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Almost Fifteen Minutes: Shooting “Bang for Your Buck”
The camera crew invades.> View larger image
The camera crew invades. Credit: Jonathan Wingerberg
In June 2008, Contracting Officer Jonathan Wingerberg and Craig Newcomb purchased a row house in Baltimore’s Little Italy that was built in 1809. They knew they would have to do extensive renovations. Wingerberg explained that, “It was livable but in very, very poor condition. It was built before indoor plumbing and electric. The original kitchen would have been outside. When the indoor kitchen was made, it was put in the basement ‘London style.’”

Wingerberg and his partner designed and did all the work themselves for the renovation, which took an entire year. They moved the kitchen from the basement to the first floor, removed a large wall on the first floor, refinished the original floors, removed wallpaper everywhere and then painted, removed a drop ceiling and reconfigured the plumbing in the ceiling to raise the ceiling, exposed the brick on the inside walls, and turned the basement into a game room with a wet bar. All told, they spent $25,000 on the renovation excluding the value of their own labor. In the process, his partner, amazingly enough, finished his MBA.

As the renovation was winding down, Wingerberg saw an advertisement posted by Home and Garden Television (HGTV) looking for recently renovated row houses in Baltimore City. Specifically, HGTV’s 30 minute show “Bang for Your Buck” was looking for three row houses to see who got the most value for the money spent on renovating the great room meaning the living room, kitchen, and dining room area. The episode was to be called “Three Great Rooms with Different Styles in Baltimore.”

They submitted an application with before and after pictures. Several telephone interviews later, they were selected as one of the three featured row houses out of hundreds of applicants. Although Wingerberg and his partner only spent $25,000, which included the entire house not just the great room, the show factored in their labor as an additional $25,000 so that each contestant was deemed to have spent $50,000 on their renovations.

Filming began in early July of 2009 and took two days. According to Wingerberg, “When you’re preparing your house for a professional film crew to come in, you want everything to be spic and span. Plus, we had to finish all those little jobs before they filmed.”

The first day, the producer arrived with a two-member camera crew. Wingerberg and Newcomb were asked to give a verbal tour of their house. Basically, the producer asked leading questions and told them to repeat his question in their answer. “It’s tough to sound eloquent and descriptive when there’s a big light and a camera a foot away from your face,” admits Wingerberg. The producer also instructed them not to look at the camera, but to look instead at the producer standing next to the camera man. They were also asked not to wear black, white, or patterns.

The second day, the producer arrived with a camera crew of about fifteen. He then asked the owners to leave while Taniya Nayak, a nationally known home designer who has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” accompanied by a local real estate agent, were filmed critiquing the layout, function, design, and finishes of their new great room. After about half a day, the producer returned Wingerberg and Newcomb to their house, showed them footage of the critique, and then filmed their reactions.

This process proved to be challenging. “It’s easy to get defensive because they don’t say anything good. They want you to be as reactive as you possibly can to give some attitude. We gave them witty comebacks. We were not rude to them. It was a very fun type of interaction. Luckily they didn’t comment on our dogs,” said Wingerberg. They were also filmed in some lifestyle shots, which Wingerberg explained means “showing how you actually use the space.”

The episode aired Sept. 11, 2009. Wingerberg and Newcomb held a viewing party for about 75 people. They did not even know if they had won and, as it turned out, they had not. Wingerberg said, however, “Everybody at the party thought we should have won but there is no prize anyway, and all contestants received a $100 gift card.” All told, Wingerberg and Newcomb had about 10 minutes of actual airtime given that they were only one of three owners featured in a 30 minute show. When asked if he would do it all again, Wingerberg smiled and said, “Absolutely!”

Additional airings of this episode may be found at: bang. Also, Wingerberg’s blog detailing the renovation process with text and photos is located at:

Elizabeth M. Jarrell