Interview with Steampunk’d Producer, Jenn Duncan, part three

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk 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.

Read part one here.

Read part two here.


Airship Ambassador: How did the people and designs compare to other similar shows? Was there anything notably different because of the steampunk theme?

Jenn Duncan: I just loved the cast. The down-to-earth and yet wacky nature of steampunk folk is palpable. It’s a quality one can find in artists anyway, but something about steampunk brings an extra element of mystery to folks. I couldn’t get enough.


AA: Once filming ended, what came next?

JD: Post production – and then a camping trip with my kids!


AA: When the broadcast date is set, is it all red carpets and viewing parties for the premiere episode, or have you already dived into the next project?

JD: Viewing parties, yes. This year, however, I’m laid up after a hip surgery! How stupid is that?? I’d just trip over a red carpet!


AA: Ouch, tripping right after hip surgery would just be adding insult to injury. How soon might viewers hear about a second season?

JD: Oooohhh… that’s a good question. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear!


AA: As the first steampunk show out of the gate on cable television, what kind of attention has Steampunk’d already generated in the entertainment community?

JD: I’m very, very pleased with the attention it’s getting! People are hearing of it, and seem excited! Hopefully our numbers will reflect that.


AA: For viewers who are thinking of applying for a second season, what suggestions and recommendations would you offer?

JD: Be yourself – boldly.   Let us know your talents. Where do you shine? Don’t be afraid to be competitive. It’s just a game and it’s just TV. Have fun!! Make me want to root for you!

It’s hard to witness yourself on TV, and every show I do I am aware that I am shooting a potentially cringe inducing moment for a cast member once they watch themselves on TV, because he or she is at that moment invested in a situation that is extremely intense.

Here’s the deal: we can’t “edit someone into acting like an asshole.” What we do is edit the episodes to show the highest highs and lowest lows. I mean, we have about 42 min to tell a story that was shot for multiple days. Audiences don’t want to watch literal paint drying. Or conversations about the weather. That goes on too on reality sets. Yawn.

My casts will tell you that I have likened the process to shooting any of you playing a rousing game of Monopoly. We humans get competitive. We get mean. We get stupid. In the end we are all so damn similar. If you ever get a chance to see a tape of yourself losing or wildly winning a board game, you might be horrified by your behavior – and even the looks on your face. Just saying.

Know that any “villain” you see on a reality show is not ACTUALLY evil. (98%of the time!) Mostly, they are wrapped up in a very tense moment – and it’s FASCINATING to watch how the human psyche works. They can easily revert to their Lesser-Self. You know, that self we ALL have and pretend we don’t?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is reality TV in a nutshell.


AA: Now, THAT is a good thing to know! If you weren’t a producer, what else would you be doing now?

JD: Jingling a cup on a corner?


AA: What other theme or type of show would you like on?

JD: I love any shows that show people on journeys to become BETTER. Motivational athletic challenges often show that, as well as artists. Anything of that nature turns me on.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

JD: My kids are my motivating influence. I like to tell stories that bring people up at the end of the day, not down. I want my kids to be proud of their story-telling mom. We’ve told stories from the days of being gathered around fires in caves. They help us learn. They help us laugh and escape. I may not be curing cancer, but I do feel that if I can provide a little bit of healthy escapism for so many tired folks at the end of their long day, then I’ve done my part.


AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

JD: Having children has definitely had the most positive impact in my life. They’ve also been my greatest challenge! The vision of trying to be a responsible adult who recognizes the suffering in this world, while at the same time attempting to see the beauty in this world comes into very clear focus once you bring new life into the game. Makes you think about each step you make that much more clearly. And in the end, it makes me a better producer, a better parent, a better spouse.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

JD: I hope you enjoy the show! We certainly enjoyed making it! We loved all the cast and each one of them has a little piece of my heart for different reasons. Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about it!


Thanks, Jenn, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

Check out Jenn’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.


Published in: on October 2, 2015 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Steampunk’d Producer, Jenn Duncan, part two

Welcome back for part two in our talk 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.

Read part one here.


Airship Ambassador: Other entertainment companies have bandied about ideas for a steampunk themed show for a few years. Why do think that now is time to get the first steampunk show out for broadcast to the mainstream viewing audience?

Jenn Duncan: You know, that’s right. I’m not sure why now is the time that it finally hit, but I do know that Hollywood has the zeitgeist thing figured out pretty well. It’s in the air before I even know it. A week after shooting the show, I was at a hardware store and saw a chalk board sign recommending people try a do-it-yourself steampunk project and build a lamp out of faucets and piping. Amazing!!   A few months ago I would’ve said this was a niche brand of art undercurrent… and here it is becoming the next big thing. Your readers can feel solid in they knew it was cool before the rest of the world did!


