This week we are talking with Jenn Duncan, one of the producers of Steampunk’d, from GSN, the Game Show Network. Steampunk’d is the first steampunk reality show to be broadcast on cable television.
For full disclosure, I was the steampunk consultant for Pink Sneakers in the development phase of this project and met Jenn a few months before the production phase started.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Jenn, thanks for joining us this week.
Jenn Duncan: Thank you, Kevin.
AA: What an amazing project for everyone to be involved with! Before we talk about Steampunk’d specifically, please share a bit about your background and other projects you’ve worked on.
JD: This really has been an amazing project, and one I’m very proud of. I am excited on this one to get back to my competition show roots. I began in reality in 2002, when I was casting for Survivor and The Amazing Race. Being a writer, I made my way into the story side of The Amazing Race and did five seasons of that show before moving on to other hits like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and Shear Genius. I’ve also run a lot of Docu Series like “Welcome to Sweetie Pies,” “My Five Wives,” and most recently, “Becoming Us” on ABCFamily. Getting back to the world of a competition series has been on my to-do list for 2015, and so Steampunk’d came at the perfect time!
AA: Many viewers will be familiar with those shows. How did working on them prepare you for working on Steampunk’d?
JD: Every show is inherently different, and I learn more and more on each one. I would say, however, that the constant that I tend to see in my work and the one thing I am drawn to is STORY. I am very interested in how people handle conflict and how people grow and learn in the face of conflict. Whether I am following someone’s life in a docu series style show, or pitting people against one another for a prize victory in a competition, I have to remember that those cast members face very personal CHALLENGES. And it’s difficult on them. I always work to put myself in their shoes and I try and validate their experience. By doing that, we can work together to tell their individual story of their journey. When that is done well, somewhere in a living room on a couch, an audience member sees that story play out on screen and relates to it and says, “That’s just like me.” I think working on as many shows as I have worked on has made me hone that skill and I am proud of it.
AA: Empathy like that is always a good skill to have, and I can see how it would help tell a story more clearly. What were some of the similarities and differences between those other projects and Steampunk’d?
JD: Steampunk’d is a competition show through and through. But it’s also a show about artists and these people are serious about their craft. We aren’t just playing a game here. We are putting true talent in a ring and duking it out. In this way, the show reminds me very much of Shear Genius, a show I did years ago about high end hairstylists, where we eliminated someone each week, and picked a “top stylist” by the end. In both circumstances, the artists never took a challenge lightly. They were out for blood.
AA: With money and prestige on the line, not to mention potential opportunities, it’s pretty understandable that people would be competitive and definitely need to bring their “A” game. How did you come to be involved with Steampunk’d as a producer?
JD: It’s funny, I had two separate sources come to me about the show within a day’s time. The network had reached out to my agent, and he suggested this was right up my ally, and then a friend had told the production company that I’d be a perfect fit. I guess somewhere someone was looking out for me! J
AA: That’s a good network of people! What were your initial thoughts about the concept and what steampunk was?
JD: I had a vague concept of what steampunk was, but not as well versed as I now am! I actually like metallic jewelry and watches with exposed gears and leather, so I had some personal items that the Makers later pointed out to me were a little “steampunk.” I guess I was cool before I knew I was. LOL As for the show concept, I immediately loved it. Who doesn’t love a group of artists battling it out?
We’ll break here in our chat with Jenn
Join us next time as she talks about the production phase for the show.
Also, check out Jenn’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.