|Juanita faithfully cleaned houses to make ends meet during filming.|
Many advocacy groups for entertainers believe that reality stars, adults and children alike, should be treated as SAG members and paid fairly for their work (SAG regulations require that actors make a minimum of $4,800 per week). However some reality show productions do not pay, often because they cannot afford to.
Such was the case for filmmaker David Sutherland, the creator of The Farmer's Wife. His tight budget simply didn't allow him to give the Buschkoetters any payment for their three years of work. He even dipped into his retirement savings to fund the $1.3 million project. (Many donations from around the country however came in once the show aired.)
The result was a virtually untouched, brutally honest story of one family's struggle to make ends meet and save a marriage. The filmmaking was so intimate, the crew even once followed Juanita to a meeting with a particularly stubborn creditor as she negotiated their debt with him, successfully.
There were no "make-over" episodes or luxurious trips or other nonsense. Instead we watched a family fall down, hard, then pick themselves up, brush themselves off and figure out a way to make it on their own. If Sutherland had paid the family, it certainly would have helped them put food on the table. But would the story be as "pure"? Would we still be talking about this film fifteen years later? Probably not.
"It's tough watching it," Juanita was once quoted, "Only because it's really what life was like the last three years, really real."
Indeed, the "realest reality show" ever was not Jon and Kate. It was The Farmer's Wife.