You Asked, We Answered: Filming “Steel City Rehab”
We’ll make this simple. “Steel City Rehab” was our first shot at filming a reality show — and also potentially our last. We don’t know yet whether the pilot will secure a full season, but we’ll tell you one thing: This shit’s been crazy. Sorry to be frank — but after befriending our phenomenal production crew, remodeling and selling a house on camera, and seeing it all come together from the comfort of our living rooms, we’re at a loss for words. Though we did manage to muster up enough to take a stab at the (very solid) questions you guys threw our way.
Tara’s responses are the most detailed, obviously, ’cause that’s her thing. But if there’s anything else you need an answer to, send it on over! We don’t bite. At least not all of the time.
This just in → If you missed SCR on April 30, HGTV’s airing an encore on Friday, May 12 at 1pm EST. DVR it, peeps.
When the production company first contacted you, how did everyone react and what were your initial expectations?
Tara Bennett: We were definitely excited, but we’ve tried not to get our hopes up through this whole process. We know it could end at any time, and we’ve been so fortunate to make it this far. I do remember us all waiting downstairs in our house to take turns Skyping with the casting director [at Bodega Pictures]. It was a fun day.
Kris Bennett: We were all hyped up. I think we all threw back a beer to ease the nerves.
How hard was it keeping this a secret from everyone until you were allowed to announce it?
Cameron Nicols: It was exciting, for sure. But I can keep things under the hat, no problemo.
TB: Most of our close friends and family knew what we were up to. It was hard to keep it off of social media though.
What surprised you most about the filming process?
CN: The takes…so many takes. I guess that’s a testament to my lack of ability to give [the film crew] what they were looking for. No, but really, it surprised me that we sometimes shot scenes out of order. The crew was really good about explaining how it all works, and they put things into context so it made sense to us throughout the process.
TB: For me, it was how long the filming days were. I thought, one-hour episode…shouldn’t be too much work. After a few 12-hour filming days, I realized it takes a lot more time than I expected. Bodega liked to have an excessive amount of footage to work with so they could pull the best scenes for the pilot. I think they did a good job of grabbing the scenes where we felt more comfortable, or when things happened more naturally.
How nervous were you (if at all)?
Jesse Wig: Personally, I wasn’t that nervous until we pulled up the first day of filming and there were about 15 crew members, tents, cameras, etc. I immediately got nervous after seeing that. But after we mic’d up and started filming for 10 minutes or so, those nerves definitely went away.
TB: I was probably the most nervous of us all. I swear, Kris is never nervous! He’d get a kick out of me trying to chill out. I would get most nervous right before we’d start filming, but once you’re into the day a bit, you really do forget the cameras are there. It’s so weird having a conversation with your husband and actually blocking out the people and cameras watching you, but it happened.
CN: I went from being excited to a bit nervous, then right back to good once we started rolling. Once I understood how the show would be structured, it just became us friends talking about what we do.
KB: I wasn’t nervous.
What was it like working with a camera crew / production company?
CN: The guys and gals at Bodega couldn’t have been cooler. They’re all super-easy to get along with, which made everyone more comfortable. At first, I was worried that they’d push for some of the cringe-worthy fakery that we all know and hate on some of these reality shows. But they immediately assured us that they didn’t want any part in that drama either.
JW: We worked with an awesome group of people! I don’t think filming would have been so easy or as enjoyable of a process if it wasn’t for that crew.
KB: We really lucked out with Bodega. We’ve said so many times how awesome it was that everyone was so cool and fun. We like to have a good time, and they meshed right in with us.
I’m curious about the beginning of your house-flipping journey. How did you prioritize getting your business off the ground while still taking care of your personal relationships?
TB: There came a time when we knew we needed to buckle down and give our careers some major attention. Kris had been used to getting checks in the mail for riding his bike for so long, so it was definitely a challenge for us at first. We had a lot of conversations about the business — how we need to do what it takes and make sacrifices to get on our feet. We had our daughter and another baby on the way at the time, and we were having a hard time making ends meet. We didn’t see each other a lot during the first flip. Kris would work until he couldn’t keep his eyes open, then he’d go back as soon as he woke up. That went on for at least six months. I did most of the kid and home duties on my own. It was extremely hard, but getting through that first house and watching the process succeed — even though it came with major challenges — was enough for us to want to do it again. That year was a major marriage victory for us. We realized that we make an awesome team, even when things get tough. We learned how beneficial we are to each other when it comes to encouragement and motivation. There were some days we felt like we couldn’t do it anymore, but we helped one another stay positive.
Any advice on the work-life-balance struggle as a young couple flipping in Pittsburgh?
TB: Balancing the different parts of your life takes a real effort. Kris and I will sit down and plan our weeks out at the beginning of each month. What are our work hours? When do the kids have activities? When does the gym fit in? When do we want date nights, time with friends, family days, etc.? If we don’t schedule, we will go weeks without a date night and months without seeing some of our best friends.
KB: Work does take up a lot of our time, but we’re good at prioritizing the other parts of our lives as well. If we feel like something is slipping, we re-evaluate and adjust the calendar. It’s an ongoing thing, but we try to be super-honest with each other about what we need.
How will things change for the company if you get a season?
CN: I assume everything will need to scale up a bit. But from the construction side of things, we’ll need a lot more hands on deck. Luckily, Pittsburgh has no lack of skilled tradesmen and women!
You considered two other houses on this episode. What became of the one with the beautiful woodwork and the stained glass?
KB: As far as we’ve been told, someone else bought it with the intention of renovating it. However, it looks as though they’re slow to get things moving. We’re always open to taking another look if the option ever presents itself. That house was hard to let go of!
Seemed too good to be true when you found that pocket door….was that staged?
TB: It really wasn’t! Someone had drywalled over it, and as soon as we started ripping, we saw it. We actually found a couple others too! We kept them and hope to use them in future homes.
CN: For sure. Staged.