The road to House Hunters International began a decade ago...hahaha!
Well not exactly, but I became a fan of the show about that long ago, and being married to a diplomat I knew one day I would move abroad. I told myself, "When that day comes, I will apply." So a decade and two kids later word came that our family was off to Mexico. Now for those of you who don't know, moving internationally is incredibly stressful and your plate is already full, so throw in filming a show and it is like...a lot. Plus the diplo-hubby was starting his new job at the new post, so it took some careful, gentle convincing that we could handle all this.
In February 2018, I sent an email to casting with our little story and some pictures letting them know we would be moving later in the year. Weeks and months went by and I didn't hear anything. Figured heaps of people apply to this show and it wasn't going to happen, but at least I had tried. Then on June 5th, in the middle of full court press on our move, I got an email. They wanted to know if we were still moving and still interested. Within two days I had a Skype call I think just to make sure I was real, could speak, and wasn't a psychopath. After the face to face call they sent me a questionnaire. NO JOKE the document was 5 pages full of questions...like 100 questions! They wanted basic information, details of our house hunt and who wanted what, budgets, neighborhoods, etc., etc. It took me 3 days to finish filling it out!
Two days later I had an email to set up a 45 minute Skype interview, with my husband this time, and the Casting Director. That went well and then came all the legal stuff. Location releases, image releases, legal documents, financial documents...O My! And we needed to create a casting video introducing our family, giving a house tour to see how we handled being in front of a camera, and doing an interview with the two of us about our history and our house hunt. Here are some clips from our videos...it is nothing fancy.
With some good old sticktoitiveness we made it through all these hoops. Our package and casting video was then presented to HGTV and we sat back crossing our fingers. Then...
Woohoo! Ready for filming. We got a some direction on what to wear on TV, no logos, no black or white, small patterns, or stripes. And no loud jewelry that would interfere with sound. Here are some pics of me testing outfits which I sent to friends and family for opinions. "Can I wear the hoops with the beads or is it too much?" "Are these earrings too big with this necklace?" You know how it is ladies...
They flew a director, a cameraman, and a sound engineer from the east coast and we used a realtor who lives here in Mexico. There was also a local fixer who was responsible for public filming permits, grabbing food and drinks, and making sure no one got towed.
There was no make up person, no hair person and plus they were all guys. I had read some blog posts from other people who had filmed HHI about directors wanting the contributors to show them different clothes, but my director was like "looks good." I promise you no one but me was concerned about how I looked. It was not their first priority. No one was going to tell me I needed to refresh my lipstick, my hair was sticking out, I needed to powder my nose, or my shirt had come untucked. So who knows what I will look like in the final edit.
I knew I liked the soundman right away when I asked him if my necklace was going to be a problem for the sound. I had read blog posts about sound engineers telling people to take off their jewelry, but I bought this colorful necklace in Oaxaca, Mexico, and I really wanted to wear it because it made my chambray shirt way more exciting. Like MacGyver he whipped out some clear Toupée tape and told me it wouldn't be a problem.
Below is a clip I filmed right before we met the crew and began tapping.
We began filming at a gorgeous castle right here in the middle of Mexico City called Chapultepec Castle. It was AWESOME having it to ourselves before the hoards of tourists came through the gates. We spend 5 days filming at 3 apartments as well as at parks, restaurants, and downtown at the Zocalo. Having a film crew follow you around a really crowded city was fun. People think you are famous and wonder what you are up to. It was really cool (for a few days).
5 days of filming for about 22 minutes! I have no idea what I look like, what I sound like, or if it will be edited to make one of us seem crazy. I got sick before filming and my voice was really hoarse (ate more cough drops in three days then in my previous 38 years.) We also have no idea what the realtor said about us on the side. With just one cameraman, we basically refilmed walking through the apartments multiple times at multiple angles saying the same things over and over. But the cameraman was super professional and efficient so the repetitiveness didn't drive us totally nuts. We tried to be as flexible and easygoing as possible because nothing happens on schedule or goes as planned.
Our director was very sweet and constantly complimented us saying "You guys are doing great." I am not really sure if it was true or just part of his job to keep spirits up during the long filming days. I suspect the latter. He asked us questions from behind the camera about our thoughts on the houses we saw, but he said he wasn't really into the fake made up drama and did not make us throw our spouse under the bus. Although we might have done that on our own! He did not make us sit in tubs, put on sombreros to show we were in Mexico, or really do anything we were not comfortable with. He said our story was interesting enough and he didn't feel the need to create some drama between us. I am so thankful we got a good director who didn't try to make us into people we weren't. Fingers crossed the editing people are just as great as the crew they sent us.
The filming experience was fun and I learned new and interesting things. During a break I overheard the cameraman say "Let's put a bra on the Diva!" What! I looked at him and started laughing. He explained it is like a filter for a certain light. I also became very familiar with the concept of room tone (basic room background noise) the sound man needs for editing. So we all had to stand perfectly still at each place we filmed for a minutes so they could record room tone. Who knew? You never think about all these things when you watch tv.
Trying to film and get clear uninterrupted sound in Mexico City is a task! Between airplanes, loud trucks, and construction the sound man was consistently stopping filming for some sound to die down, and then we had to start over and repeat ourselves. Had to stop a few times for this sound as well...a sound anyone who has spent time in Mexico City is familiar with. While filming our 1st apartment we heard this loud and clear making its way through the neighborhood. And we had to suspend all tapping.
Hahahahaha. This is so classic Mexico City that I tried to convince them to let the sound play for authenticity, but they rejected that idea.
Anyways...that was that. And now we wait. Lucky for us, while we were filming, the stipend they paid to contributors on House Hunters International increased. Our family was paid $2,000 for our time filming. They also paid for babysitters, and meals. So nice! All in all it was a fantastic once in a lifetime experience. It was also an affirmation of "Just Do It." Just give it a shot and try although it seems unlikely you will get it, you'll never know if you don't try. I sent and email one cold February day and here we are. It all culminates tonight when it airs. We are nervous but looking forward to watching. And we will be able to hold onto this little slice of a time in our life forever. Who knows? Maybe we will do it again for our next post! Hope you all enjoy it. Feel free to leave your comments on the episode below. Did you guess the house right?
In Love & Tacos
Rants of a Diplomat's Wife
Hola, I am an American married to a Mexican Diplomat. I am on my 3rd post as a trailing spouse. The first two posts I joined were in the US, and in July 2018 we moved to Mexico City. Maybe it was the fact that I was pumping out my diplo-babies, or maybe I didn't think anyone would be interested in diplomatic life at my US posts, but I didn't blog then. Now I am in Mexico, and perhaps you might find it interesting to know what life is like here. This is where I share my adventures and thoughts at my current post.