'Catfish's Nev Schulman & Kamie Crawford Talk Going Virtual This Season
MTV’s Catfish is setting off into uncharted waters by going entirely virtual for its upcoming new season. The long-running documentary-type series will see executive producer and host Nev Schulman link up remotely with co-host Kamie Crawford for a deep dive into helping people learn the truth about their mysterious love interests. Since the show normally utilizes digital tools in their catfishing expeditions, Schulman felt the show could make a natural transition leaning into a tech-heavy format.
“While the in-person meetup is an important and meaningful part of the show...these people ultimately want to see the face and hear the voice of the person they are talking to. We decided to do it this way and MTV was excited to give it a try,” he explained. “We did one episode, and it clearly worked. We were all really excited about it. We ironed out a lot of the technical issues, but as soon as we felt like this was something that allowed us to still tell the stories and still help people. We realized what needed to happen.”
And what’s to come is a captivating look into the socially-distanced world we live in today while so many are docked at home. We chatted with Catfish Patient Zero himself, Schulman, and Crawford ahead of the show’s premiere.
How would you describe your working dynamic in this environment?
Kamie Crawford: I think the only real challenge we had adjusting was when our AirPods might get disconnected or something. Luckily, we had done a complete full season together with me as the permanent co host and guest hosting a few episodes prior to that. So I think we have a pretty great understanding and feel for each other now. A good chemistry work-wise. It’s pretty easy. I think it’s easy. Right Nev, you would agree? Right?!
Nev Schulman: I think if this had to happen at some point we were lucky it happened now because we really have the technology with Zoom and screen sharing and screen recording and all these tools that are pretty recent. We employed all of them to allow Kamie and I both to look at the same thing at the same time. It’s kind of nice that Kamie and I can also have side conversations while we’re talking to people. We can have these private texts through iMessage, which is something you can’t do in person. So in a weird way it almost let us connect a bit more than we could traditionally.
A fun aspect of this season is you get a peek into your own home lives. You get to see what you're doing in between working on these investigations.
Kamie: I think it’s nice because you get this inside look at what it’s like for our quarantine. We can all relate. We’re all pretty much doing the same thing right now. People who are fans of the show and fans of television personalities and celebrities. It’s interesting, at least for me, to watch and see that my favs are doing the exact thing as I’m doing, which is pretty much nothing. So that’s nice. It’s a look inside our lives and our homes. It’s a nice element you don’t get during normal times.
You normally travel to where the person you’re helping where there is a bond formed. Was it more challenging for you to gain their trust remotely?
Nev: The one thing that I actually prefer about making these remote episodes is that while I love everyone on our crew. They’re basically my best friends and are like family to me at this point. But there is an undeniable effect having people standing around with cameras and microphones on the situation you are in. So in a weird way while being in someone’s living room and sitting on the couch with them is a more personal experience.
With the lack of cameras and crew around, it almost feels less personal than just sitting on a Zoom because we’re all so used to it now. We’re so comfortable and you see the person from the living room or kitchen and in these normal clothes they would be wearing on a regular day. I feel weirdly we connect quicker and easier with them than having the pressure of them being on camera. I’ve noticed that is something I really liked about doing the shows this way.
How would you sum up or describe what viewers are going to see this season?
Kamie: There is like a roller coaster of different outcomes and emotions and things that happen. We get played by some people. We get happy endings. We get, I guess you would say a fight.It gets very heated between myself and a Catfish. I know people love that. This seems to be my thing on the show. There are so many different elements that are chaotic and crazy and insane. There is also a sweet moment. And we’re still filming, so there is so much more to come. There is definitely this insane amount of intensity and suspense you get from your normal season of Catfish for sure. But even more heightened because everyone is doing the same thing and in the same place and there is a little bit more expectation now for people to actually show up to be who they say they are or not.
How do you think these remote shows are going to impact future seasons?
Nev: We’ve been talking about this a lot. While we have loved making the show the way we’ve been making and know people love watching it that way, we’re always trying to find ways for Catfish to evolve and constantly improve. It will be interesting to see how people respond to this season overwhelmingly either positively or negatively. It might inspire us to reconsider how we make the show.
I certainly know just from an environmental point of things, I appreciate not having to travel in cars. It does lower the show’s carbon footprint, which is something I’m trying to be aware of in all aspects of my life. I think there is a chance things can change. We might go back to doing in-person, but instead of all of us flying to meet them they can come and meet us. Anything could happen. It’s up to the fans of the show and their response of what they like or don't like about it.
Kamie: I would personally love it if we were able to open up internationally. That would be fun because it’s over Zoom anyway. I would really love to see it. Obviously, there are some time differences, so I’m sure the planning stage would be super chaotic. I think it would also be really cool to finally tap into these stories from people overseas that have been reaching out for however long trying to get their questions answered as well.
Nev: That is an incredible idea.
Kamie: Now we have to have a whole meeting. Now we have to get on Zoom to make it happen!
Nev, it’s crazy to think the Catfish movie came out a decade ago. Have you watched the movie recently looking from the lens of someone who is now a dad and husband? Do you have a different perspective now?
Nev: Early on in quarantine my wife, who has seen the documentary once when it first came out, really didn’t remember it. Somehow we ended up sitting down and watching it together. I hadn’t watched it in years. It was such an authentic experience for me. I think my brother Ariel did such an outstanding job capturing it honestly that watching it really feels like a memory. It really feels like I’m replaying the experience.
Obviously now, 10 years later or actually 12 years later actually when you think about it, looking back at myself as a sort of scrawny, long-haired, crazy kid. That might be the nicest way of saying it. Definitely makes me feel good about how far I’ve come and the choices I made and the career I’ve been lucky enough to have since then. It still surprises me. The experience, even watching it now, is hard to believe that’s how it happened and the way it all played out. It’s still pretty insightful.
These days people are relying more on social media and dating apps to meet people. What pearls of wisdom would you give someone so they don’t end up on your show?
Kamie: I would say for me, my group texts are everything during quarantine right now. Maybe if you’re talking to someone you’re wondering if they’re real or not, set up a group chat to get your friends opinions before trying to propose to someone via text that you’ve never met before or spent time with.
Try to get a few other opinions because sometimes when we’re in our own little zone we have our rose colored glasses on. Especially now when people are really yearning for these relationships and connections. That’s all well and good, but you want to make sure you’re doing it in a cautious way so you don’t end up looking at us a few months later on your Zoom screen.
Nev: We call the pictures that Catfishers use the mask. These days you hope that everyone you're talking to is wearing a mask. So I guess I would urge people to really consider how important the relationship is and how much they value their own safety and health because meeting up with people in a post-COVID world is not going to be the same. You really have to trust someone if you’re going to sit with them and get face-to-face.I think it’s good we’re learning to be a little more cautious and careful.
Catfish, Wednesdays, 8/7c, MTV