Joyce Standridge was on the scene for the filming of the New Orleans Extreme Makeover home, and here’s what she had to say.
Is Ty (Pennington, the show’s host) really that hyper?
Yes, indeed, he is. He is also a very smart television person, always looking at how things will appear on camera, and what camera angles are the most interesting. Ty is also going about 200 mph all the time. His mother, who as a single parent raised Ty and about whom he talks at times during the show, was on the New Orleans site, and it’s clear where he gets all that charisma.
Do the EMHE on-camera people really work on the project?
In addition to Ty, the crew in this instance included Michael Moloney, Paige Hemmis, Paul DiMeo, and Ed Sanders. And, yes, they all work. Paige was involved more at the home, Michael is the kind of project cheerleader who can get a hundred volunteers to move faster, move over there, do this, do that, and love every second of it because of his charm. Paul crafted furnishings on-site, and Ed never lost his warm and kind demeanor even as he tried to track down a frustratingly hidden wiring short. They are all even nicer people when the camera is off — and you can’t say that about a lot of television people!
How come the recipient families are always dressed when they run out the door at the start of the show?
The show does an extraordinary job of keeping secret the recipients right up to that point. But they go into an area with five finalists, and remember that people send in tapes nominating families or themselves, so it’s not totally like a bolt from the sky — but honestly, they don’t know they’ve been selected until Ty yells at them on the bullhorn.
It all looks so spontaneous and enthusiastic. Is it really?
EMHE has a system that allows it to do the almost-impossible in a short time, but they do rehearse a few things, like “Move that bus!” chants with the crowd. This not only provides a little practice but the production crew can keep that enthusiasm level high.
How in the world do they get the permits and inspections done that are always needed on construction projects — and are part of the reason most projects take four months or more?
Cities are normally very welcoming and eager for the good reflection that comes with these projects. As a result, permits are issued without the family knowing in advance, and the appropriate jurisdictions allow inspectors to be on-site 24 hours a day so they can sign-off on their areas and the next group can immediately move in and start work. The inspectors probably don’t go back to the office and admit it, but it’s a lot of fun to be on-site and the overall zeal is catching.
The projects always seem so clean, when construction sites normally are a mess. How do they do that?
EMHE maintains a staging area away from the actual building site (and this is one of the criteria for selection — there needs to be an empty lot somewhere fairly close by). All the materials are delivered there and are very well-organized — and kept that way throughout the build. Material is brought to the site as needed, and production crews actually walk up and down the streets picking up anything that’s been discarded by onlookers. Street cleaners keep the muck and mud from being tracked onto other properties. No matter what stage the project is in, it’s neat as a pin.
So what do the neighbors think about a 24/7 building project?
Fortunately, most neighbors are happy for the lucky recipients and cheerfully go along with the mayhem. A few are not thrilled, especially if they’re trying to sleep, but overall the EMHE people are experts at appeasing the neighbors. Staff and volunteers often visit with people and they do a great job of making everyone feel like they’re a part of a really neat deal.