P.I.’s and Reality T.V.
By Logan Clarke
Executive Producer/Director Eddie Barbini
with private investigators Allen Cardoza,
Logan Clarke and Zora Colakovic

With the influx and popularity of Reality Shows, it seemed only a matter of time until OUR industry would have a show of its own …enter PI …THE REALITY SHOW…aired on the FX Channel Friday at 10:00 PM, Saturday at 5:30 PM, and Sunday at 6:00 PM. Produced by Gavin Palone Productions (The Gilmore Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Panic Room with Jodie Foster, and Hack among others) and directed by Eddie Barbini (Executive Producer of Arrest and Trial and 40 other reality police, FBI, and CIA shows). FX is presently in negotiations for 26 additional episodes.Some of you in CALI may remember my bringing the producers of PI to our mid-term meeting in Long Beach last year. When I first introduced them at the banquet, there were audible groans from the members. I then assured everyone that I would not be involved if I didn’t believe they were trying to produce a quality show that presented the Private Investigator in a good and respectable manor. I have been in this career for 30 years and have built a reputable International Investigation Firm. Being a member of CALI, WIN, WAD, NAIS and presently or have been, an officer in several of these organizations, I am certainly not going to risk my reputation among my peers by assisting in some sham project that would exploit the negative and once again embarrass this great industry. A perfect example of a disgusting image of our industry, shown presently on the FOX Network late at night is the show Cheaters. I don’t know how many of you have seen this piece of ****, but it is the gutter level of the private investigators in our industry; not because they investigate unfaithful spouses or lovers, but because of the way they stalk and humiliate the cheaters and their clients in front of the TV cameras when they are caught in the act! Recently, the host of the show was stabbed as he shoved a microphone in the face of a cheating husband and ridiculed him with lights and cameras rolling. Why any investigator would attach themselves to a show like this is beyond me. Because of shows like Cheaters, someone needs to show the world that the majority of Private Investigators are highly professional and respected individuals.

The FX show PI is a class show. The original pilot and first aired episode were both made while following cases of Clarke International Investigations with myself, Allen Cardoza and the CIT Task Force. The other investigators (episodes) are Joe Mazzilli, New York; Gary Porter, Detroit; Chuck Loesch, Minnesota; Bill Stanton, New York; Jim Burke, Boston; Mike Murrell, Las Vegas; Chuck Stephenson, St. Louis; Pete Trahan, New Orleans; Jose Cabrejos, Hawaii; Terry Pennington, Hawaii and Jimmy Mesis, New Jersey. After viewing the final result on television, I would like to say that I am very proud of the producers and director for staying true to their word and promises. The shows are high caliber and fast paced and the editing is excellent. But, more importantly, the Private Investigator is given his or her due credit and respect, showing a positive portrayal of people who want to help and contribute something worthwhile to our society and showing the audiences a very respectable occupation.

Our agency, as well as the other PI’s featured in this show were very careful to choose the right case that allowed cameras in to it. Everything was discussed with the director before each scene. The PI’s called each other and verified the producer’s credentials. Everything was on the up and up.

If you are called on to participate in one of these PI shows, I would recommend you give it a shot, but there are certain things to make clear with whomever is in charge of the show. Below is a list of some tips on do’s and don’ts I have learned since first allowing the BBC to follow our work for six weeks in 1990 for the five hour mini-series Watching The Detectives.

Always make sure YOU have final say as to what is “ON” the record and what is “OFF” the record in the final product.

Make sure the director signs a simple agreement (similar to a short memo) that “There will NEVER be a camera rolling that you are not aware of”.

If the film company does not get a signed release from EVERYONE that comes in range of the camera, speaking or not, the company must blur the faces of those individuals beyond recognition.

In the field, the camera and “getting the shot” is secondary to the case. YOUR purpose is to solve the case and keep yourself, agents and public safe. If they can film it without interfering with your work, great. If not …tough luck.

Ask to be shown all “voice over” dialog that will be used in the finished product. If they are going to have someone talking about what YOU are doing on camera, you deserve to know what they are saying.
The producers must agree to identify you and your agency within the show. Why should you do it unless you get the free publicity?

You have the option to demand certain agents, such as undercover agents, to be blurred in the final print.
Some clients might let you film their case, but not identify them.

There are also certain clients you should NEVER even ask if you could film their case. You will lose the client just by asking. Corporate clients and law firms would not be good to approach.…you should be compensated. The average is $200.00 to $500.00 per day, depending on whether the show has “sold” or not. In other words, is it a show that’s already airing?

Check out their credentials and caliber of previous shows. Be sure to call the network or studio they claim to be affiliated with!

