Reality producer extraordinaire JD Roth got his start has on-air talent for a game show called Funhouse. At only twenty years old, he was the youngest game show host in history at the time and even ended up pitching and creating the traveling version of the series that took the show to Six Flags theme parks around the country to allow the same kinds who watched on TV to play live. But don't think the wheels only started turning for Roth then; he was a wheeler and dealer since he was a twelve year-old kid walking through the streets of New York, selling pins for $1 each as he headed to auditions-- many of which he booked. His father finally had to sit him down and explain that he didn't need to be peddling on the street because he was actually banking a lot of money just working on commercials and after school specials as it was. But as Roth put it himself, that's just who he was. His never-ending drive for success is something to be envied. The head of 3 Ball Productions who boasts such hits as Breaking Bonaduce, Beauty & The Geek, and of course The Biggest Loser weighs offers some advise for anyone who wants to have the kind of longevity in this business that he has.
First and foremost, never lose sight of the fact that this is, in fact, a business.
"It's called show business; it's not called show friends, show fun...a lot of people who are creative don't understand the business side and the best asset you have is to know what you're not good at."
At the same time, though, Roth wants to implore that you treat everyone well whether they work for you or with you.
"It's all about family...that's more important to me-- the friendship-- than ratings or numbers, and actually, believe it or not, it translates into ratings. ...Someone's always going to have personal issues in their lives [but] I feel like dealing with those together, as a family, always turns into better TV. And what I mean by that is when you can help somebody who's in need, you relieve the personal pain that they feel that they can't focus when they're there trying to do their job, and help them allow to feel supported. They come in and they work harder than they did before because they care; this place is now a part of them."
His business partner is a prime example of that sense of loyalty and family with which Roth looks to surround himself.
"We got to a point where we said 'We're thirty-two. This is it. If we don't make our move now, we're never going to make it.' He had just gotten offered the head of the Challenges Division of Survivor, a never show now had ever heard of [but] we knew it was going to be huge. I said 'Well go, and when you come back we'll start something.' And he said 'No, I'm not going.' I said 'You're crazy; you've got to pay your rent!' He said 'Something special's going to happen and when it does, I'm going to be standing right there next to you'."
Roth met his business partner at USC, where he was not the typical college kid but where he started his road to success.
"I got out here and I was auditioning; I did not want to be in school. I wanted to go out and be in the real world. These guys in the classes with me were all just trying to figure out how to get in late and get out early, and I was trying to get in early and stay later and get more work. The focus was off. I did not want to go out partying or drinking. I wanted to find the next audition. Always wanting more led to [it]."
Roth had to promise his mother he would finish college the first year he didn't have a show on the air. He was able to keep that promise to her in the late eighties, but he admits it was much more for her than it was for him.
"Everyone always says-- like your parents when you're young-- you have to have a back up plan; what's your back up plan? I think the best back up plan is no back up plan! Then you have no choice but to do it."
If your plan is to create a show, Roth feels the best place to start is by networking, talking to people, and sharing your ideas.
"Give your ideas in the beginning; give them away. But people always say what if I create the next American Idol for you? I promise you: if you create the next American Idol, that will not be your last show!"
But once you're creating, you also need to remember to stay true to yourself and not get caught up in gimmicks, trends, or money.
"It's all about telling the story. If you can tell a story at a barbecue, at night to your kids, or on television, it's all the same...The best shows are the simplest ones...Those are the stories I like to tell. The best shows run toward the story, not away from it.
"Being authentic in who you are, I think, always works. There's no doubt that when I sit back on the couch with my boys to watch Modern Family, I know that's Steve Levitan's family; I'm sure of it. That's where they get the stories from; it's personal. And I think for me, it's personal...[And] I do think that everything in your personal life, if you use that in your professional life, then you can never go wrong because who knows more about what you're going through than you? So if you put that into your creativity, something good will come of it."
So what would Roth like to leave as personal nuggets of wisdom for his family and all of his fans? Well, it's three fold!
"There's one thing in life you can't teach and it's passion.
"Do it one hundred percent or just don't both. You don't have to win every time, but you have to give it your all.
"Tell the world when you do something wrong; I guarantee you won't do it again!"