Re: Animal Planet Otherkin series
Reposting my replies from LJ for folks who read here but don't have an account there.
A fair bit of the content on that network does come from independent producers, so you will see varying standards of professionalism depending on which of the independents you are dealing with. The level of professionalism in this particular casting call is very, very low even for an independent.
It is not impossible that what we're looking at is basically the edutainment industry "food chain". There are a huge number of independent producers making content for these networks that range from one-person setups all the way on up to fairly large media companies. One of the standard things they do is to buy or commission footage from jobbers on various parts of the chain and put it together into something they think will be marketable. Thing is, it can get repackaged more than once, and the original producers never have control over how it gets repackaged before airing. Neither does anyone lower on the food chain, eg, the people who took the original footage or the people appearing in it.
At the bottom of the chain, the independents selling mostly raw footage to media companies that repackage it for sale to the networks can be pretty, er, independent. They don't really have a professional code of conduct or ethics, they just have a camera and a small crew working on spec and hungry for salable content they can exploit.
Spamming casting calls is definitely something I've seen before. Check around in the polyamory community for the trail of wreckage that the recent "documentary" that aired on MTV ended up creating. Those producers were banned from every polyamory community they spammed on, and that was a lot of them. This is bad behavior, but it is not atypical behavior for people producing content for major television networks. Keep this in mind.
In case folks haven't seen it already, I'm going to repost my ridiculously long cautionary warning. I sincerely apologize for the spamming, but at least it's inside an on-topic thread.
While I can't tell anyone who is really excited and determined to do this thing not to do it, I do respectfully ask that anyone who is thinking about it read this post carefully. I have some familiarity with the process, and there are things you need to know before making the decision to allow your name and likeness to be used by this production company for what they hope will be eventual use on Animal Planet.
The general philosophy behind "edutainment" television such as Animal Planet is to entertain viewers, not to document real science. Their financial viability depends on ratings and an audience of non scientists, and it is standard practice in the "edutainment" industry to dumb things down and drama them up to the point of real and serious inaccuracy and misrepresentation. This is what they do to real scientists and researchers every day. They will do worse to you.
Ask Coyote Osbourne about "Animal Imitators", or ask Wolf Van Zandt about his experience filming a therian "documentary". They gave every promise of being respectful and not sensationalistic. That is not what happened. It never is. That is the nature of television; they are subject to increasing pressures to "drama it up" and make things more exciting at every level of production. If there is any possible way they can misquote you for greater drama and exaggeration or take what you say out of context and give it shock value, they absolutely will.
They will deliberately ask very provocative questions about remote possibilities, then omit the actual questions. They will televise only the part where you are halfway through explaining that IF you suddenly felt your life was seriously threatened, you MIGHT do something extreme. All that's going to appear on camera is you stating your willingness to do the extreme thing. Right after that they will cut to a psychiatric professional giving their opinion on your statement and your sanity. That professional won't have seen the context footage either, just what they chose to show in order to get the most dramatic possible negative opinion. This is how they play "let's you and him fight" in the scientific and academic community, and they do it to all kinds of people. They will do it to you too; it's the standard show formula.
The people actually doing the filming may convince you of their sincerity and they may even mean it. What you don't know (and they probably won't tell you) is that there are multiple levels of post-production editing and voiceovers that are not done anywhere near the set where you are. The scriptwriters who come in later to do those things get paid to produce better ratings. They don't know you and they don't care about you. It is their paid job to "shock it up" and heighten the drama and excitement of footage that may have been quite sensible when it was originally taken. What the independent company sells is the footage; the network can edit it further and put whatever spin they like on it. I have known a number of instances where this went very poorly for the people who took the original footage and did what they thought was a good documentary, before the network got their hands on it and dumbed things down or dramatized them up. The fact is that even decent independent producers lose control of what they film once the airing rights are sold, which means that any and all promises they may make to you about how it will be used mean exactly jack and squat. They can't actually control that. No independent producer can, and I've seen that lead to major grief for researchers.
