How can I get my own ghost hunting TV show?

Many people ask me about how to land their own ghost hunting TV show. The reality is: it’s not impossible, but be sure you really want to invest your time, energy, and enthusiasm in it.

Ratings for many ghost hunting shows have declined over the past decade.  As of late 2016, even “Ghost Hunters” has ended its long tenure on SyFy.

So, I can’t pretend that ghost hunting TV shows are great opportunities, even when they’re offered.

Today, few networks or production companies will sign anyone new to star in a ghost hunting TV show. (You may have better luck if your ghost hunting videos have been successful on YouTube.)

First, decide why you want to have your own ghost hunting TV series.

The Paycheck

If you think stars of ghost-related TV shows are well paid, think again.

Many of them probably earned less per hour than they would working at a fast food restaurant.

Most of my friends who star on paranormal TV shows… they never quit their day jobs.

When they’re not filming, they work at normal jobs, just to pay the bills.

A one-hour TV show can involve up to two travel days, then jet lag when you reach the site, followed by two or three days of filming.

After that, you’ll analyze the evidence, and film the reveal. That will require additional days. With all of that completed, add another day or two to return home.

In other words, while it might sound great to be paid $500 for a one-hour TV episode, you might need a week or 10 days to complete just one episode.

You’ll often film shows back-to-back. No days off.

  • Expect to work seven days a week, including weekends and holidays. That may include Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc.
  • You won’t get time off for your mom’s birthday or your child’s school graduation.
  • Even if you’re miserable with a stomach bug, you’re still expected to show up on the set and act as if everything’s fine. As they say, “the show must go on!”

Fame

Is fame that important to you? If so, here are my suggestions:

Look for casting calls for existing ghost hunting TV series. (HARO can help.) See if you can get on just one show, even for 5 minutes.

stage lightsUse that 5 minutes to your advantage. Treat it like an audition. You should seem so interesting, producers will want to include you in future shows.

When your particular episode is about to air, make sure people know that you are on it. (Check your contract to be sure you can talk about the show.)

Also, you should have your own website, and it should look terrific.

Have you been on two or three ghost hunting shows? If they haven’t called you back, get additional exposure on non-paranormal TV shows. Look online for casting calls. Anything on camera is good. Get work as an extra if you must.

Plan your networking carefully. Earn the respect and interest of both the cast and the production company. However, the cast rarely have much input into the show. Impress the filming crew and any producers on the set. They might be involved in scouting and hiring.

After you’ve been on three to five TV shows, start looking for a theatrical agent. You’ll have enough experience for an agent to promote you as a future star.

This can take months or longer. Attend ghost-related conferences with presentations by casting agents and producers. You’ll learn more about breaking into TV. You may also make a connection that leads to work.

Never forget that this field is full of overeager ghost enthusiasts who’d do almost anything to be on TV. Many of them are pushy and obnoxious. Most seem almost oblivious to the realities of working on TV… until they’re actually on a TV show, that is.

Then, they can’t voice their disillusionment because they signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Distance yourself from starry-eyed and self-aggrandizing aspiring stars.

Stand out as a confident professional. That’s the best way to hear from more producers than you’d ever want to talk to. Really.

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How can I pitch a location to ghost hunting TV shows?

Would you like to scout haunted locations for ghost hunting TV shows and movies? Do you know some great haunted places that should be on TV?

dracula's home - a great locationIt’s best to wait until ghost hunting TV shows request locations and story suggestions.

You’ll find those requests online.

Look for specific paranormal TV shows and the production companies that cast and film them.

Also check casting calls listed at websites like http://www.realitywanted.com/ and http://www.must-see-tv.com/forum/reality-tv-show-apply-here/

You may also find opportunities on the HARO lists. http://www.helpareporter.com/

Be prepared

For the best success, you should:
– Know the history of the location.
– Know if it’s ever been featured on a TV show (of any kind) in the past.
– Know who owns the site, and exactly how to contact them.
– Take lots of photographs at the location in daylight and during the hours the show would probably be filming.
– Have a list of witnesses to the ghostly phenomena. They must be willing to talk to TV producers about their experiences, even if they’re not paid for their time.

Many production companies like to film several shows in the same vicinity. For best success, be ready to present three or four other haunted locations in the same town or nearby.

If you’re just scouting locations, the producers might not involve you in the filming. This means no screen credit, unless you negotiate for that.

My advice: Present the one story that most interests you. Then, mention that you have several other nearby locations equally suited to the TV show.

