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That's why I love you keeping me UTD! Just needed it's own thread...this is big news. :thankyou:

'Amazing Race' Producers Leave a Lot Up to Fate'
June 18, 2014 | 06:00AM PT 

Andrew Bloomenthal
In 2001, Bertram van Munster stood at a crossroads. His syndicated nature show “Wild Things” had come to an end, and the Dutch-born filmmaker and television producer was on the lookout for a new project to sink his teeth into. His partner Elise Doganieri — then an advertising executive with Ogilvy & Mather — proposed an idea for an unscripted show.

“You get eliminated if you come in last — not because someone does something against you,” explains van Munster, a concept that bucked the trend of hit shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor,” in which plotting to eliminate fellow contestants was the point. Van Munster and Doganieri joined forces with film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose first venture into TV was CBS hit “CSI,” and “CSI” producer Jonathan Littman. Together, the foursome hammered out the finer points of the “The Amazing Race,” which van Munster successfully pitched to CBS president Leslie Moonves soon after.

CBS last month kicked off the show’s 25th season with a sneak peek of the cast. “Race” boasts an average 10 million viewers.

“We hoped ‘The Amazing Race’ would be something exciting and stimulating to make, but we were really going off into the unknown,” says show host Phil Keoghan.
 B.J. Averell, who won Season 9 with teammate Tyler MacNiven, explains: “You’re part of this grand production, kind of like ‘The Truman Show,’ that you don’t know the extent of … and Bertram van Munster is like the Christof (the Ed Harris character), pulling the strings of each day.”
Littman is a firm believer of dispensing information on a need-to-know basis only.

“It is a very slippery slope, once you start telling teams what to do,” he says. “We tell them the rules and ways to conduct themselves to get around the world, so they don’t end up in jail, and we have to remind them: ‘You’re bound by the laws of the countries you’re in, and you are not immune just because you’re on a TV show.’ But outside of that, we try not to interfere, because that’s when you get the best material. They’re wild cards.”

And if this means racers sustain vehicle breakdowns, navigationally challenged cab drivers and canceled flights, such real-life pitfalls are just part of the game — something Season 21 racers Mark “Abba” Abbattista and James LoMenzo know all too well.

The entertainment lawyer/heavy-metal rocker duo were enjoying first place standing when things suddenly went awry for them in Moscow.

After taking a taxi cab to a challenge on the Luzhkov Bridge, the cab driver ignored instructions to wait by the banks of the Moscow River, and drove off with their backpacks — passports and all, ultimately costing them the race.

“We hadn’t paid him yet, and I guess he made a decision that whatever was in those backpacks was more valuable than the money we owed,” Abbattista says. “In reality, he didn’t get anything except laundry.”

“This is where the real world will come and bite you in the ass,” Keoghan says. “Your passport shouldn’t be in a bag. It’s the one thing you need to strap to your body, under your clothes, and it should never leave your side, no matter what. It’s your ticket around the world and it’s your ticket to a million dollars, and it’s essential to finishing ‘The Amazing Race.’”

The producers is constantly implementing changes to keep the production fresh.

For one thing, teams are now kept apart during the mandatory 12-hour rest periods between legs. Not only does this keep players in the dark as to the finishing order of the other teams in the previous leg, but it prevents them from bonding, thereby ensuring they remain cutthroat and competitive.

In a similar vein, sound and cameramen are all routinely rotated to different teams in order to eliminate the appearance of collusion.

“We’re always asking what we could do to shake things up, because our contestants watch the show, and we’ve been on for a very long time,” Littman says. “A lot of them come on thinking they know how it’s going to play, and whenever you throw a wrench into that, it completely throws them off.”

But not all modifications pan out. Season 8, “The Amazing Race: Family Edition,” with 10 families of four competing, fell flat as critics felt that the challenges seemed watered down, and that setting the majority of legs within the continental United States robbed the show of its exotic intrigue.

“We were not greatly enthused about ‘Family Edition,’ ” concedes van Munster, who explains that the larger number of racers competing made it difficult to properly tell each of their stories. “It didn’t quite feel right,” he adds.

The “Family Edition” was widely embraced overseas, he adds. “People outside of America responded to it, because America is a beautiful country. But we won’t do it again.”

So how long can the “Race” go on? According to Chris Castallo, executive VP of alternative programming at CBS Entertainment: indefinitely. “It’s hard to imagine a world without ‘The Amazing Race,’ ” says Castallo. “We have parents who grew up on the show now watching with their kids.”

As the casting director of “The Amazing Race” since its inception, Lynne Spillman has a unique perspective on what it takes to make a great contestant.

 There is no formula for casting, she says, “just the best teams and diverse relationships. Meaning, not all married couples or brothers, etc. We try to find something for everyone (in the audience).”

Spillman says they also look for great talkers as well as people who will make great racers, and rise to the challenges. She notes that Season 24’s winners Dave and Connor O’Leary, a father-son team that came back for the all-star edition, exceeded her expectations. “After the way they went out the first time, I didn’t think they would last very long. To go on to win was unbelievable.”

