Reality TV - Hot Sheets

Hot Sheets

A hot sheet, usually created at the end of the day by the story or field producers, is a one page summary of the key events of the day, and is sent out to everyone on the production team. The hot sheet keeps everyone on the team up to date with what’s going on, and is used to chart the buildup of the story.

It’s important to keep the production team updated so they have the information they need to give their input about creative decisions, and can avoid content that would cause legal issues.

Remember to remain objective in your hot sheets, and don’t get too excited about selling certain moments. The moments may not make it to post production, and getting production hyped for them will only hurt your effort.

Here’s the kind of hot sheet that you do want to write:



Cast arrival went smoothly, with a few funny moments; Quinn tripped on thin air a few times, causing some to wonder how she would manage on a surfboard. Quinn and Adam quickly got close, and now are the only co-ed roommates.

Anne and April have an old rivalry (established in the interview, highlighted by some opportune reaction shots), and did their best to stay far away from each other.

Stuck-up Leslie won the surfing contest, getting her a new longboard from XYZ boards. Some animosity was caused when she kept gloating about her win.

After Adam led a revolt against Leslie because of her poor attitude and disdain of “surf bums” and public beaches, she spent most of the day alone and in interviews said that she was “already over these losers.”

In general, everyone’s looking forward to tomorrow.

 And this is how NOT to do a hot sheet:



Arrivals went smoothly, but Quinn is ridiculously clumsy and can barely stand up before she falls over. She’ll probably end up drowning herself surfing.

Anne and April hate each other and there are definitely going to be some huge blow ups here!

Leslie is a bitch who kept shoving her win at the surf-off in everyone’s face, and ended up starting a fight when she made catty comments about surf bums, which got Adam, and eventually everyone else, mad at her. Already an outcast, she’ll probably spend the rest of the show in her room!


The major problem with hot sheets like the second example is that they tend to overhype everything that happened, and make assumptions about what’s going to happen. Because the show isn’t scripted, any character may end up changing direction, which will disappoint everyone who expected the opposite to happen because it was oversold by the hot sheet. When the network doesn’t see what’s on paper mirrored on the screen, it can put a wrench in the works during postproduction.


Now that you’re in production, you’re looking for something different from your interviews.

During production, you want to do two things: you want to tell the audience why your characters are doing what they’re doing or feeling what they’re feeling after something happens, or you want to tell the audience where you are and why you’re there.

Trying to use interviews for other purposes usually creates a redundancy; why do you need the cast to narrate something when the audience can clearly see it happening?