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Wednesday December 8th

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Q&A with 'Catfish' producer Valerie Hamerling

In 2010, the documentary “Catfish” opened the door to the never-before-seen side of a real-life online relationship. The film details a romance that Nev Schulman had with a woman he met online named Megan. Throughout the course of the film, Schulman discovers that Megan is not who he thought she was. She was actually a woman named Angela who made a fake online profile pretending to be Megan, and used pictures of a model. Despite her deception, they still maintained a strong friendship as a result of the connection they had developed online.

After the film premiered, Nev began receiving requests from people in similar circumstances, and made a show where he and Max Joseph help people investigate and unite with their online loves. The show finished its first season in February, and is in the process of casting season two.

Assistant Arts Editor Josephine Yurcaba spoke with one of the show’s producers, Valerie Hamerling, about the prevalence of online dating and what Nev and Max look for in applications for the show.

Daily Tar Heel: Why do you think the first season was such a huge hit?

Valerie Hamerling: I think love story angles are always going to be a hit. People just like watching “The Bachelor,” and all those shows are generally well received because that’s one of the things we’re looking for in life. People always want to find someone that they care about, and it’s really interesting when you take it online.

After the documentary, people started writing Nev and saying, “The same thing happened to me, I was in an online relationship and I found out that it wasn’t who I thought it was,” or they would say, “Yeah I was in it, and it turned out well.”

So he started realizing this had become part of our culture and if all these people are writing to him and asking him for advice then this could probably be a TV show.

So many people watch the show and identify with it because it’s about people falling in love and it’s something people like to watch because it’s something so many people have experienced.

It’s interesting to see that you’re not alone and also to see how people can connect despite these long distances and form these strong bonds. It’s just more culturally relevant to our social networking technology day and age.

DTH: Usually the person who is being Catfished is the one who reaches out to Nev and Max — or that’s the way it is portrayed in most episodes of the first season, so has it ever been the other way around? Or in the next season are you guys planning to get more of the Catfish to come forward?

VH: Definitely the typical way that somebody gets on the show is the person who has been trying to meet the hard to get person writes in.

But actually, we’ve gotten a ton of applications from people that are on the Catfishing side of the relationship. I think the one thing the show has made people realize is that sometimes someone has a really good reason for being a Catfish, and sometimes the person on the other side of that is a very attractive, very good catch.

But I think what we look for mostly is people who are honest in their applications and people who have a really strong connection with someone. But we are definitely open to getting both sides because behind every Catfish is a hopeful.

So, a lot of times we have actually got people — I swear it has happened — where the Catfish has written in and the hopeful on the other side of that relationship has written in and then we’ll match them up and be like, “Oh my goodness, they are both trying to meet each other.”

It’s definitely happened and we’re open to it because a lot of times they are great people on the other side of this computer screen and they might just have one reason for being afraid to come forward.

We all have different parts of ourselves that we present to different audiences.

DTH: What do Nev and Max look for in applications — is it the longevity of a relationship or is it just honesty in the application?

VH: There isn’t one right answer. Honesty is super important for any show application because we talk to so many people and we start fishing out inconsistencies and we’re really good at it because we have so much experience with it.

Honesty is important to break the ice and to develop trust, but there isn’t one formula that will get Nev and Max’s attention.

Sometimes it’s about the amount of time people have been talking — if they has been talking for several years then that’s important — but short relationships with a lot passion are good for Nev and Max too, because sometimes you don’t have to be talking for several years, sometimes by the time several years have passed people have already met.

So, some of the newer relationships are super strong. It’s about the connection that two people have, if they really believe that Nev and Max can help them, if they are open to eventually meeting that person, if people have interesting personalities or different layers of depth to who they are, or if someone has something really unique about them. But honestly, there is not one right answer.

A lot of times it takes several weeks to figure out if someone is great for the show, because it isn’t so simple. No application goes unread and we call so many of them that we see some potential in that it’s definitely worth applying.

DTH: Are the people who apply primarily younger than 30, or do you get a whole wide range of applicants as far as age?

VH: We get everybody. We read everything — we don’t limit it really. I think the reason that online dating is so prevalent with our generation is the reason that a lot of the people applying are a little bit younger.

There are people now, probably yourself or people you know, who have had the Internet since they were toddlers, and I think that’s why Internet dating is so prevalent because the Internet controls so much of our life — we do everything online.

We look for jobs online, we talk to our friends online — I don’t even know what I would do without my Facebook profile, I keep in touch with so many people that way.

So we do get applicants from every age range, but definitely more from (the college age) range because online is a strong part of their lives.

DTH: When, roughly, do you think the next season will premiere?

VH: I don’t want to answer that just because we don’t know — we’re still rolling admissions right now, so I would say the best thing to do is keep listening to news and check MTV.com.

We’re filming it and casting it as we speak but I don’t have a date yet.

DTH: A lot of girls probably want to know the answer to this question: Is Nev single?

VH: I don’t know actually. It’s not that I don’t want to answer, I just have no idea.

That’s so funny, you could check his Facebook? I’ve just never asked him.

You can apply to be on Catfish by going to this link: www.mtvcatfishcasting.com

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