Carrie Dufresne is a camera operator primarily for reality television shows with more than 24 credits to her name. TSIBV caught up with her to learn more about the life behind the camera, how Trump was on The Apprentice, and the future of reality-based movies.
What’s your background, and how did that propel you to be a freelance camera operator?
I was involved in high school drama club and decided to go to college for film. That was super fun! I went to UNC-Wilmington. I interned on the last season of Dawson’s Creek. I moved to LA in 2005. It was a rough start. I worked a few indie movies which eventually led me to my job in reality TV. I started on a little show called America’s Next Top Model. I helped the camera department as a production assistant. Someone told me I took nice pictures, and from there I decided camera was the path for me!
After you established yourself, how do you get your next gig?
It’s honestly about who you know. And obviously skill and talent! But if people don’t like working with you, they won’t hire you. Luckily everyone thinks I’m awesome! Even when I’m a grumpy diva. I make that fun.
What show are you working on now or was the last one you did?
I wrapped the new season of The Real Housewives Of Dallas at the end of April, and a day later I was down in San Antonio. I’m here until July working on a new Bravo show. It’s about Mexican nationals. Amazing women and their families that live here. I think it’s a really important show in our current political climate. It’ll probably be another Housewives show, but aside from the drama, it’ll showcase real life issues like family from Mexico having problems visiting the US.
What sort of equipment do you use, and how has that evolved over time?
Each show is different. I think more shows are shooting 4K. Mostly we use Sony 800 Eng cameras. There’s a new 4K version called z450. I hope it becomes the standard! It looks good and is lighter than the popular c300 with a 17-120mm lens. That’s a heavy beast. It wrecked my body, and even though it looks great, it’s not a practical handheld, run-and-gun reality camera. When I started, we used big Betacam tapes. Then DVC Pro tapes. Then Sony discs. Now it’s CF cards or SxS cards. We used to use bigger cams for in-car shots. Now GoPro is standard and looks great!
In Singapore for Top Chef, 2010
According to IMDB, you worked on The Apprentice as a production assistant in 2007. Anything you can share from that experience?
Yes. Trump is a horrible human being. He harassed many of my friends, and when I tell people they should believe me. It’s ridiculous that he’s gotten this far. None of the crew liked him. My NDA expired years ago, so I can say this.
Anything from working on The Jersey Shore we should know?
Every time Snooki got drunk in the first 2 seasons and would “talk to herself”, she was talking to me or another camera op. We just can’t talk back. Pauly D is the nicest guy ever. Jwoww touched my butt once while I was filming and a couple of my clips made The Soup show. I’ve been told I’m also in Snooki’s E True Hollywood Story, but I haven’t seen it.
Filming Jersey Shore, 2010
You worked quite a bit on The Bachelor. Are those people crazy or just crazy in love?
Mainly crazy. And all girls named Ashley look alike.
What are some ridiculous things you’ve witnessed you can share that didn’t make broadcast? What about behind-the-scenes?
Oh man. There’s so much! Usually I’m in bathrooms shooting or in the weirdest places to get a shot. Sometimes there’s a lot of chaos and a lot of impossibilities, but we always make it work. So much happens. Drunk people try to pick fights with me in clubs a lot. I just hit them with my camera. Whoops!
On the set of Sweet Home Alabama, 2011
One of the guys season one of Sweet Home Alabama was a marine vet. He had severe PTSD. We took them skeet shooting. The gunfire triggered something, and he started yelling at me to get the camera off him. But that’s my job. I kept shooting and backing away and asked the producers to step in and stop him before he attacked me. Luckily, they said I could put the camera down and stepped in and tried to calm him down.
That’s picture of me getting the camera off the boat while filming Sweet Home Alabama. We shot s super pretty day on a small island off the coast of Biloxi. We raced a lightning storm back to shore! That was intense.
In April on Real Housewives Of Dallas, we shot on a mountain in Vail. I advanced with my camera assistant on a snowmobile. Things got a little crazy, and we ended up tipping and flipping the snowmobile off a little embankment. We were okay! The camera was okay, too!
What are some of the biggest differences in working in reality television in comparison to scripted programs?
Scripted gets rehearsals. Reality we only get once chance for it. We really have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of us. What’s being said by other cast members. Looking for reactions. Telling the story. If we miss it, it didn’t happen. I think the most talented camera ops work in reality, and I’m super lucky I get to work with most of them. I mean, the Oscar-nominated DP Rachel Morrison started in reality. A few friends of mine worked in the last couple seasons of The Office.
What you transition to a new project, how do you prepare for filming on a new show?
Lots of drugs. Kidding! I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve done every type of show that I can just transition smoothly. You learn quickly what people want and what style they want.
What’s something you wish people knew about reality shows that they likely don’t know?
It’s not scripted!!! That’s my pet peeve. It is produced. Producers throw out talking points, and then there is alcohol, and then we get our story. There is no script!
You’re based out of Dallas. What brought you there, and how does that work with your job? I’d imagine you’d make LA your home given your job, but what do I know?
I moved there with a now ex. And I had some friends there doing Storage Wars and a now canceled show about rich Dallas people. After the break up, I stayed and have made quite the name for myself in Dallas. In LA, I’m a fish in a big pond. But in Dallas I’m a big fish in a tiny pond! I’m one of the first calls! It’s nice, and it’s cheaper to live here! As I’ve gotten older I really want to have a nice work/life balance. I think that’s something I’ve learned from watching people all day every day. It’s important to take time for friends and family and yourself.
If you had to move into a different role other than operating the camera, what would it be?
I think director. I’ve been thinking about that recently. I like calling cameras. I like when it gets crazy, and we always need someone watching that can direct multi-cameras.
What would a reality show featuring camera operators for reality shows look like?
Everyone always talks about this. It would be funny and boring and chaotic. We are a fun bunch of people. It would be like The Office but on drugs. Lots of drugs.
Is the time right for us to remake The Real Cancun?
Yes. It’s always the right time to remake that.
You can check out Carrie’s work on a television near you! You can also follow her on Instagram (@preciouscdu).
I recently saw a Ted Talk entitled “Is The World Getting Better Or Worse?” by Steven Pinker, and he makes the case that things are indeed getting better despite the world still experiencing problems (for example, democracy has recently suffered setbacks in Venezuela, in Russia, in Turkey and is threatened by the rise of authoritarian populism in Eastern Europe and the United States). Here are some stats comparing 1987 to 2017 Pinker references to build his case:
Local H’s Scott Lucas