This type of show on PI’s is going to get produced and aired whether we like it or not. So why not get involved and help make the portrayal a good and positive one. I say this partly because my company is making another one right now for The Learning Channel. If it goes to series I will bring them to some of the various conventions so they meet the best in the industry.

The Learning Channel show will be one hour instead of 30 minutes like PI on the FX Channel. This will give them a chance to show “the process” of the investigation. Demonstrating the challenge of the case and the think-tank process in analyses of the facts. The audience should see the investigation of leads being taken to their ultimate conclusion; and hopefully to a successful resolution. Although, it is sometimes good to show that all cases do not end “happily ever after”. I have enclosed a critic’s review of PI that appeared in the Hollywood Reporter on November 19, 2003.

(FX) 10 p.m. Fridays

In this latest wrinkle on the reality genre (which premiered Oct. 24), real-life private investigators are tailed and heard from as they seek out answers on a single issue – one problem per detective, two stories per quick-cut half-hour show. While 30 minutes isn’t terribly sufficient to track the actual investigative process in all of its tedious and frustrating splendor, “P.I.” is at least an intriguing highlight reel that feels genuine enough. It may not quite be cutting edge, but the edge part is certainly there.

The first episode screened for review finds Minneapolis P.I. Chuck Loesch tailing clues about a missing college student and winds up fingering a pattern in the disappearances of 11 missing young men. A second story takes place in San Pedro, Calif., where the sister of a college kid hires detective Logan Clarke to clear a brother wrongly arrested for a murder in a biker bar. Clarke creates an inventive sting that works even better than he had hoped. Hugs and hope abound. But the first story in Minnesota doesn’t end nearly so happily, upping the show’s believability quotient.

In a later episode, “P.I.” – from exec producer Gavin Polone – tracks a man taking advantage of an old lady in Kansas City and a father hiring a New York investigator named Joe Mazilli to wrest his daughter from the clutches of a drug-dealing dirtbag boyfriend. What’s best about this show is the way it removes the glamour from the profession and leaves the unmistakable impression that being a gumshoe ain’t no piece of cake.

I should stress to all of you how important it is to keep control at all times if you’re being filmed. As I said before… if the crew can “get the shot” and not interfere with your case… great. If not, they back off when things get sticky. One of the episodes now airing was filmed with hidden cameras in a rough Biker Bar. We were working on a homicide and went undercover as stuntmen staging a fight scene for a movie. Our goal was to get the bikers to start telling us “stories” about real fights in that bar and hopefully eventually get to the fight my client was involved in. I wanted to know what really happened in that fight. Well, the “sting” worked great, but not before a real bar fight broke out while we were there as stuntmen. Bottles were smashed to use as weapons and a knife was pulled and put to the throat of my female agent, Zora. Obviously the scene turned very intense and dangerous within seconds. We had no time to concern ourselves with hidden cameras or directors or anything else that wasn’t related to the case and staying alive! And, of course, maintaining our cover. If a microphone or camera lens had fallen out of our clothes, the scene would have turned to bloodshed instantly. Fortunately, we were able to control the situation and diffuse the fight. We all got out and still accomplished our client’s goal. One of the bikers in the bar contacted our “movie company” gag line and asked to meet with us. Thinking he was helping to write a real fight scene for our “movie”, we managed to get a handwritten confession of the murder that my client was wrongly imprisoned for … a good case for reality TV and a good case for a real PI. Had we not set all the ground rules with the production company, it could easily have been a disaster all around.

Rarely will a show contribute money to a case when a client doesn’t have the necessary funds to do a proper investigation. However, I have had it happen, but generally in documentaries. The Australian Film Commission (AFI), The A&E Channel and the BBC have all contributed to cases when we were filming. The type of help you might get is plane tickets, or hotels, rental cars and the like.
Always remember that if you do allow cameras to follow you …what goes on film … stays on film. It’s permanent. It will forever be a part of history, your history. Be aware of what you look like, what you say, what you do. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying become self-conscious or egotistical or phony. I’m simply giving you a tip. Be aware of what you allow to be put on film for the world to see, again and again and again. Re-runs are a fact of television and if you do something stupid or embarrassing … people will have multiple opportunities to witness it.

Editor’s Note:
Logan Clarke is the President and Director of Clarke International Investigations <http://www.LoganClarke.com> with offices in Lake Arrowhead, Hong Kong, Manila and Australia. He was awarded “Investigator of the Year” in Dublin, Ireland in 1997 by the World Investigators Network (WIN). In 1997 Clarke was District Governor of the Inland Empire for the California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) and is presently the United States West Coast Governor for WIN. He has been featured in dozens of television shows and documentaries throughout the world. Numerous books and magazines have highlighted Clarke’s career.