Take precautions

Before you reveal those other locations:
– Get a written agreement that’s signed by someone authorized by the production company. (Email and phone agreements do not count.)  This is especially true if you’re dealing with Gurney Productions.
– Hire an entertainment lawyer to review the contract.
– Be sure you’re allowed to use your professional work as a credential on your CV or resume.
– Be very clear about your continued obligations to the show or producers. For example, they may expect you to appear at events. Know how much time they expect, and who will pay for your expenses.
– Make sure you’ll receive full benefit of — and credit for — all of your work and creativity.
– Understand what you can (and can’t) say during and after the show airs. Know how long your non-disclosure terms extend, after the final episode.

Some liabilities of ghost hunting TV shows

Fiona's adviceNever expect TV producers or production companies to be honest or even logical. Get everything in writing… printed and signed, not just email.

Know exactly what’s expected of you, and what you’ll get in return.

I was on one TV series for a major cable network that focuses on history. (Ahem.) But, even to promote the show, my contract prohibited me from saying I’d actually appeared on it.

Yes, that seems very weird. The producers seemed to think it was a normal requirement.

Then there’s the time that, with a verbal agreement and lots of phone calls and emails confirming it, I spent three weeks scouting locations for a TV series.

That involved lots of driving. Hours in dusty libraries, creepy locations, and conversations with a few truly strange people who wanted to tell me their ghost stories.

Was it fun…? Yes, most of the time. Would I do it again…? No. Not working 12+ hours a day, seven days a week, under a lot of pressure from the producer.

Then I delivered the information the producer needed, with photos, ghost stories, verified site contacts, and witnesses.

The production company said that their producer “hadn’t been authorized” to hire me.

Even with the star of the show and my manager working on this, I was never paid a cent.

Sadly, my story is far from unique. It’s just so embarrassing, others in the field won’t talk about their similar experiences.

Remember: Some people are eager to be involved in a TV show. They can be so excited by what sounds like a great opportunity, they’ll assume things they shouldn’t. Production companies will take advantage of that, if they can.

Is this just for fun?

Are you happy to work for nothing, just to know you were part of a TV show? If so, go for it.

However, no matter what is implied, make sure you have it in writing, on real paper (not a printout). Be sure it’s signed by someone with the authority to make that agreement.

Even well-known TV stars have put together great show ideas. They’ve lined up everything necessary for a successful TV series.

Then the show was given to someone else.  I can think of two instances of that. There are probably many others that I never heard about.

TV work is like a lottery.  You have a slim chance of winning, but – if you did – it could be great. If that’s not good enough for you, make sure everything you expect is guaranteed, in writing, in an iron-clad contract.

Most of my friends who work as production consultants also ask for at least half of their fees, up front.  Their out-of-pocket expenses are extra, and covered as they go.

They receive the other half of their fees when they complete the job.

And, one friend insists on payment in full before she does anything at all.

(She’s hired regularly, anyway.  So, don’t think you’re being “too difficult.”  If your information is unique and valuable, remember that you’re the one calling the shots.)

If you want to work with a TV show for fun, that’s one thing. If it stops being fun, or you expect anything in return, get it in writing.

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What famous locations have been used for ghost hunting TV shows?

Around Halloween, many TV shows feature haunted locations. As they say, “‘Tis the season!”

eastern state penitentiaryUsually, TV producers choose those sites because they look creepy.

Those places are well-known haunts. Something dramatic (and perhaps scary) is likely to happen at least once during the show.

Those same haunted locations can be great if you’re looking for nerves-of-steel investigation sites, too.

Or, they can be too extreme.

Some haunted locations featured on TV

Here are some of them:
Buffalo Central Terminal, Buffalo, NY
Campbell House, Eugene, OR
Essex County Sanitarium, Cedar Grove, NJ
Fort Delaware, Delaware City, DE
Hill View Manor, New Castle, PA
Letchworth Village, Haverstraw, NY
Moon River Brewery, Savannah, GA
New Mexico State Penitentiary, Santa Fe, NM
Pennhurst State Hospital (originally named the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic), Spring City, PA
Queen Mary (luxury liner), Long Beach, CA
Sorrel Weed House, Savannah, GA
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (later called the Armand Auclerc Weston State Hospital), Weston, WV
Waverly Hills Sanitorium, near Louisville, KY
West Virginia State Penitentiary, Moundsville, WV

On the other hand, if you’re looking for haunted locations near you, visit the nearest public library or large newspaper office. Look through back issues of local newspapers and magazines, from around Halloween. Every year, most periodicals feature local, haunted locations, including some  you can investigate or tour.

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