick, Cory Murphy and Pedro Zamora hang out in Hawaii.

The group poses with former show director George Verschoor.

Judd Winick and Pam Ling, before they were married!

“The rain forrest! (Can you tell?),” Judd Winick tweeted of this Hawaii photo.

Photos courtesy of @JuddWinick

 

National Geographic Channel “Building Wild” In Brattleboro!

Posted on February 10th, 2014

By BuildingWildTV | Fri, February 07 2014

New Episodes to air Tuesdays @ 9/8c

“Building Wild” is a fun, rugged new cabin-building series currently airing on National Geographic Channel Tuesdays at 9pm. The entire first season was filmed in the Bennington area, and features Paul DiMeo of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Hoosick Falls native Pat “Tuffy” Bakatis.

NOW, the series is looking for new build challenges in the Brattleboro area! In each episode of the show, Paulie and Tuffy – The Cabin Kings – meet a client who has a big, rugged piece of land and a dream of putting a cabin on that property.

The Cabin Kings get it done in one week’s time. If you live in the Brattleboro area and have some wild, remote acreage that would be a challenge to our crew, and a dream of your own wilderness getaway, we’d love to hear about it! Find more details here:  http://www.cabin-kings.com/apply.php !

 

‘Cabin Kings’ looking for sites in the Brattleboro area

Posted on February 5th, 2014

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

The Building Wild crew works into the night on a cabin in Arlington. (National Geographic Channels) (George Verschoor)

BRATTLEBORO — If you have a piece of land in the woods in need of a cabin, the National Geographic Channel is looking for you.

The first season of “Building Wild,” currently airing on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., was filmed entirely in the Bennington area, and now the show’s producers are looking for locales in the Brattleboro area.

The series features Paul DiMeo of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and Hoosick Falls, N.Y., native Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis. The pair — known as the “Cabin Kings” — meet with prospective land owners and determine whether a cabin can be built. They then take about a week to do it.

DiMeo is a city boy at heart and Bakaitis is a gruff, logical woodsman. Together, they create wilderness getaways, transforming discarded materials into fabulous contraptions and overcoming outrageous building challenges along the way.

“You can see it in the first episode, Tuffy is a practical guy,” the show’s producer, George Verschoor, told the Bennington Banner. Verschoor produced the first four years of the MTV series “The Real World.”

DiMeo, said Verschoor, is more of a dreamer whose ideas often rankle his partner in terms of their feasibility.

“He’s no outdoorsman, he’s a city boy. He’s a hoot to follow around,” said Bakaitis of his business partner. “He just doesn’t know what it takes to pull a job off.”

Verschoor and Bakaitis have known each other since they were children.

“We rode the school bus together,” said Verschoor, who owns a home in Hoosick Falls. He said he knew DiMeo through “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and introduced him to Bakaitis one day.

As it turns out, Bakaitis and DiMeo share a love of building, especially cabins. Bakaitis had built five and showed them off to DiMeo.

“We got a lot of good ideas and decided to build them for other people,” Bakaitis said.

The two have formed a business, Cabin Kings, and the show, “Building Wild,” is about them making a go of it, said Verschoor. He pitched the idea to National Geographic, which liked the outdoors angle.

“We’re documenting the startup of this cabin building business, and the Cabin Kings are headquartered in Hoosick Falls, New York,” Verschoor told the Reformer. “The area they’re currently building in is in the Southern Vermont/Upstate New York area, an area with a very heavy cabin culture. In the future, they do hope to take on builds across the country.”

Viewers should enjoy watching Bakaitis and DiMeo work together, said Verschoor, as the two both love what they do and are experts, but approach things from different angles. One client suggested they get marriage counseling.

The two clash in the first episode when DiMeo and the client want to raise the frame of the camp the old fashioned way using “gin poles,” but Bakaitis thinks using his excavator would be faster and safer.

Many of their projects have a “build-as-you-go” feel, he said, and he often finds himself trying to bring his partner down to earth. Bakaitis said when they do pull off an amazing feat of woodland engineering, it only encourages DiMeo, and their clients, to want more.

One of their projects is a ski cabin that rotates so sunrise and sunset can both be watched from the front porch.

