By Eugene Kim, Contributor
Hollywood reality television producer Mark Allen kicked off the first of two free introductory work-shops on March 10 at Howlin’ Hounds Coffee on 16th and Leavenworth streets to an attendance of nearly two dozen participants.
The workshop covered topics including the do’s and don’ts of auditioning and how to create a successful audition tape.
“I love to show students what’s possible,” remarked Allen during the workshop. “It’s the class you don’t want your producer to know that you’ve taken.”
Allen has produced a number of reality shows such as “Supernanny,” “Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition,” “The Bachelor,” and “The Bachelorette,” experiences about which he shared openly.
“I’ve taken beer bottles to the head,” said Allen. “I’ve had doors slammed in my face, I’ve had a limo driver calling me a [expletive] queer while shooting a show, during the last ceremony of the season, because he thought I was being Mean. Can you imagine?”
According to Allen, the idea for the workshops arose organically from the sheer volume of people requesting guidance and advice with audition tapes, and Omaha was the logical place to begin.
“I’ve been talking to the students at UNO all these years,” Allen said. “I feel like it’s an easy place to start it. I’m connected here, and the interns have been great about making me keep it in check, like, ‘You don’t have to be on the Today Show tomorrow.’ Start it here, get Omaha going, and then move on.”
Among his interns is Mary O’Brien, a UNO junior, who was accepted as Allen’s PR intern after hearing about the opportunity from a fellow student in class. “It’s involved a lot of detail-oriented work,” said O’Brien. “I’ve been handling all the social media PR.”
Allen, who is himself a University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communications graduate and recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award, reflected on how UNO affected him and expressed the differentiation between his workshops and what UNO prepares students for.
“Yeah, I barely graduated college. I’m a much better alumnus than I was a student,” joked Allen. “I just didn’t feel like this really matched for the university. I was preparing these people for some job on the coast that they could I just feel like that doesn’t really match the UNO philosophy of what they want to prepare students for. UNO is very local and regional, and that’s fine.”
Among the attendees were a handful of UNO students, including seniors Rachael Nickel and Tran Mathiesen, both of whom are returning for this week’s workshop.
“It was highly entertaining and informative,” said Nickel. “I had no idea how much work you have to put in.”
“I don’t usually watch reality TV,”said Mathiesen. “It’s very different from my world; I’m a total introvert.”
Mathiesen and Mark Allen are in the same boat.
“I don’t watch that much reality TV to be honest,” admitted Allen. “I think a lot of it is crap. It’s not for everyone to do. But I also think that if people knew what they were getting into more, they’d have a better experience. It can be a life-changing experience if you throw yourself into it.”
“Being yourself” seemed to be the dominant idea of the inaugural workshop, with Allen highlighting the point consistently. “Just being yourself is the number one thing Putting yourself out there in situations that you might not normally do,” expressed Allen.
Following the introductory session, the two-week workshop sessions will continue at a $45 fee, with future workshops evolving from the casting topics to encompass the production aspect of reality television.
While Allen was open about his experiences and history, he was reserved about plans for the future, willing only to state on the record,“I have big plans for something based out of here.”
Allen believes strongly that these workshops can give students the best opportunity for success in reality TV.
“I think students, no matter where they are, deserve to learn from someone who’s actually done the job. And that’s what I bring, real world experience.”