They "drama it up" on Animal Planet regularly at the expense of scientific accuracy, ethics and professionalism. They do it to perfectly ordinary researchers on a regular basis. In your case they have a lot more potential "shock" material. I absolutely cannot see any way that this is going to end well for your community or for anyone who agrees to be interviewed.
The postproduction people will look for a good drama angle in every bit of footage, and hunt until they find one. Failing that, they'll make one up. They don't care if they have to wildly exaggerate to the point of real scientific inaccuracy, and every actual scientist in the field watching the show will shake their head in anger and disbelief in multiple places. Their general reputation is somewhere below the taxonomy of slime molds and fecal bacteria in the academic community, and for very good reason. What I'm saying is that they don't care about facts, they care about drama.
I've seen a fair number of queries and outreach inquiries from companies producing for Discovery and related shows including Animal Planet. This one is not written well or professionally, to the point that I did not believe it was genuine. All of the queries and casting calls I have seen that were actually from this and other related companies were much more professional and had an official email address and phone number for inquiries. It is true that there are a good many independents producing content for these shows, and that they may have different standards. But this one really hits a new low, and that worries me on an additional level.
My guess is that while they may be submitting this on speculation, the fact that Discovery hasn't given them an official email address to use is telling. I doubt they've confirmed that this project will definitely air on their network; they may have simply said what they say to all of the independents - send it to us and we'll see if we like it. That's not much to go on, so if they are claiming that they "work for" Animal Planet or that the documentary is definitely being filmed for them, the claim may be a disingenuous one.
A lot of incredibly ugly and dishonest things go on behind the scenes at Animal Planet that aren't known to the general public. There are many good reasons not to trust them with anything, particularly a subject like this. Realistically I can't tell anyone not to do this, because the lure of being on television or the bright dream of being able to really explain who you are to the world at large is going to be much too shiny for some people to resist. So some of you will do this, and you'll try your absolute best. And you will be hung and crucified and sacrificed on the altar of public entertainment. I think you will be deeply sorry afterward that you came forward, but I won't tell you not to do it.
But please be fully warned in advance. No one on the set is your friend, none of their promises can be believed, they will be doing their absolute best to get you to say things that they can take out of context and use for drama, and there will be an "opposing professional" you never get to meet or talk to who will be given the worst possible perspective on you and invited to tear you apart in front of the world. This is what they do and how they make their living. Never forget this.
Remain calm and quiet, sit still and be dignified as much as you can. Don't give them anything you haven't consciously decided ahead of time that you're going to give them. Speak slow, carefully thought out words, and those words only. Do not under any circumstances answer provocative questions or "extreme" questions or "what if" scenarios, because that footage is the only thing they'll use. The public will never hear the questions you were asked, just the most extreme part of your reply.
If the camera is on, don't talk freely "off the record", and make damn sure you know when the camera is on.
Those documents you will sign give them the right to film you at any time and use the footage, for anything, in perpetuity. That's their standard contract. Legally, they can take your head and put it on Courtney Love's body and make it look like you are dancing the can-can in a hula skirt while a voiceover talks about teenage prostitution. They probably won't literally do that, but they can put any text or voiceover or graphic effect they want on anything you are filmed doing. So beware of their requests to film you in action, even if it's just a walk in the woods. If a weird or spooky or crazy spin can be put on it, it will be.
Do not speak openly and frankly without prior rehearsal to anyone during filming. Do not babble freely. Rehearse calm, dignified statements and stick to your script, the one that YOU write for yourself ahead of time. Don't let them prod you into deviating from your prepared script. Don't let them put words in your mouth or repeat anything they say to you.
Do not succumb to the illusion that any of these people is your friend and just wants to know the real story. The fact is that if you volunteer to be used for this thing, you will be used in the worst possible sense of the word to make a dramatic piece of entertainment, and you need to be fully prepared for that. Maybe, just maybe, you can use them back, but please remember that they are professionals at this, and the average person is woefully underequipped to defend themselves against the tactics they will use to make you look more "interesting" and dramatic to their viewers. You are almost certainly not going to like it or be happy with how you are represented, and it may well be devastating to your community and to you personally.
Be safe and be careful, and good luck.