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‘The Curse’s Nathan Fielder On Infusing Reality In Show-Within-A-Show


As the star, co-creator, executive producer, writer and director of Showtime’s dark comedy series The Curse, Nathan Fielder admitted he and his collaborator Benny Safdie were committed to infusing the show’s satirical take on an unscripted HGTV home-flipping series with as much a sense of reality – or faux reality – as possible that he didn’t realize some of the crew were left wondering how much of the show they were working itself on was actually real.

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During Deadline’s Contenders TV panel Sunday, Fielder learned from production designer Katie Byron that she and many of the crew had begun to suspect that the rug was going to be pulled out from under them at any moment. “There was a lot of meta stuff happening in the show where we were all convinced that it was a show-within-a-show-within-a-show,” said Byron. “We actually were waiting to find out that it was.”

“Oh really? Oh my God!” replied a surprised, bemused Fielder. “It seems like a terrible environment to work in. I’m sorry!”

Fielder explained that the dedication to a verite style sprang from the show’s basic premise. “We had this idea of when someone says something to you, how real does it become? And is it the outside world is doing things or is it what’s going on in your own head?” he explained. “And so that was the jumping off point, I think, for the show to have something like that where the viewer is unsure if something’s going on or it’s just the characters building their own downfall.”

“With these home flippers and these shows, you see these people come into a community often and impose their will on it and then leave,” said Fielder. “And so we were sort of conscious, too, that we as filmmakers are coming into this community and, even though it’s temporary, constructing these mirrored homes in the neighborhood, and so we wanted that to be a part of the show when you’re watching it, to be thinking about the level of realism and incorporating real people.”

One of the immersive flourishes included making the New Mexico city of Espanola, where the series was shot, feel as authentic as possible. “Our goal was basically if you live in Espanola, people would be like, ‘They pretty much got it good,’” said Fielder, who after writing a draft script went to Espanola a year in advance of production to soak in local color and detail and layer it into the script. “We wanted it to feel really authentic.”

RELATED: Contenders TV – Deadline’s Full Coverage

That ethos extended to casting: “We’d often find the location of, let’s say, a taco shop,” he explained. “There was a person in the script who worked there, but then there was someone who worked there. And if it’s a small part, we were sort of like, ‘Do you want to do it?’ to people, because we could never, in our imaginations, we could never be as accurate as what the real people that were there. And fortunately, the community was really game to collaborate with us on it.”

“You know how when you’re shooting in an area, you might see a mistake in movies where someone in the background will look at the camera, and that’s like if they’re shooting in New York and you’re like, ‘Oh, that must be a real person,’” he added. ”We actually had extras that we directed them to look at the camera, so it feels like you get the real feeling…There’s a lot of people in the show that are looking at the camera, but we told them to do it.”

“We were almost staging like they’re just a guy who happened to be in the room, so it feels like a mistake, and so the viewer will feel like, ‘Oh my God, are they okay with this?’” Fielder explained. “We wanted people to think about that, because that’s what we were thinking about, too. We just really wanted to make sure we weren’t doing the thing that the characters were doing, even though we sort of are a little bit.”

Check back Monday for the panel video.



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