Appearing and acting on television was not something Steve and Andrea Fein had always dreamed of doing.
Their 16-year-old daughter Julia, though, is a different story.
"Julia was a total natural," Andrea says as she talks about her daughter's experience filming for HGTV's "House Hunters".
The Newton family recently finished taping an episode of "House Hunters", a show where homebuyers view and tour three different properties with a Realtor before revealing their final purchase decision.
The Feins' episode will feature the family's search for a vacation home in Falmouth, Mass., a Cape Cod community that was a perfect location for the active family that also includes sons Corey, 21, who studies at Brown University, and Danny, 24, who lives in Cambridge and runs his own business, Litographs.
The process all started earlier this summer when the family began looking at homes with Sotheby's International Realtor Donna Sawyer.
"We were out looking at houses and we were kind of joking around about applying to [House Hunters]," Andrea says.
Julia, a junior at Beaver Country Day, was immediately on board and Andrea was happy to give the show a shot. Steve, Andrea says, "humored us," and despite being a bit camera shy, was along for the ride as well.
Sawyer, who had applied to the show once before, was also on board. She submitted an application to "House Hunters" in June (2012) once the Feins' finalized the sale on their Falmouth vacation home.
If fans of the show are doing a bit of a double take -- yes, it's true. Applicants for the "House Hunters" show must have their selected property purchased before applying to the show, Sawyer says. The Realtor and HGTV then work together to find two similar properties for the house hunters to view during the episode and, with the magic of television, it appears as if the homebuyers make their purchase decision on the show.
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In addition to the initial application, Andrea and Steve also had to create a three-minute audition video that involved showcasing parts of their Newton home and explaining what they were looking for in a vacation property, Andrea says.
A couple of weeks after receiving the application, HGTV called the Fein family to offer them an episode on the show.
Even after the applications, audition and initial acceptance call, the family was not 100 percent sure the show was for them. Andrea says hey had some concerns about the filming schedule and how strict it would be -- and more importantly, whether the family's aspiring actress, Julia, could be in the show or not.
But after a follow-up call and some reassurance from one of show's producers, the family was ready for its close-up.
Over the course of five (separate) days this summer, Andrea, Julia, Steve and Sawyer taped their 22-minute "House Hunters" episode featuring three potential vacation homes in Falmouth. Shooting started in August with a tour of their home in Newton and some of the family's favorite local spots, including L'Aroma Cafe & Bakery and Artitudes.
After finishing the Newton scenes, the Fein family and Sawyer traveled to Falmouth to shoot for three days, with one day spent taping at each property. Scenes were shot multiple times, from every angle, as the family entered and re-entered different rooms in the homes.
"It was particularly interesting for Julia, who got to see how some aspect of how film works," Andrea says.
The Feins, who had a budget of $600,000, looked at a four-bedroom home in Falmouth Heights ($595,000), a three-bedroom home in East Falmouth ($699,000), and four-bedroom home in Maravista, a neighborhood of East Falmouth ($629,000).
According to Sawyer, Andrea wanted something "cute and charming" and a house that didn't involve any extra work. Steve, on the other hand, wanted something bigger that he could potentially renovate or upgrade.
As each day of filming progressed, Andrea and her family got a first-hand look at the detail put in to taping the "House Hunters" episodes. Producer/director Richard Schmidt, of Pie Town Productions (the company that produces "House Hunters"), would remember almost every comment or criticism made as the family entered each part of the house, Andrea says.
Remembering those details, the producer and crew would then go back and interview the family members, finding differences in opinions to create some conflict in the show and the decision process.
"It is entertainment, but they never told us what to say and never put words in our mouth," Andrea says. "They never tried to get us to disagree."
Once the hours of taping were finished in Newton and Falmouth, the Feins waited about a month or so until HGTV was ready to film the final decision and wrap-up scenes in Falmouth.
Although the show typically does not include kids in the final decision scene, HGTV wanted Julia on camera.
"HGTV specifically asked [Julia] to be in the decision interview," Andrea says. "After they saw the tape, they wanted her to do it."
Now that filming has wrapped up, the episode is in California for editing. In two to four months, Sawyer says the episode will be ready to air. Then, it will cycle in "House Hunters" reruns for up to four years.
Although Andrea shares small worries about how the final product will come out, or how she may appear on screen, in the end she says the experience was "really fun". When the episode will air seems to be less of a concern for the Andrea, though, as her excitement has shifted to a new place where the family can enjoy time together.
"We're just so excited about finding a vacation home," Andrea says. "It's a dream."