Mark Burnett


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Mark Burnett details his upbringing in England and his time in the British Army before discussing his move to Los Angeles, CA. He describes several of the jobs he held before venturing into television production and recounts his love of the outdoors and adventure sports -- passions that led to his involvement with the physically demanding Eco-Challenge race and its corresponding television show. Such experience proved invaluable for his next hit competition-based reality series -- and perhaps the show most closely identified with him -- Survivor.  Burnett goes on to discuss the production of Survivor, as well as that of several of his other successes, including The Apprentice and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? He also touches on a few of his more short-lived series, like The Contender  and The Restaurant, and comments on what the term "reality television" means to him. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview in two parts: on September 1, 2010 in Santa Monica, CA and on September 29, 2010 in Malibu, CA.

"If you're a person who needs to be sure and have 100% of things lined up logistically, financially, common sense-wise before you take a step, you will go nowhere. You have to jump in. You have to be about half sure, and believe that you'll figure out the other half on the way. Every TV production I've ever done, I haven't had enough money or enough time, so if I actually were a worry wart, I wouldn't have done any of them. I've made huge mistakes, and I'll tell my people who make mistakes, you know what? I'd rather you make mistakes than just be safe and do nothing."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
On the values of Survivor
On the popularity of Survivor: it's a morality play
Mark Burnett on the meaning of reality tv as a genre; "there are no rules"
Mark Burnett on owing his success to his amazing crews
On following your instincts
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences
On his time in the British Army
On moving to America and his first years in the U.S.
On creating the adventure race, Eco-Challenge, and the corresponding television show

Chapter 2

On Eco-Challenge   and Survivor
On creating Survivor
On casting Survivor: "a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker"
On pitching Survivor  and the rejections the show faced initially; on the business model for the show
On finding the right island to shoot Survivor
On being "in the moment": the directorial and lighting decisions behind Survivor's tribal council; on choosing the host for the show
On the environmentally-consious crew of Survivor  and how the success of the show is due to them

Chapter 3

On shooting Survivor; on preparing for shoots with a "dream team"; on the crew
On early criticism of Survivor and his vindication in its success
On letting the crew and challenge winners on Survivor  watch snippets of unaired episodes while still on the island
On prepping Survivor  during 9/11
On shooting the Survivor finale in a live setting; on how Survivor  connects with audiences

Chapter 4

On the future of Survivor
On The Apprentice
On Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
On several of his short-lived television shows
On what he's working on now
On television today and his own brand
On his management style
Shows

Apprentice, The

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Mark Burnett on The Apprentice

Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

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Mark Burnett on creating Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

Contender, The

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Mark Burnett on the disappointment of the ratings for The Contender

Eco-Challenge

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Mark Burnett on creating the adventure race, Eco-Challenge, and the corresponding television show

MTV Movie Awards, The

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Mark Burnett on producing The MTV Movie Awards

On the Lot

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Mark Burnett on the poor concept of On the Lot

Restaurant, The

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Mark Burnett on how he enjoyed making The Restaurant

Rock Star INXS

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Mark Burnett on the popularity of Rock Star: INXS

Sarah Palin's Alaska

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Mark Burnett on Sarah Palin's Alaska

Survivor

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Mark Burnett on how lessons learned from Eco-Challenge led to creating Survivor
Mark Burnett on creating, casting and shooting Survivor
Mark Burnett on the origin of the tribe names on Survivor
Mark Burnett on how he found the island location for Survivor
Mark Burnett on the directorial and lighting decisions behind Survivor's tribal council
Mark Burnett on trying to talk Jeff Probst out of hosting Survivor
Mark Burnett on how no pickups are ever shot for Survivor; on preparing for shoots with the "dream team"
Mark Burnett on early criticism of Survivor  and his vindication in its success; questioning the meaning of reality tv as a genre
On letting the challenge winners on Survivor  watch snippets of unaired episodes while still on the island
Mark Burnett on shooting the finale of Survivor live; his level of involvement with the show
Mark Burnett on the Survivor catchphrase "outwit, outplay, outlast"
Mark Burnett on the greater meaning of Survivor as a morality play
Mark Burnett on the future of Survivor
Topics

9/11

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Mark Burnett on how 9/11 affected show prep on Survivor

Characters & Catchphrases

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Mark Burnett on Survivor  host Jeff Probsts's catchphrase, "the tribe has spoken"
Mark Burnett on the Survivor  catchphrase, "Out wit, out play, out last"

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Mark Burnett on his creative influences and inspiration from his mother

Fame & Celebrity

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Mark Burnett on reality show contestants and their fame

Television Industry

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Mark Burnett on sponsorship and advertising on Survivor
Professions

Producers

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Mark Burnett on pitching Survivor
Mark Burnett on his style of show
Genres

Reality TV

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Mark Burnett on being a pioneer of reality television
Mark Burnett on early criticism of Survivor  and his vindication in its success; questioning the meaning of reality tv as a genre; "there are no rules"
Mark Burnett on the term "reality TV"
People

Jeff Foxworthy

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Mark Burnett on Jeff Foxworthy as host of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

Leslie Moonves

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Mark Burnett on meeting with Leslie Moonves at CBS to pitch Survivor
Mark Burnett on the risk Leslie Moonves took in supporting him on Survivor
Mark Burnett on presenting his choices for host of Survivor

Jeff Probst

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Mark Burnett on Survivor host Jeff Probst
Mark Burnett on hiring Survivor host Jeff Probst
Mark Burnett on trying to talk Jeff Probst out of hosting Survivor

Donald J. Trump

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Mark Burnett on wanting Donald Trump to be involved with The Apprentice

Jeff Zucker

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Mark Burnett on how Jeff Zucker believed The Apprentice would be a hit

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