AA: LOL, yes, some of us have been cool for quite some time! Peering into the life of a producer, what were some initial things that have to be done to move the project forward from the initial brainstorming development phase into the concrete filming production phase?

JD: Oh wow. A lot! The biggest bugaboo for us was finding a location big enough to fit our huge set we wanted to build! We had multiple shooting areas and one big manor as a setpiece that was very very tall, and needed to be lit right. I found sketches I did early on in a legal pad of it all, and it’s surreal to me now to look back on it and see that it all really happened. That is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Having an idea and seeing it come to life. Then again, that’s something I share with the Makers. We are all artists at the end of the day!


AA: Yes, it’s definitely rewarding to see an idea evolve to the point of becoming real and concrete. While we live moment to moment in that process, the perspective when looking back at the time and effort involved can give us quite the sense of accomplishment. Pink Sneakers brought in POP Magnet as the casting team to find candidates for the show. What is the casting process like?

JD: The casting process is grueling. We go through tons and tons of submissions and narrow and narrow and piece together a jigsaw puzzle of the perfect cast. In the case of Steampunk’d, we wanted to invite ACTUAL Makers onto the show, so we had to make sure they actually had the skills to back up what they were telling us they could do. So we had a weekend where we brought out some of the big contenders for our cast, and we had them make stuff! I remember leaving that weekend feeling confident that we could deliver real skills for our competition, but then waking up in the middle of the night worried that we had not focused enough on their personalities! What if they were dull! Turns out, steampunk artists are never dull.


AA: HA! I think steampunks in general are never dull J Once there was a pool of potential candidates, what was involved in the next step to select the final ten to be in the show?

JD: Interviews, skills test, more interviews and meetings! We had a huge skills test weekend, and lots of interviews. Then we meet with the network and we narrow it down.


AA: Some viewers may not know just how long a TV project can take, nor all of the thousands of details and decisions which go into it. What were some of the tasks and challenges in lining everyone and everything up before filming started?

JD: Yes, even I look at the finished project in the end and tend to forget the painstaking hours of conflict that got to the pretty shiny end product! It’s like childbirth. You forget the labor, and cherish the beautiful baby! In the case of this show, we had trouble finding a location to shoot in. We needed multiple areas to have room for the build and the judging area, and finding a place that was available, safe, affordable, and fit our logistic needs was a nightmare! We finally found a great studio up in the valley. Also, the building of our huge set was a challenge! We needed it to be safe, and beautiful, and functional. We had to think of fun challenges for the Makers, and write up creative plans, and pitch them to the network. There’s also just a lot of hiring of crew, dealing with schedule changes, and permits and blah, blah blah. It’s a lot of work. J


AA: While viewers see weekly episodes, the filming schedule is much different. How was that structured, and what are the challenges in such a schedule?

JD: We shot an episode every three days, and account for that in the episode, but obviously, we have to tell that story of what happened in three days in just under an hour! The challenges on a schedule like that were largely in the hands of our talented cast. They really were pressed for time and had to learn how to work FAST and be SMART with their choices, lest they mess themselves up. I really admired them and how they handled it.


AA: Wow, that’s quite a pace to keep up. How tired is everyone by the end of it all? Are people just running on adrenaline, caffeine, and sugar?

JD: You said it! Definitely we ran on adrenaline caffeine and sugar! I amaze myself with my reserve tanks… but you will have a hard time catching me without a cup of black coffee in my hand! That said, we honestly had such an amazing cast and crew that it made it fun to come to work each day – tired as we all were. You know that this pace is temporary, and it’s just a blast. A lot of laughter and hugs. And doughnuts. A lot of doughnuts.


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things might viewers see in each episode?

JD: Real ingenuity. The things these Makers came up with in such a limited time with limited supplies was incredible.


AA: What are some memorable moments you had during filming?

JD: Seeing the set for the first time, fully built. It took my breath away. I couldn’t believe that it had come to life.


AA: Were there any items that you just craved to take home with you?

JD: Oh gosh yes. I’ve even commissioned some work from a couple of the Makers since shooting!


We’ll break here in our chat with Jenn

Join us next time as she talks about what comes next now that the show is airing.

Also, check out Jenn’s exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.


Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 7:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Steampunk’d Producer, Jenn Duncan

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.


Published in: on September 30, 2015 at 7:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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