Hi there Travel Tarters, today I have a chat with Laurie Clarke, an Executive Producer with Top Shelf Productions who produced the television documentary series called ‘Reality Trip’.
Have you ever thought about where the stuff you buy comes from and how it’s produced? You probably won’t want to if you watch this eye opening program!
Reality Trip is a documentary series which takes five young New Zealand consumers to three different countries (Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) to see where the products they buy come from – everyday items such as computers, bananas, costume jewellery, clothes, and tea. It’s like a full cultural immersion where they live and work alongside locals – and they even earn the same pay!
The five participants have different personalities and backgrounds are very different: 19-year-old fashion-mad Anna works at a lifestyle publication and hopes to be the editor of Vogue one day; 25 year old Kieran is a father and workaholic who loves to have a laugh; 22-year-old Peter is computer obsessed and all his previous travelling experience has been on the internet; Stevie is 21, a social work student with a big heart; 21 year old student Stephanie is ambitious, super confident and a self-confessed shopaholic!
Anyway, if you get a chance to watch it, it will definitely make you think about everything that you buy!
Here’s the interview!
The Reality Trip Chat!
The Travel Tart: Hi Laurie, thanks for the chance to chat! Just wondering, how did the Reality Trip idea come about?
Laurie Clarke: We wanted to really show the reality of how the everyday items that you buy and take for granted are made around the world.
The Travel Tart: One of the saddest, but truest quotes I’ve ever heard from someone was ‘there is no first world without the third world’. This came from someone involved in global business and I felt a bit sick when I first heard it. Out of all of the places you visited, which one was the hardest to deal with on an emotional and practical level?
Laurie Clarke: First I should make it clear that i personally didn’t go on the shoot – my production team did. I have been to some of those places and experienced Asia so I have an understanding of what life is like there however there’s nothing like being immersed in the images and smells, and the heat and the noise. As I was intimately involved in putting the series together i have a good idea of which location impacted most on the talent and the crew – and by impact i mean “shocked” – and that would most definitely be Tondo, the dump site in Manila which has been around for thirty or forty years and is a township built on an ever rising mound of rubbish – they say cockroaches can exist in virtually any environment but Tondo is an example of the endurance and remarkable adaptability of the human species.
The Travel Tart: Just wondering, some of the places visited didn’t seem to have the best food hygiene standards. Did you have to stop filming for a while because of illness with either the cast or crew?
Laurie Clarke: All of the locations we filmed in were challenging from a food hygiene perspective – that was part of the “experience” we were putting them through – remarkably none of the team were so ill that we had to stop filming …. and you have to bear in mind that Kiwi’s are pretty tough and will keep going no matter how bad the circumstances! Having said that there was one member of the team who wasn’t so resilient (you’ll need to watch to see who that was).
The Travel Tart: As with any production, there are outtakes which can be pretty funny. What was one of the funniest things that happened during filming that didn’t make the final cut?
Laurie Clarke: The incidents that would normally be described as outtakes actually made it into the cut – the talent were equipped with a handicam so they filmed a lot of those moments – the funniest was when one of the guys Kieran threw a plastic chair at Stevie-Jean – taken out of context it could be construed in a less favourable light however it was a humorous moment, building on a very dynamic relationship between the two of them.
The Travel Tart: I think the show highlighted that First World Problems are minuscule in the scheme of things when compared to the crap that people in the Third World put up with. People in the third world need to do anything to make a living, from selling chickens dyed with food colouring to transporting impossibly over-engineered loads on a scooter. What was the most bizarre way to make a living you encountered?
Laurie Clarke: The most bizarre way of making a living was undoubtedly scavenging on Tondo dump site for items that could be sold for recycling. The people there were working incredibly long hours, exposed to all kinds of infectious diseases (the life expectancy for people living in Tondo is less than 40 years) and they would earn just a few dollars ($US) a day. In Tondo we filmed a family who lived in a shack made out of timber scraps, corrugated iron and cardboard – it is hard to imagine a less hospitable home but that is all they had, and unbelievably those few square metres of real-estate were for sale – two of the talent on our show ended up buying the title for that property to enable that family to move out of Tondo, back to one of the Islands.
The Travel Tart: I’m sure that the people involved in the documentary gained a new perspective after seeing the way some people live around the world. But has it stopped anyone shopping (or at least reduced the size of their wardrobe a bit)? Or at least made people think twice?
Laurie Clarke: We are 18 months on from the completion of filming and some of the talent have made significant changes to their lives – one is a journalist and has become outspoken around issues of workers rights in third world countries. For others, the change is less dramatic but I’m sure all of them think twice about what they buy and why they buy.
The Travel Tart: Do you have any plans for some follow up shows, either with this cast or a new one?
Laurie Clarke: Yes we do have plans for another series – there are so many more amazing stories of people working in jobs in other countries that help to prop up the lifestyle of developed countries, lifestyles that we have little or no understanding of.
The Travel Tart: Thanks for your time Laurie!
Laurie Clarke: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about a programme that we are immensely proud of.