As a producer, you share a special professional connection with your celebrity subjects. They invite you into their homes to tape their most private moments and they trust you to put the cameras in the right place to capture their emotion and edit the material fairly. Sometimes that responsibility can get awkward, when things aren’t going as the subjects have planned. In the case of this episode, we were busy shooting an episode about Joan and Melissa throwing a bar-mitzvah for Melissa’s longtime pal Conrad. Most of the subject matter was heartwarming and lightly comic. Conrad only recently learned he was Jewish, and the idea of a thirty two year old man being bar mitzvahed is comically unconventional. Suddenly, in the middle of shooting, Melissa’s world was rocked by a call from Perez Hilton of all people. Only in a celebrity’s life does America’s biggest bad boy blogger give you a call with bad personal news. Such is life in the Rivers world.
With news of Melissa’s boyfriend Jason’s activities online, all bets were off. As it turned out, the relationship dissolved very quickly. In fact, we did not shoot the day after Melissa got the call from Perez, but as a reality producer, you have to follow whatever story erupts. So, the big question for me was how comfortable Melissa would be with a camera on her at such an emotional time. I knew that Melissa had been okay with us shooting her blow-ups with her mom – but this felt different somehow. The subject matter was intensely personal and also involved Cooper. And Melissa is very protective of Cooper when it comes to our show. She does not want his world disrupted or exploited in any way for the sake of the show. As a parent, I completely agree with her. I called over to the house the morning after the Perez call. Melissa was too upset to take the phone, but Sabrina let me know that she was okay to have me and a single camera crew come to the house to tape events as they happened. It was a brave decision on her part, and lucky for us that she was willing.
We walked into a house that was unrecognizable. Jason’s things were being boxed up, clothes were laid out on the floor. But the biggest difference was that the usual happy spirit was gone. Usually, you never entered Melissa’s house without a friendly hello and hearing laughter coming from somewhere. We stayed very quiet all day, shooting events from as far as we could – using our lenses to get the close-ups rather than enter rooms all “paparazzi-style”. We just didn’t want to be under foot in the midst of her real drama. Luckily though, we were there when she called Jason to ask him about what she was finding. And we were shocked when Melissa tossed the computer off the terrace in frustration. We all felt for her that day. It was tough to watch. But I was really glad that our crew and I had developed such a close trust that she was willing to let us film it all as it went down.