(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Tracy Clemons
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - It's almost impossible to flip through your channels and not come across reality television. It's a growing industry, even in St. Louis.
"I think one of the reasons reality television is so popular right now is because you're seeing characters you can identify with," says Coolfire Originals president Jeff Keane.
Coolfire Originals currently shoots and produces three shows that are on television right now. Two are based in St. Louis: Welcome to Sweetie Pie's on OWN, and MFF (Mom Friends Forever) premiered on Nick Junior this week. And it's currently producing three more that have been sold to networks, and is constantly working on pilots.
"So we've been successful in finding interesting characters here in St. Louis," says Keane.
Coolfire is aiming to hit the 10 shows in a year mark soon. And it has some company: The Reel Women of St. Louis.
"We represent the everyday woman. Women that are trying to start businesses...women that have businesses," says cast member Chastity Lyles
The pilot for the show was shot independently. Creator Larhonda Johnson tells us they're currently pitching it to several networks, and things look promising.
None of the women ever thought they'd be on reality television.
"...But the good thing about is hopefully someone sees something in my life that they see that can help them from my failures and my successes," says Ida Turner.
The burning question was if there will be any fireworks like the other all-female reality shows.
"Everyone has arguments," Turner says.
"It's everyday life," adds Lyles.
And it's every day regular people life that these ladies and Jeff Keane say makes St. Louis a great market.
"If you talk to any of the cable networks right now, they want authentic characters," says Keane.
"I think sometimes St. Louis is overlooked, but definitely there is a position here and a market here for reality TV," Lyles says.
The boom is bringing jobs too. Coolfire's scheduled productions will employ more than 100 people.
And Jeff Keane says expansion is on the horizon.
"Our near term goal would be to have 10 shows in production per year. We're not there yet, but i think we'll get there fairly quickly."
Keane tells me they've had plenty of success finding characters and ideas for reality tv, but one of the challenges is finding people in St. Louis who are qualified to produce it.
"We're looking for story producers, camera operators, video editors. And there are lots of talented people in those areas here in St. Louis, but they've done it primarily on the commercial side," Keane says.
He says there are great opportunities that aren't going away.
"Once we get into next year and we're producing multiple shows, and we're in production almost the entire year long, we could be employing over 100 contract and freelance people."
Including some people who had to move away to chase their dreams.
"We talk to people on a regular basis who were born in St. Louis and have moved out to the west coast or the east coast and have been working in the entertainment industry," Keane says. "Now they have a chance to come back home and still do the thing they love."
And they'll be able to feed their family while doing it.