Filming HGTV’s “Island Life” on Fire Island….the back story

Who doesn’t want to have their business featured on a National TV show?  HGTV had been in contact with me over the past few years asking if I would agree to film a segment of one of their shows.  Years ago, I did a quick segment on NYC “Open House.”  That was fun, but not very substantial. I was eager to do a show which would showcase the west end communities of Fire Island but could not do it without a buyer.

Fire Island Ferries brings visitors to the west end of Fire Island
The Iconic Fire Island Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters

The way the show really works is that the buyers, having already selected and closed on a house, agree to view other houses which may or may not have been part of the selection process when it first took place.

Meet the Sepaniak family.  They are the family featured on the January 1st airing of “Island Life.”    They were first time renters on Fire Island in the summer of 2015.   Meet the Buyers  At my urging they stayed in a four bedroom house on the bay front in Fair Harbor.  Fair Harbor Bay Front Home  The fact is, this family is so much fun they could have stayed in a shack and had a great time.  Instead they picked this terrific summer cottage.

They had such a great time and like many renters, they wanted to get out and see homes which were for sale.  Fire Island was going to be in their future.  We toured homes in Fair Harbor, Dunewood and Saltaire.  Sales inventory is always limited but the Sepaniaks realized that one of the homes we visited was an absolute gem.  Located on the east end of the Village of Saltaire and with spectacular views of Clam Pond Cove, they selected and ultimately purchased their Fire Island home.

Overlooking Clam Pond Cove in Saltaire

We had our buyers, I was enthusiastic…..we were set to go forward with the episode!

First things first….the producers, photographers and assistants needed to be educated about some of the challenges they would face in filming on Fire Island.  They assumed there were hotels.  They assumed there were resources which do not exist.  Anyone familiar with the beach knows that getting things done here can be challenging.  Even though NYC is only 40 miles away, Fire Island is  a world away.

The crew, along with more than 40 cases of photographic and audio equipment as well as personal belongings,  arrived in water taxis.  All the equipment was pushed to the  staging area on hand trucks.  Suitable bikes were found for each member of the crew.  A Fire Island primer was held.

The houses which were going to be showcased were previewed.  We were all given broad guidelines of what to expect over the next days.  Looking back had we known the amount of time and effort which went in to the shoot, I doubt any of us would have agreed.  At the end of day one, we were all sort of in shock at the process.  Everyone knows that reality TV is not real but the extent of it, was a surprise, even to us.

For example, I assumed I would be allowed to behave and speak the way I would naturally while showing houses.  Instead, there was a script.  A script I would never follow!  Fire Island buyers are astute.  They may need information about the unique aspects of Fire Island home ownership, but they do not need to be told that they are looking at a bathroom.

The buyers and their children were troopers throughout the process.  Filming seemed endless and it was hot out.  There were scenes at the beach, a water taxi ride, a ride on our family boat and a scene shot at the Surf’s Out and the Kismet Inn.

“Island Life” is a 30 minute show with 22 minutes of content.  How could it possibly have taken an entire work week to film 22 minutes?  We’ll find out on Sunday night, January 1st when the show airs.  I just hope my hair looks good.

Heading out on a bike ride with Sofi

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