Friday, January 27, 2012

Reality Auction Shows. Yes, they are real... Here's how I know.

Auction Hunters. Allen Haff and Ton Jones. You’ve seen the show. So have I. And, I had the unique experience of being part of the show. Last week, the Auction Hunters came to Colorado to film some storage auctions. Even though I knew they were coming, it was still a bit of a surprise.

 When I arrived, there was a cameraman in the parking lot filming me as I pulled up. Not sure why they would want to capture that on film, but I guess that’s why they are in the film business and I’m in the auction business. First things first, I was wired with a microphone, and it was well hidden under my shirt. The sound tech gave me some good advice – the mic is ALWAYS on. Careful of what I say.

Next, it was time to give the pre-auction announcements. Before I could get going, all of the cameras had to be in place. They were filming me, they were filming Allen and Ton, and they were filming the bidders. I had to wait until they had all of their “B-Roll” shots done before I could get started. The announcements and the sale were pretty much normal – no different than any other sale, except that I had to wait until I was standing in the right spot, and until the cameras were all in place – all four (that I saw).

The terms and conditions were no different. Allen and Ton signed in just like everyone else, and followed the rules just like everyone else. When we opened the units, they were in line behind other bidders, and followed them to the unit. Now here’s where there is a bit of a difference. They had a little more time to view the units than most of the bidders. Not because of anything sinister, but because it took a little time to set up the camera angles and get good shots of them viewing the contents. We allowed a cameraman in the unit, but only with me watching every move to ensure he didn’t touch anything.

 After they finished viewing the unit, and the rest of the people in line viewed the unit, we started the auction. Here’s where things were exactly the same. They bid on some, they didn’t bid on others, and they won a few. The other bidders, most who are regulars, bid against them as if they were just anyone else in the crowd. It was a normal, regular, every day storage auction. After we sold the units, the winning bidders handed us their ID’s to hold until the end of the auction when they paid for their purchases. Allen and Ton were no different. They had to hand me their ID’s too.

When we were done, they paid their bills just like everyone else. Here’s where things are a little different. After we finished the auction, we went back in front of some the units they bought, and filmed another round of auctions. The doors were still closed and locked, but the director wanted a variety of angles, and wanted to be able to get close-up shots of bidders.

 In speaking with the director, I learned that during the actual auction, they have a hard time identifying the bidders. I guess as an auctioneer it is second-nature, but for a cameraman trying to move quickly and zoom in, it’s almost impossible. So the director recreated some of the bids and bidders, just to make it more personal. Pretty time consuming.

All in all, the auction from my perspective was no different. It just took way longer than normal. To those who had to endure the long auctions, thank you. What normally takes us four or five minutes to sell, took nearly 30 with the cameras. Imagine multiple units and you’ll see the issue. But during it all I had the chance to chat with Allen and Ton. Two down to earth, friendly guys, who seem to love what they do. They were gracious with the fans, and certainly put on a show. I have no idea what they did after I left, but have every confidence that whatever they show on TV is legitimate. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

They filmed the live auctions over two days. I know they had many more days of post production. They typically only feature two or three units per episode. If we see any of it on TV it won’t be until summer. My guess is that if I even make it on the show, you’ll get a glimpse of me from behind for a brief moment. But I’ll take it, and I’ll brag to everyone “Hey, that’s me on TV”.

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