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New London — Reality television producer Erin Foye, the New London native who's worked on "Vanderpump Rules," "Southern Charm," and the "Million Dollar Listing San Francisco" and "Million Dollar Listing New York" shows, believes there could be fodder for a reality or scripted series in the Whaling City.
"Oh my God, yes," said Foye, 32, when asked about the possibility of a show based on something or someone in New London.
"My New London High School basketball team was amazing and hilarious and had some of the best characters ever and I loved them all. I'm not sure that could be a reality show, but it could be a scripted show. Someone could write a script about it," she said.
Foye, who graduated from New London High in 2001 and Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 2005, has been working from her home base of Los Angeles as a reality television producer for the past three years.
The daughter of Richard and Delia Foye, she was recently home during "a hiatus" after a four-month stint shooting "Southern Charm" in Charleston, S.C.
"My dream is that I could be bi-coastal," said Foye, "because I want to see my parents and I want to be able to come home. I love being here, I love New London, because I'm from here. It's where I grew up. This is who I am."
Foye said she knew from an early age that she was interested in working in entertainment, and specifically in reality television.
At Bates, where she earned a degree in sociology with a concentration in religion, she and her friends regularly tuned into "The Hills" and "Real World."
"We loved reality TV when I was in college, we would sit and watch, a lot, and I would think, why can't I do this?" said Foye, whose first job after graduating Bates was as an entertainment coordinator with The World-Scholar Athlete Games, based in Rhode Island. She stayed a year and then landed a job as a page with NBC in Los Angeles, "the coolest job ever," she said, and the position that helped to get her hired at Bravo, the reality and scripted show network that airs all the shows Foye now works on.
"I used to sit and watch Bravo with my mom, and think, wow, I want to work there, how am I going to do it?" she said.
But before working as a producer, Foye spent several years in the promotions department at Bravo, helping to hype shows like "Top Chef" and "Project Runway." She liked the job but knew her true interest was in making the shows, not marketing them. So after several years at Bravo, she left the network to pursue her dream career.
"When I left Bravo, I had to start over, I had to build myself up again," she said. "I had to start as a production assistant and work my way up."
Today, Foye works as a field or segment producer, overseeing the filming of some shows, and sometimes as a digital producer, promoting the shows on social media. She's worked for different production companies, like Evolution Media, World of Wonder Productions, and Haymaker, that film the shows and then send their clips to post production people who make them into shows for the networks.
"I can honestly tell you that it's real," said Foye, of the antics of the reality TV characters. "What you see is what they really are. We just literally follow the story of what is going on in their lives."
Jax, on ''Vanderpump Rules," she said, is exactly the same person off of the show as he is on it.
"What you see, especially with 'Vanderpump,' is real," she said. "You can't write this stuff."
Foye calls the characters "talent."
"They're not actors," she said. "They're not acting, they are really living out their lives. But they wouldn't be on television if they didn't have interesting stories. You wouldn't put someone on TV if they weren't interesting."
Her job is to work alongside camera operators and audio mixers and record the talent as they go about their everyday business. They might meet at a café, or someone's home or apartment, or accompany them on a vacation. She wants to make sure the scene is set, appropriate for television, and that the conversation is substantive.
"You want to make sure they are not talking about rainbows, you want to keep them on track," she said. "We are not telling them what to say, but we are facilitating their conversation about what they want to talk about."
For the "Million Dollar Listing" shows, that follow aggressive real estate agents brokering multi-million-dollar property sales, she said the tension is high and the competition intense.
"They are very emotional. All that is real. It's competitive and these guys want to be the number 1 broker in New York City, or San Francisco."
Lisa Vanderpump, the star and name behind the show "Vanderpump Rules," about the staff at her West Hollywood, CA, restaurant, SUR, is a favorite talent of Foye's.
"Her house is amazing; she's got a moat, and baby horses, and swans, and she really does love those swans," said Foye.
But the producer knows that despite the growing popularity of reality TV — by some reports it accounts for 17 percent of all prime time programming — Foye knows that not everyone is a convert.
"My parents watch all the shows that I do, and that's awesome," she said. "But I don't know if they would watch it if I weren't (involved). My mom, maybe. But my dad would not be watching Bravo shows if I wasn't working on them."
She said she once tried to explain her job to her father, a retired school superintendent.
"It took some time for him to understand exactly what it is that I do, but I broke it down in educational terms," she said. "I said, think of Bravo as the board of education, or something like that. And then the production company as the superintendent. And the producers as the teachers."
Foye laughs out loud as she talks about her parents watching her shows.
"They have this whole different perspective of reality TV. And my father, I can't even tell you what he says. You couldn't print it. But he has the best, the best commentary. It's just the best."
Asked why some viewers are reluctant to admit they watch reality shows, she couldn't answer but acknowledged it's true.
"I know some people say it's their guilty pleasure; they don't want to love them, they want to love to hate them, but why? Reality TV is just like watching life every day."
For Foye, it's a good career and a good life.
"Every time you get to one milestone, you get a new dream, a new goal," she said. "My next one, ultimately, is to create an idea, develop it, sell it, and then work on it."
That old high school girls basketball team?
"Maybe," she said. "It would be hilarious."