She’s come across partners who met in line at an open casting call and others who came with folks who were married but not to each other.
 And unlike other reality shows, looks aren’t a part of the process. “Humor and knowledge of the show, in other words, being a fan, outweigh beauty by far,” she says.

Interview with Phil at the CBS Press Tour Red Carpet on July 18:
‘Amazing Race’ Season 25 Spoilers: Phil Keoghan Reveals The ‘Secret Ingredient’ Teams Need To Win $1 Million Prize? [VIDEO]
 By Lauren DuBois, EnStars
on Jul 24, 2014 04:43 PM EDT

The Amazing Race won't begin airing it's new season for nearly two months yet, and even though he knows which team will walk away with the title of season 25 champions, even he can't explain what makes certain teams win over others.
At the CBS Press Tour Red Carpet on July 18, he revealed that if there's a secret ingredient to success on the show, he doesn't know it.

"I don't know if anybody really knows what the secret ingredient is," he said. " I think part of the success of The Amazing Race is that it's unpredictable."

Bethany Hamilton & Adam Dirks Make Final Three?

He even revealed that he and the producers of the show all bet every season on who they think will win the whole thing-but so far, no one has ever gotten it right.

"Here's the thing, the show's been on 25 seasons...we all take a little wager at the beginning 0of every season, I'll be totally honest with you, and we've been doing it for more than a decade," he said. "None of us have ever gotten it right, Not once. So that shows you how unpredictable the show is...Nobody ever wins the money. We all just end up throwing it all in and having a beer at the end of the race."

And while he couldn't give away too much information about season 25 specifically, he did reveal that there's so much left for them to see and do before the shoe ever comes to an end.

"There's so many places to go. You know by the time we get around the whole world, we'll be ready for space exploration. We will travel to other planets and beyond," he said. "...There's still a lot to see. We have not been to Nepal, we haven't been to Antarctica. There's so many places we haven't gone."

He also expressed how excited he was that they did things a little differently this time around, opening up the starting line to fans for the first time, and officially revealing the cast months ahead of the premiere.

The cast racing for $1 million in season 25 is:

1. Bethany Hamilton and Adam Dirks: married surfers from Princeville, Hawaii

2. Kym Perfetto and Alli Forsythe: urban bike racers from Brooklyn, N.Y.

3. Amy Dejong and Maya Warren: food scientists from Madison, Wisc.

4. Lisa and Michelle Thomson: Realtor sisters from Miami, Fla.

5. Michael Ward and Scott Strazzullo: firefighters from Boston, Mass.

6. Brooke Adams and Robbie E. Strauss: dating pro wrestlers from Houston, Texas , and Woodbridge, N.J.

7. Tim Tsao and Te Jay McGrath: College sweethearts from Pasadena, Calif.

8. Isabelle Du and Dennis Hour: model and accountant from Tustin, Calif.

9. Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan: engaged couple from Nashville, Tenn.

10. Misti and Jim Raman: married dentists from Columbia, S.C.

11. Shelley and Nici Porter: mother/daughter from Detroit, Mich.

Season 25 premieres on a new night, Friday, September 26, at 8 p.m. on CBS

video interview:

Hollywood studios are urged to take extra precautions filming abroad amid rising global security issues

By  Hollie McKay
·Published September 18, 2014·

Growing hostilities and security problems abroad have prompted industry and intelligence experts to caution Hollywood studios and filmmakers to take extra security initiatives when filming in remote or hostile regions.

The Producers Guild of America issued a warning with guidelines in "Staying Safe When Shooting Abroad" on its website. Director of Communications Chris Green said the Guild was disturbed to learn of a recent violent attack on its members filming overseas. He said foreign budget incentives have made international productions attractive, but they have also paved the way for more serious risks.

“Producing can be a dangerous business, particularly on less friendly turf. We felt it was important to get this information out,” Green told FOX411, adding that there are numerous factors producers must consider in today’s global production industry.

“Be sure to check State Department alerts, research local customs and cultural expectations, hire a reputable company to provide security and, once on location, register with the U.S. embassy.”

Tony Schiena, CEO at MOSAIC – Multi Operational Security Agency Intelligence Company – agreed that security measures are too often a second thought for Hollywood honchos. He said a major studio recently called him at the 11th hour after hearing warnings directed at talent starring in a film they were preparing to shoot abroad. Just this week, he said he had to advise a studio executive shooting a big-budget movie in an extremely anti-American environment not to jump between regional borders without operational security steps in place.

“Are Hollywood stars a threat? Absolutely,” Schiena said. “They represent everything many fundamentalists or Sharia law are opposed to.”

The State Department remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas; earlier this year it issued a "Worldwide Travel Alert" for Americans doing business abroad.

Immediately after 9/11, the FBI issued warnings to Hollywood studios that they could be targeted, but industry and intelligence experts say the reins have been relaxed.

"More so than ever, celebrities or other high-profile public figures are an attractive target to extremists and terrorists," said Del Wilber, a former government intelligence and counterterrorism operative. "They will generate a large amount of news media attention and publicity if they are attacked or taken hostage, which is one of the things terrorists covet."