All the episodes of the first season feature projects in the upstate New York and southern Vermont area, such as Shaftsbury, Sandgate and Glastenbury.

Bakaitis said Cabin Kings’ business model keeps costs low because they use materials found on-site and the landowners are asked to bring together a workforce of friends and family and agree to do the entire build in one week. It’s up to the landowners to usher the project through the local permitting process.

Find more details on how to apply, visit cabin-kings.com/apply.php.

Bennington Banner reporter Keith Whitcomb, Jr. contributed to this report.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.

 

Delco ‘Makeover’ guy goes ‘Wild’

Posted on February 1st, 2014

Paul DiMeo, the Media native and famously emotional carpenter from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," is now building cabins for people who want to get away from it all - including their flat screens - in National Geographic Channel's "Building Wild."

MILLIONS OF Americans will settle into their man (and woman) caves this weekend for the big game, but chances are those retreats won’t have been designed by Paul DiMeo. The Media native and famously emotional carpenter from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is now building cabins for people who want to get away from it all – including their flat screens – in National Geographic Channel’s “Building Wild.”

The show, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, chronicles the odd-couple adventures of DiMeo and his business partner Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis as they build one-of-a-kind getaways, with the help of their customers, in places where the challenges may include building a road to get there.

DiMeo, who lives in LA these days but still vacations at the Jersey Shore, spoke with Ellen Gray about his newest venture.

Q So, were you looking at this as a business or a TV show first?

A business first. But I mean, I came off a decade of television, so I like the idea of being in television.

Q How many cabins had you two built together before the show?

None at all. It happened very quickly. George [Verschoor, executive producer of "Building Wild"] introduced me to Tuffy. I liked the idea of building cabins, maybe making a bit of money, and George said, “What if I try to get Nat Geo to follow you guys from its inception?”

Q Was your plan all along to be a TV star?

In life? No. I mean, I’ve always loved theater. Building sets, acting. When I got to New York, I was building sets by day, working for a lot of great theater companies down on 4th Street. Being that I was a carpenter, I got to do a lot.

Q It’s a great skill. Wasn’t Harrison Ford a carpenter?

Harrison Ford was a carpenter, yeah. Now he’s a pilot.

Q Is that your next thing?

No, no. My next thing is goat cheese. I like the idea of grabbing some goats and making some cheese.

Q How do you find clients?

In New England, everyone wants a cabin. I really wanted this business model to happen where [customers] helped, where you brought the labor pool, doing it together, hitting it hard for five days. These are only 400-square-foot homes, there’s no plumbing.

Q No plumbing? Because I think I’d want plumbing.

There’s an outhouse. Plumbing is really great. The problem with plumbing is getting rid of the waste. No, we want to build forts in your back yard.

Q People often want more house than they need. Do they want more cabin than they need?

No. So we’ve built 10 cabins. Four of our clients [said] “I don’t want any electricity” – because usually what I’ll do is I’ll put in like four to six outlets and a generator hookup. But a lot of the guys said, “No, I don’t want any of that. Let me come up here, let me read.”

Q You’re known for being emotional. What gets the tears going on this show?

You spend a week with somebody and you do something. You look at it, and then you look at how it affects the people you did that for.

Even if it’s a cabin and it’s a father and a son. They worked on something together that week that never would’ve happened without us bringing it to them. I did that with my old man, and I loved that.

Q You built a cabin with your father?

No, but I worked with my dad.

[Also] our house burned down in ’63, in Delaware County, right on the border of Media and Brookhaven. [DiMeo was 5 at the time.] The contractor went on strike. So here’s my dad, with five children, and my mom. And I watched the Knights of Columbus, I watched Our Lady of Charity [parishioners] come and help my dad.

I also learned at a very early age that if it’s not breathing, what good is it? So maybe it’s why I don’t collect things.

Q What’s your house like?

We have [cowboy actor] Tom Mix’s house. It’s beautiful. Right now I’m redoing a bathroom.

Q You’re still working on your own house?

Oh, yeah. Does that ever end?

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140202_Delco__Makeover__guy_goes__Wild_.html#1XFqYbCLB5TSSCLe.99

 

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