Travel Channel: How the Episode Was Created

Since I work in the TV industry, I will most certainly be watching the Travel Channel show today (trailer: with an eye for detail. As I had no idea what or how the production team created my story after interviewing me and the Venegas family, I decided to go right to the source: John Joseph, co-executive producer for the show, and the man who interviewed me on camera that April day long ago. I sent him some questions and he was gracious enough to answer me right away. It’s a good primer for understanding the back story on what you will see later today.

What was the genesis of the GOT HOME ALIVE series?

It was developed by Cheri Brownlee & the Travel Channel to explore real life stories of people who are confronted with some sort of disaster and have a life changing experience while they are on vacation.  These are people who face a life and death experience and survive.  What’s interesting, is that when they look back on these harrowing experiences they are sometimes glad they went through it.    And they all agree it has profoundly changed their lives.

How did you learn about what happened to me?

We read your article in Marie Claire magazine and it was very impressive.

What made you think it would be a good fit for the series?

Because of confrontation and escape you went through.  The attack was such a surprise and you have to reach deep down to escape across the rooftops the way you did.  It’s amazing when people can find the inner strength to perform the way you did under such extreme circumstances.

Before we met..did you have any preconceived ideas about me based on what you read?

It seemed like you were a very strong person and someone who would be comfortable telling their story.

During our sitdown..was there anything that surprised you about what I shared? What about the Venegas family?

I thought you were very candid, and did a great job expressing what you went through during this ordeal.  The people we interview are what drive our show, and these are the people our audience will relate to when they watch the story.  We want the audience to experience what you went through, and that can only happen if you do a good job telling the story, which you did.

After our sitdown, what else did you have to film and where, to complete the story?

This story was very challenging because of the amazing stunt you pulled off jumping across all those rooftops in Rome.  It was like a James Bond movie.  So first we had to find some great actors who could bring this story to life and then figure out how to stage the attack in the Artist’s apartment and then your escape across the rooftops.  First we had to make LA look like Rome, then we had to hire a stunt coordinator to help us figure out how to make it safely across all those rooftops.  We found a landmark apartment building in downtown LA,  that was once a fancy hotel where movie stars used to stay.  We used both the interior and exterior for the restaurant and rooftops.  The penthouse on top of the building was like a separate house so actress could jump off the roof, but it was only like a 8 foot drop.  We used 6 foot thick pads for the actress to land on when she jumped off the various sections of roof.  We also digitally removed some of the night-time LA skyline so we could show the actress on top of the roof and still make it look like Rome.

How did you select the actress who played me and how did she prep for the role?

It was very difficult, because she had to be both a good actress and also  had to be very athletic so she could pull off the stunts and the fight.  We found an actress named Mandy Schneider who did a great job.

How long did it take you to film all the scenes and what was the most difficult aspect of recreating my story, if any?

It took two nights to do the re-creation shoot.  The most difficult parts were the fight in the apartment and the rooftop escape, which I said earlier was like staging a James Bond movie.  Also doing the rooftop scenes at night, proved to be a challenge.

How did you decide what to cut and what to keep?

We wanted to tell the best story possible, and let the story tell itself.  These segments are like little adventure stories, so we want the story to move quickly and keep the audience engaged.  We decided not to get into the legal story too much because it took so long.  But we wanted to make sure people know that Marco was convicted.

Where can we see your next project?

I’m still working every day on GOT HOME ALIVE – we hope that it will be an ongoing series for Travel Channel.  These stories are amazing, I’ve learned something from almost every one of them.  It’s the most fun I’ve had working on a series in a long time, because the stories are so interesting.  The situations people get into and the way they escape never ceases to amaze me.  The series embodies the kind of extremes people face when they travel, and it can be said people like to travel for these reasons, for the adventure, for the life changing experience, but sometimes they get a little more adventure then they bargained for.

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