In her job as showrunner of The Bachelor Canada, Keely Booth is all about making the sure that the drama doesn’t overshadow the ultimate quest for love, while also overseeing casting, editing and putting out the occasional mid-date electrical fire. Here, the Alberta-born writer and producer (and unabashed reality TV fan) talks to FLARE about what she looks for in a prospective suitor/ette, her favourite season of the American Bachelor franchise and why she’s in her job for all the right reasons.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of a reality TV show runner.
There isn’t a typical day really. We start we pre-production, so we do our casting tour and we do location scouting. At that point we’re making decisions that will impact production when we’re in the field and when we’re in the field, every day is different. We travel with our cast everywhere—on the dates, in the mansion. And then in post production you get to experience the wonderful surprises of what you managed to get in the can.
One thing that I really figured out last season was how important the lead is. In Jasmine we found a kind of all-rounder, an exceptional human being, someone who was able to express her emotions and give freely and someone who took the process seriously. She was really there—ha!—for the right reasons.
As we say in Bachelor Land…
Right. That’s why the casting process is so vitally important to the success of the show. And then the other thing is how important it is to remember what the show is about at its core which is people finding true love. That can get lost sometimes in the dramatic antics, but for us it was really important to keep that part front and centre.
Wow. You sound like a real believer.
I am a believer. I’ve seen it happen. I wouldn’t still be doing this if I didn’t believe in it.
I love The Bachelor with every fibre of my being, but I am there for the drama.
Are you? So when you look at Chad Johnson [from JoJo Fletcher’s season] or Corinne Olympios [from Nick Viall’s season]. It doesn’t bother you that those story lines sort of overshadowed everything else?
I don’t think so.
I guess we’re a little bit old school. I found Corrine to be a very interesting character. If I’d had her on my cast, you would have seen a lot of it. But I would have wanted to bring it back to the love. I think taking the drama and making it your lead story for five episodes is breaking the rules. It’s okay to break some rules, but in this case I don’t think it’s a good idea.
So in your version of The Bachelor, no matter how drunk a contestant gets or even if she goes to the washroom in public—that’s not going to be the lead story?
Probably not. The criteria that I use to measure those sorts of things is does this have anything to do with the lead, does it have anything to do with the Bachelor or Bachelorette’s search to find love. If not, it’s just a shiny thing and you use those sparingly.
To what extent is your job as a showrunner about putting out fires?
We put out A LOT of fires. In Jasmine’s season we had to put out an actual fire when we travelled to Marrakesh—an electrical fire broke out in the middle of a date.
What qualities must a good showrunner have?
Patience and perseverance.
What’s the worst part of your job?
When you get a really bad cut. By the time you are in post-production, all of the fruits of your labour are in front of you and you have a team that starts working to put together a show. If you don’t have great material it can be frustrating because in this show in particular, once we’re done filming, we’re done filming.
And THE BEST?
I love watching people watch the show. By the time it airs, I’ve seen it so many times, so I’m not watching the show, I’m watching people tweeting and getting excited and getting emotionally involved
You have been on a couple of casting tours. How do potential contestants differ from one part of the country to the next?
It’s not that they’re different from one region to the other. Maybe you come to expect certain things in certain areas, but inevitably the women surprise me.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be on the show?
I think a lot of people come in to audition thinking they know what we’re looking for, so they hide their own light. What we want more than anything else is authenticity. And we can see an act from a mile away.
You must look for at least a few dramatic diva types.
For sure, but that’s authentic too. The people who are the most loved by audiences are the people who are themselves whether that’s a dramatic, over-the-top diva or the girl next door. Chad Johnson is that guy.
Are you a fan of the American version of The Bachelor?
Yes. I love all reality TV. It’s all I’ve ever done.
Do you have a favourite season?
I really enjoyed Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season because I enjoy Kaitlyn as a character. She was someone you could really get behind. I also found the buzz around that season to be really interesting. A lot of issues around slut shaming and seeing how people reacted was a real temperature check to where the world was at.
Presumably you have watched the scripted drama Unreal, about what “really” goes on behind the scenes of these quest-for-love reality shows. Did you enjoy it and did it ring true?
I love the show. It’s great. There are moments that felt relatable to what we do. Like when the camera would pull back and you would see the all of the crew and everything it takes to make the show work. Is it as insanely manipulative as they show? I can’t speak for the U.S. version, but not on our show.
So you’ve never swapped out a contestant’s medication for sugar pills?
No. I think what we do is hold up a mirror and maybe it’s an exaggerated version but we never make anyone into someone they’re not. That said, sometimes the truth hurts.
Watch The Bachelor Canada Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. EST on W Network. Then, head on over to FLARE.com/themorningafter for Sharleen Joynt’s always on-point recaps.