'Below Deck' Producer and Cast Reveal the 5 Secrets Behind Creating the Hit Series

Below Deck ratings continue to dominate Bravo and Colin Macy-O’Toole from Below Deck Mediterranean dished about why the franchise remains on top. “I think it’s the fresh faces every year,” he told Showbiz Cheat Sheet in 2020. “People like that. The charter guests are different every year. The location is different every year.” And while the series has taken Bravo by storm, producing it isn’t as clear-cut as other reality shows like the Housewives. Producer Courtland Cox recently shared some of the key ingredients needed to create Below Deck.

The ‘Below Deck’ yacht must be large enough to accomodate production

The yacht has to accommodate the production crew and the equipment, Vanity Fair reports. Macy-O’Toole recalled how producers converted the yacht gym into the media village during Below Deck Mediterranean Season 3. “They ripped out the gym on the boat and made that their control center,” he explained. “So, you have the electric guy, you know, probably the internet guy that they have to rip out the gym equipment and put in like 15 flat-screen TVs so they can watch us do whatever.”

The ‘Below Deck’ destinations must fit the production schedule

Below Deck shoots for approximately six weeks so the chosen location must offer docking privileges for the entire time, plus nearby hotel accommodations for the 50 or more production employees. “You have to pay for the hotels where all the production crew stays,” Macy-O’Toole said of the production costs. “[Production] also rent out a water taxi for six straight weeks when there’s someone who needs to go back to land or they change shifts. The water taxi drives out to wherever we are and they switch out the crew.”

The yacht also includes a tender that is designated for production only. “There’s usually another boat that they rent out that follows us no matter where we are,” he said. “That has different [production] crew members on for shifts like breaks and stuff. Like, if they’re on a break, instead of going back to their hotel or land, there’s usually another boat. No matter where we go, they can stay on that boat for like an hour or so until they have to come back.”

‘Below Deck’ crew must allow cameras to roll 24/7

Another aspect that sets Below Deck apart from other reality shows is that almost everything is documented in the series. “Our first call sheet had camera crews arriving at 7 a.m. and wrapping by 10 p.m. because that’s what you do for a normal reality show,” Cox told Vanity Fair. “Then we realized that yachties stay up until three o’clock in the morning drinking and hanging out, and we didn’t have the cameras there to cover it.”

Producers now have Go-Pro cameras mounted throughout the yacht so action is captured around the clock. Chef Mathew Shea was recently shown smashing a few stationary cameras on Below Deck Mediterranean when he briefly quit.

‘Below Deck’ seasons are very condensed

The actual charter season lasts over a few months. But a Below Deck season is condensed into six specific weeks. Plus Below Deck charters typically last only a few days and nights in order to accommodate more guests. Other series, like the Housewives, shoot for four to five months. A show like Million Dollar Listing is known to shoot almost year-round.

Cox said the show model had to evolve as the show developed. “You have to evolve all the time because on any given day you have to monitor the swell, the wind, the wind direction, the proximity to a beach, the transportation time for a production crew to get from the hotel to the yacht, etc,” he said.

The ‘Below Deck’ casting process is very specific

Cox said that producers want someone who actually knows what they are doing when it comes to the job. “You can’t just find people who are fun and funny and interesting,” he said. “You have to find people who have the credentials and training to even be legal.”

Nadine Rajabi, executive producer of Below Deck Mediterranean said producers look closely at the yachtie’s CVs. “A lot of times people lie on their CVs,” she said on the Melissa Rivers’ Group Text podcast. “We check their references, and we’ve seen on the show where it’s like they lie on their CVs. And people are like, ‘Oh you guys cast this [person].’ It’s like no we didn’t. We check their references and people lie on their CVs and it happens all the time. So we lean into what’s real.”

She added, “I personally love humor. Because I have a comedy background. So are they funny. No matter what, are they funny. Are there layers? Are they interesting? I don’t like somebody that just wants to be there to be on TV. What I like about Below Deck is they’re not there to be reality stars. Some people you’ll see that happening. But especially on the Med or the Caribbean, a lot of these kids are from Europe, South Africa, Australia. All over the world. They’ve never even seen [Below Deck]. Now Below Deck is so popular but in the early days, they’d never even seen Below Deck. So they’re just yachties and it was one of those YOLO experiences.”

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