Winter 2010: Features

TV cameraman recording construction work on porch

The Leinfellners’ Atlanta home gets a makeover.

Photo courtesy Ruth Leinfellner

Upping their ‘Curb Appeal’

Emory staff member has her own brush with reality TV

By Paige P. Parvin 96G

Good fences may make good neighbors, but a remodeled front porch, a fresh coat of paint, some well-placed flowers, and a pretty path to the front door make even better ones.

Ruth Leinfellner, senior planning associate for Emory’s Office of Strategic Planning, and her husband, Fran Coleman, had just renovated the interior of their cozy East Atlanta home when they realized their budget wouldn’t stretch to cover the other projects on their list. So they applied to Home and Garden Television (HGTV)’s popular show Curb Appeal: The Block for an exterior makeover. Last summer, camera and construction crews took their quiet street by storm, transforming the front of their house and yard and sprucing up their neighbors’ yards in the bargain. Three weeks and more than $20,000 later, they were thrilled with the result—revealed to them in the show’s dramatic conclusion.

Shortly before the episode aired, Leinfellner talked with Emory Magazine about the experience of being on reality TV.

What made you apply to be on Curb Appeal?

I decided to answer an open casting call as it had mentioned that the network was paying for the Curb Appeal: The Block makeovers. The free home makeover was our primary motivation to do the show, as we had just finished an addition to our house and had run out of energy and money to deal with the front yard. I thought it would be really fun because if you were accepted, they would also pay for mini-makeovers for two neighbors. After two telephone interviews and a video interview, we were accepted for the show.

How would you describe the experience?

We treated the experience like a very high-paying job. The cast and crew were considerate and fabulous to work with, and John Gidding, the show’s host, also helped put us completely at ease. The producers encouraged us to be as natural as possible. We had two full-day shoots and several one- to two-hour shoots during the three-week filming process. We felt like rock stars, especially when cars would drive by and slow down. We had to learn to speak in complete sentences, to not wear stripes with plaids, to go to the bathroom while miked up (and not have the sound person hear), and to ignore the multiple cameras filming you from all angles.

Did you feel self-conscious or concerned about your privacy? Did you enjoy the notoriety of being on TV?

The designers and crew were very mindful of our privacy and wanted us to act as natural as possible on the show so we felt completely comfortable being ourselves. I didn’t think about the notoriety of being on national television until I was on a plane and saw reruns of the original Curb Appeal show and realized that it wasn’t just one show we would be on, but there would most likely be reruns ad nauseum for eternity. That’s when I got nervous. I also didn’t realize how much of a stir it would cause being on a national show and that we would be also on the local TV news, as well as in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Why do you think reality TV is so popular?

I think there are two reasons. One is that everybody wants to be on TV. People love seeing other people just like them on television because they can empathize with them. I also think that some shows are really popular (for example, the Real Housewives shows) because people love watching horrific examples of human beings and saying, “Oh geez, I’m glad I’m not like that.”

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