This is the true story of what happens when they stop being polite and start getting real. That’s what the opening credits to MTV’s “The Real World” says, but it could also be said about the squabble between the production company and local unions. The new season of “The Real World” was scheduled to start taping in three weeks in Old City. The house for the season, which was going to be the renovated Seamen’s Church Institute, is located at the corner of Third and Arch streets. However, the local union workers were not happy with the decision of producers to not use union workers to renovate the house or during the course of the production. Because of it, the unions had been protesting for two weeks outside of the house.
The production company, Bunim/Murray Productions, said from the beginning that they didn’t plan to use union workers. They haven’t used unions on any of the other 14 seasons of the show, including in cities like Boston, New York and Seattle.
Sharon Pinkenson, head of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, was aware that they planned to go non-union. “I recommended that they speak with other producers of nonunion reality television who had worked here,” Pinkenson told the Inquirer because the rules in reality television are sometimes looser.
Part of the reason given for the pullout of the city was because producers said that they didn’t want the cast members to be forced to walk past protesters the entire time that filming ran from April to July.
According to NBC-10, the city of Philadelphia stands to lose $8 million now that the show will not be filming here. But the show was also going to be used as part of the Knowledge Industry Partnership, a college-student retention initiative.
According to Meryl Levitz, the head of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., if MTV cast a group of young people who viewers see as similar it would present Philadelphia as more hip and desirable. “You can’t buy that kind of publicity,” Levitz said.
“The Real World” has been No. 1 in its timeslot for the last seven seasons. The new season, which is still scheduled to premiere in September, according to the Bunim/Murray Web site, was going to have the cast members working for one of Stephen Starr’s restaurants. The Web site did not list a replacement city for the new season.