10 Secrets of Filming Reality TV Shows

Watch Those Contracts
Judge Adam Levine and contestant Laith Al-Saadi jam on "The Voice". Al-Saadi said he was glad he didn't win because the winner is locked into a contract where the show owns all intellectual property, rights and merchandising. Tyler Golden/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Think the hardest thing about a reality show is getting on? It might actually be summoning up the courage to sign the contract. Most, if not all, reality shows make contestants sign ginormous contracts which take away most of your rights. On "The Biggest Loser," for example, past contestants say they had to waive rights to their own background story. Competitors on "The Voice" have to sign a contract that allows the show to falsely portray them, and potentially expose them to embarrassment and ridicule. Oh, and you can't sue after you've seen the hatchet job on TV. These stipulations, by the way, are common in most reality show contracts [sources: Callahan, Pop Dust].

Most also have clauses not allowing you to speak negatively about the show or disclose anything about your experience, even after it's over. In 2010, contestants on "Survivor" faced a $5 million fine every time they broke the show's confidentiality agreement. And don't think you can negotiate such clauses away — unless, perhaps, you're a celebrity or have similar clout. The courts will typically uphold these contracts. So don't count on a sympathetic judge to rule in your favor if you suffer physically or mentally afterward, or are simply unhappy with your portrayal [sources: Hare, Dehnart].