Afterlife Explored in I Survived ... Beyond and Back
- Friday, October 21, 2011
How do you go about finding the people you interview for the show?
Luckily when you have a show that’s been on the air first as far as the six episodes, there’s a lot of viewer outreach that came through the BIO Web site, so quite a bit came through that and it’s sort of the same answer to any show with a lot of viewers on TV. You hire associate producers and researchers, and their job is to get the word out and let people know what we’re doing and get them to share their stories with us.
Is there a lot of background investigation work involved in talking with emergency personnel workers or doctors or family members in order to validate an interviewee’s death experience?
I mean I think there’s a bit of kind of verifiability that comes with just the fact that we really seek out to get multiple witnesses. And at some point we’re, I hate to say that we’re taking people at their word, but I think there’s sort of an “it happened.” One of the things that’s different from how we’re treating the subject and how you might see it on Science Channel or Discovery Channel is that we’re not myth-busting. And I think you saw that in the episode you watched. There’s no expert that comes in and tells you what the world of science thinks of this. I think we’ve tried to strike a balance. Admittedly, like any kind of process like this, you’re going to get people that might have a story that feels a little thin. I think of some of the stories that have been tougher are when we only have the survivor themselves telling us. We do do as much due diligence to chase down hospital records and accounts for people that may not end up in the show.
This isn’t the kind of show that seeks out to prove that this is how your brain works. I think that’s one of the things that’s great about it. We’re sort of embracing that here’s totally ordinary people, and I think we go out of our way to set them up at the beginning of each story that here’s relatable individuals who suffered something extraordinary. And the context of the accident sometimes is as simple as a car accident or a heart attack—like something that could happen to anybody. But we let them tell us what they experienced. In a couple of the stories, there’s that amazing interplay between what the emergency technicians and what their family members are going through as their loved ones are literally on the death bed. And then here’s the amazing recollections of the person who’s experiencing that. We definitely embrace that, and we sort of let the stories speak for themselves.
When doing the interviews, is there any coaxing that has to take place to help interviewees tell their stories?
I’m on the network side, so I’m the executive that sort of watches the cuts, so I’m not sitting next to anybody having an interview. I think if you watch a show like The Real Housewives you get a sense that the interviews are being coaxed. And I would let the network and the producers of those shows speak for their tactics, but I think for us we’re not dealing with people who have sought out to be on reality TV. We’re not dealing with people who this is their 15 minutes. I think these are people that feel like they want to share their story. And I think that’s something we really sort of celebrate in both these franchises and for me particularly with this show. These are ordinary people where literally the interviews kind of speak for themselves. I think as I even watch the cuts, there’s really very little of watching multiple takes of the same thing. They’re really very straight interviews.
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