When I started to delve further into ghost hunting as a more serious profession in 2008, and I was eighteen. At that time, paranormal reality shows were on a steady rise across networks, and the scent of landing a spot on a show was in the air for everyone. It was something I was hopeful for in the future, not only as a chance to see more locations and have hands-on experience but also to have the network experience. Over the last decade, shows have come and gone. Some reached extremes to attract viewers and crashed and burned along the way. There are still shows left, and now that the paranormal boom has calmed down, the shows are focusing more on the ghosts, and less on the crazy. Today, I still love researching, but my goals have shifted away from being on networks and more towards personal projects, both in and out of the field. The truth is that being on paranormal shows isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and not as lucrative as you may believe.
The paychecks that many researchers on paranormal shows receive are not enormous, at least not what you’d expect for being on a major network. Most shows pay stars a salary by episode or a yearly, so all the work behind the camera is unpaid most of the time. Any additional time spent traveling to and from filming locations, events for publicity, network meetings, or any other show related appearances is uncompensated, The producers may pick up the expenses, but not pay additional income. My time not being compensated was the primary reason why I had second thoughts about wanting to be on a show. The other compelling reason was for my privacy, and control of my reputation.
When on a show, you allow the public to zoom in on you. The more your name is recognized, your social media accounts are walls that turn into windows, and your privacy slowly disappears. Yes, you can have private accounts with close friends and family, but fans will still try to find a back door. The profiles that are public can be a way of putting targets on your back if the wrong thing is said. Jokes may read out of context, and one status update can become a PR nightmare. Sometimes, when it comes to social media, minimal is best when dealing with public affairs. While you can personally control what you post, you lose control over what the network editors present to viewers on the screen.
The problem that can arise with reality shows is that editors need to take hours of video, sometimes over a hundred from multiple cameras, and shrink that down to the final twenty to forty-five minute cut depending on the show time slot. Hopefully, throughout the editing process, the footage that makes the final cut casts you, your team, and the investigation in a good light, but it may not always. If something is out of context, the audience will rarely know what happened behind the cameras, or what was going on beyond the scope of the final cut. The network mainly puts ratings first, and what you may feel is essential for the audience to see, may not be crucial enough for the final edit. Giving up the ability to control how you may be perceived can be a significant risk.
Now, there are exceptions to the points I mentioned above. It’s rare, but some networks put greed aside and do work with cast members. While I don’t usually recommend it, if you are you looking to be on a show, make sure you have a lawyer go over the contract thoroughly, and spend time discussing it. Take it home, and spend a few days looking it over. Talk about what you do and do not want, and make sure any necessary revisions are made to protect yourself. As far as privacy, contracts may cover some aspects, but the public and social media are beasts that change every day. Those beasts, along with the network can significantly impact your reputation. While I understand the appeal of being on a show, seriously take time to weigh out the pros and cons, and decide if the risks are worth it for you.