Last year, director Michael Bay suffered minor injuries in one of two extortion attempts on the set of "Transformers 4" in Hong Kong. Filming was interrupted when two men demanded $12,900 from the filmmakers and one of the men attacked Bay after police arrived to control the situation. A second incident occurred when four men approached a female crew member and demanded money.

But a greater concern is that prominent individuals are attractive targets for abduction and attack, experts say.

"Just imagine the media storm if a big star was kidnapped. If 19 Middle Easterners can come into our country and hijack our planes, they can easily take a famous person's car," said Tim Clemente, founder of the film consulting firm X-G Productions and a former terrorism/tactical operations special agent for the FBI.

Experts warn that it’s only a matter of time before something sinister happens to celebrities. Dom Raso, a former Navy SEAL and founder of the tactical training/defense firm Dynamis Alliance, said that when it comes to foreign on-location security, very few plans are put in place and production companies rely on local law enforcement to keep them informed.

“Hollywood takes the path of least resistance,” Raso said, adding that there have been recent concerns about foreign hotels being cased and information being obtained regarding high-value targets. “One of the biggest threats is technology – emails and geographic locations being traced.”

But Bertram van Munster, co-creator and executive producer of the globetrotting reality series “The Amazing Race," said the best security tactic Hollywood can take is to avoid a hot zone in the first place.

“There’s no reason to go to a war-torn zone while we are doing entertainment,” he said. “The world is still a very safe place to travel, contrary to what you might see on television. Of course there are certain hotspots you shouldn’t go to, places with war or certain diseases or what have you.”

But Wilber says studios are having problems determining which locations are “hot spots” these days.

“Unless filming at the South Pole, production companies must assume they are under threat wherever they film,” he said. “Even tourism travel by well-known, well-recognized celebrities is presenting serious concerns behind the scenes.”

Emmy winner honored: Michael Norton, a longtime producer for “The Amazing Race,” receives “I Love MB” award from mayor

Manhattan Beach’s Michael Norton took home nine Emmy Awards as a producer for ‘The Amazing Race.’ (photo by Jacquelyne May)

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 9:09 am |  Updated: 4:59 pm, Wed Oct 22, 2014.   

   Michael Hixon  |   

Michael Norton has nine Primetime Emmy Awards holding court on his mother’s old work table that she used when she was a book binder. The longtime Manhattan Beach resident took home the trophies for being one of the producers for the hit reality competition show, “The Amazing Race.”
Norton took home another honor this week when Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell presented him with the mayor’s “I Love MB” award at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Norton said he was thrilled by the recognition and Manhattan Beach has been “deeply embedded” in his heart since he moved to the city in February 1995.

“I have been to so many places during the past 20 years because of my jobs,” said Norton, a native of Switzerland. “The amazing thing is that every time I come back to Manhattan Beach, I would not want to be any place else in the world. It’s just such an incredible place to come back to between the ocean, the people and all the things that are nearby, the deserts and the mountains.”

Since 1997, Norton has traveled the world for producer Bertram van Munster, who hired him for the wildlife show “Wild Things” in 1997. Van Munster and his producing partner and wife Elise Doganieri came up with the concept of “The Amazing Race,” a show where teams of two people, related in various ways, compete against other teams in a global fight to the finish for a hefty prize. Norton was recruited to join “The Amazing Race” and began scouting locations in October 2000 for the show’s first season, which debuted on Sept. 5, 2001.

“The Amazing Race” is currently in its 25th season and Norton has already started scouting exotic locations for the show’s 26th season. Norton keeps his travels secret due to the nature of the show.

“For the audience and the contestants, you want to keep it a surprise where they are going,” Norton said. “For it to be a true challenge each time before they get the clue, they really don’t know what the next step is. Imagine yourself in that position, opening an envelope and it could tell you to go to the barber shop in the town that you’re in right now or it could tell you to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.”

As a supervising producer on the show, another part of his job is to make sure each planned competition is actually doable.

“Once Phil (Keoghan, the host) has said ‘go’ and the contestants are running, it’s on and it’s live,” Norton said. “What you see on the screen is what happened. So we have to make sure on our side that everything holds together and that everything can be played out truly and the contestants have the ability to run the course freely. We want to make sure that happens and it’s a great challenge ... every country, every mode of transportation, has its own gremlins and you have to make sure you ferret them out and deal with them.”

Norton travels about eight months a year, but during past hiatuses he has been able to work on shows like National Geographic’s “21st Century Warship” and the first season of “Ax Men” on the History Channel.

“It’s not easy living, logging is hard work and it’s dangerous,” said Norton of “Ax Men.” “But to see what these people do first-hand and how it affects their families and how they pull together, is unbelievable.”

“The Amazing Race” has won 13 Primetime Emmy Awards during its 13 years on the air. It has taken home the “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” almost every year from 2003 to 2014, but lost out one year to “Top Chef” and “The Voice.”

“We want to win and we’re proud to be part of that competition,” Norton said. “It’s not something we take for granted and every time it did happen we were over the moon.”


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