How we got on the show

In March of 2013, I received a call that changed my life. Our real estate agent in Puerto Vallarta, Taniel Chemsian, called me one day to say that he had an opportunity for my husband and I. Imagine my surprise when I leaned that the opportunity he was referring to was a chance to appear on the TV show House Hunters International?  I was totally blown away! I said “What? Us?” I thought, we are just normal people, living normal lives. Could we seriously be television material? I love that show and watch it all the time and have seen the prior two episodes featuring Puerto Vallarta. Of course I was a bit intrigued and flattered at the thought. As Taniel went into further detail, I said, “Sure, we’d love to.”  Then came the next part of actually auditioning for the show. Audition? This was something foreign to us as neither my husband Charles nor I have ever auditioned for a TV show before. After a few attempts at recording ourselves on video, we felt we did the best we could to show our personalities and submitted our video for consideration.

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About a month went by as we anxiously waited for some news…Will they take us? Are we interesting enough?  Did our audition video bomb? We finally got “The Call” around mid-April.  We were “IN” and they wanted to film us that summer!  OMG, in only a few short months we were going to be filming for a reality TV show!  I couldn’t believe it.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d be on TV someday.

What was it like?

Our first day of filming began in our hometown of Dallas, Texas. We had no idea what to expect or what words would be coming out of our mouths when the camera started rolling. We did however get some wardrobe tips prior to the taping from the producer.  Evidently, it is best not to wear white or black on TV.    Something about it washing you out.   Unfortunately, most of my clothes seem to fall into the black/white category, so a bit of shopping was going to be necessary…and I don’t mind shopping! Since we work from home, they primarily wanted to film us at our house.    We put in some good elbow grease and got the ole’ place looking pretty good.  The crew showed up promptly at the crack of dawn, and we were off…or should I say, ON camera!

We were really nervous at first and felt like we were messing up, but after about 20 minutes, we were starting to get the hang of it. It also helped that the director and the other crewmembers were really laid back and fun, which kept us calm and made for a pleasant filming environment.

After the session at the house, we hit the road and filmed some action shots of Charles and myself showing houses in our real estate business in Dallas.  We drove from house to house, from one area to the next, then back to our house for additional filming. A group of our friends and family showed up and we had a wine and cheese toasting party to wish us luck in our house hunting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! Our first day of reality TV filming was done.

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Off to Puerto Vallarta

We got up early the day after filming in Dallas and headed to Puerto Vallarta.  We got in a couple of days before filming so we could have a chance to tour around and have some fun.  Day 1 of filming in PV arrived quickly and we got up before sunrise to be ready to start filming at the Timothy Real Estate Group office at 8:00am.  Our real estate agent Taniel and his broker Carl Timothy were there to meet and guide us. Taniel and Carl had filmed two previous House Hunters International episodes so they were great mentors, in good spirits and a lot of fun to work with.  Taniel, with his amazing wit and charm, quickly determined he was DIVA material.  I should interject here that the lighting system they use for backlighting is called a “Diva Lite” and made for some fun diva jokes throughout the days to come.

Our morning shoot at the real estate office went by quickly. Before heading out to our next location, we did some additional filming in the Zona Romantica, including walking down the street, a meet-and-greet outside the Timothy office, some fun and light pick-up shots here and there.  Next, we went to the work studio of one our favorite local artists. We already own some of her beautiful paintings and wanted to add to our collection. Plus, we felt it would be great to promote the charming local people and their businesses.  We followed up that scene with filming at Property #1. This property is in the downtown area, has a fabulous pool and is just a few minutes’ walk from the Malecon (boardwalk).  We had some funny moments filming at this gorgeous property that we’re hoping will make the final cut.

Day 2 was filmed in a similar way.   We looked at Properties #2 and #3, and then drove to the Botanical Gardens.  Despite intermittent torrential rain, we filmed a bunch of scenic scenes there.  Robert Price and his staff at the gardens were amazing.  Not only did the entire grounds look lush and vibrant, they actually had a fiesta planned for us.

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Day 3 was all about the decision-making.  The production company thought it would be a good idea to have the decision scene be in a completely different environment than the two previous episodes, so we rented a boat and went out on the water.  The boat picked us up at the Garza Blanca beach, which was organized by the staff at Garza Blanca Preserve Resort.  The original Garza Blanca is a famous historical resort from the 1960’s where stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson and Rod Stewart used to hang out. The resort was rebuilt over the last few years and again has been visited by a lot of new stars such as Eva Longoria and Kerry Underwood, to name a few.  When we showed up on the beach with the production crew, I had to laugh, as I think everyone probably thought we were someone famous.   Hardly famous, but we were having a lot of fun and I had my celebrity-eque sunglasses on.  The boat could not pull all the way onto shore because of the rough waves, so we had to wade out in the water to climb aboard.  Not a big deal, except I wasn’t aware we were going to have to do this until the last minute and I was wearing a full-length dress. The poor camera guy and sound guy were also worried as they have to provide their own equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars and they were worried about it getting wet while trying to get into the boat and questioning if the dark rain clouds above us was going to unleash.   Luckily we all made it to the boat with equipment and some dignity intact.

Our boat captain was a great guide as well and we were able to see some of what made Los Arcos so famous. Filming the decision scene went by pretty quickly because we were trying to skirt the rain showers that had unleashed, threatening to ruin the equipment and the shoot. With some luck and sunshine piercing their way through the clouds, we were able to finish filming and raced back to shore.

We wrapped up our Puerto Vallarta filming with a few more additional scenes, a few more wardrobe changes and some High 5’s on our last take. It was officially a wrap!

This whole experience was a blast and something I will cherish forever.  Charles and I made some great new friends and had a lot of fun along the way.  I can now cross “Reality TV Star” from my bucket list.  I can’t wait to see the episode air, which should be sometime in early 2014. Until then, I’ll be watching more of HHI on HGTV.

Karen and Charles