Interview with Producer Lori Kaye

Do you think when people are casting for reality shows, they’re deliberately screening out lesbian applicants, or is it just not happening?
I don’t think they’re deliberately screening them out. Casting is very tricky, it’s difficult to find people who are television-friendly, with television appeal, so the amount of people you have to screen, interview, and put on camera to come up with, say, the cast of The Apprentice, are just enormous. It just becomes about being interesting and compelling enough for TV…

Do you get many applications from lesbians?
No, but American Princess was looking for girls and women who want to change and become a proper lady, so there isn’t necessarily a lot of interest in that subject area from lesbians. And as you say, with the emphasis on dating shows, there are not a lot of niches in reality shows for gay women to find themselves a part of.

Do you think there’ll ever be a lesbian equivalent to Boy Meets Boy?
I honestly don’t know. I know there have been lesbian-type reality shows pitched that are similar to Queer Eye–like having a lesbian handyman, or lesbian home makeover shows, but I honestly don’t know where those are at right now.

I do think the success of something like The L Word, that opens the public’s eye to our image, creates more ideas for spinoffs, to people saying “hey, Showtime’s doing something like this successfully, let’s maybe do a lesbian reality show.” You also have to remember that television is ultimately about advertising sales and dollars for getting the maximum number of people to watch your show. To be honest, when you look at middle America, it’s hard to sell shows that have a lot of homosexual characters.

Has your sexual orientation ever been an issue in your career?
I can’t say that it has, at least not so far. I’m out as a lesbian and have a great relationship with the people I work with, now and in the past. I also think when you’re creative, it almost doesn’t even seem to matter.

Are there more openly gay women in TV than when you first started?
It seems like it. The increased media attention on this subject, like the work you’re doing, has certainly helped more people working in television to come out and be openly gay.

Do you want to keep producing?
I want to continue evolving. I love every aspect of all the things I get to do: producing, directing, and writing. In reality and non-scripted TV, a producer’s job covers a wide array of duties, including solidying the concept, putting together a segment, deciding what you’re going to shoot, where you’re going to go, who you’re going to shoot it with, and then making that shoot happen, directing the crew, etc. Then later you’re acting as a film director, in an edit bay, where you sit with an editor and say “this is what we want, this is what we don’t want” until the final product is done.

Is this variety of tasks involved one of the reasons you enjoy producing?
Enormously appealing, because I’ve been able to travel all over the world and see things from a perspective a lot of people don’t get to see, and I love the opportunity to use so many different parts of my brain. Now we’re putting something together, now we’re running through the streets of Paris actually making it happen, now we’re sitting down in a dark room pulling it all together. It’s really great.

Is your work ever done?
Not really (laughs). You do work really long hours, both in pre and post production. There’s also an element of upredictability in unscripted TV that really keeps you on your toes as a producer.

You write about show biz and fashion for The Advocate occasionally, on top of producing. How do you find the time?
I don’t know (laughs). I really like that famous quote “I hate writing, but I love having written.” The first draft of anything, whether it’s a solo piece, the first draft of a play, or article or TV script, is really hard; you always have to massage it to make it fit, so it really requires a commitment. That’s partly why I don’t write those kinds of articles very often.

Is it hard to switch from creating entertainment to analyzing it?
No, because producing requires so much analysis already, like personality navigation–trying to figure out the best way to deal with a network, for example, or an editor.

What do you do to get away from it all? Do you chuck it all and go to Montana once a year or something like that?
I wish I could say I do, but in reality going to the movies is my greatest escape because it’s the fastest and the quickest. I really enjoy watching movies–my most recent favorite is Mean Girls, I really liked that. I love spending time with my girlfriend, too, who is wildly funny and smart. She’s a producer, as well, and currently working on a new show for The Discover Channel called Monster Nation.

I am also fortunate to have a really great group of wonderfully creative, interesting friends who work in various aspects of production, and we just enjoy having dinners together, barbeques, hang out at a friend’s pool, or have game tonight. It’s hard sometimes with everyone’s schedules but we try to do it as often as we can. We had a Grammy party recently where myself and Monica Tragandes, editor in chief of Frontiers Magazine, performed a version of the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson incident…we practiced it before dinner and then performed it during a commercial. It was so much fun.

Did you always want to be in entertainment?
I always wanted to be in show biz. I was born in New York spent my formative Wonderbread Years in Philadelphia and then moved to New York the minute high school was over to attend the Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Ever think about going back to acting?
Not really. It’s the one area I don’t really excel at. But stand-up comedy, maybe…I think about it evolving into something that would be multimedia, so I could use what I’ve learned so far.

Who are your favorite comedians currently?
I admire what Ellen’s doing right now, I think she’s found her own — she’s really talented, funny, and accessible.

Does your comedic side come out in producing?
Oh yeah. You have to look at it with that eye. Joe Millioniare had enormous humor in it, it had lots of comedic value in it, and The Ross Show is going to be really funny.

I think producing in general is just performance art gone haywire.