TV producer Molly Schreck hugs a woman helped on the reality-TV series Random 1.
On the show, Schreck travels in an RV helping track down community resources for random people in need.
For Molly Schreck (BSM 2000), practicing random acts of kindness isn't just a nice thing to do. It's also her television career.
She works both in front of the camera and behind the scenes as a producer of RANDOM 1, a reality TV series in which two men drive around the country in an old pickup truck looking for down-on-their-luck strangers to help. Schreck and two other producers appear in supporting roles, following behind in an RV to track down resources needed by the random people they encounter.
Schreck says RANDOM 1, which debuted on the cable channel A&E in November, is both realer and grittier than similarly themed programs like Three Wishes, which carefully screens to find charity recipients with whom audiences can easily sympathize.
"We go into a city cold and walk up to people cold," she says, noting that they help individuals that others might give wide berth to, such as a homeless alcoholic requiring rehabilitation, a street musician with a broken keyboard, an ex-stripper seeking legitimate modeling work, a mentally challenged man wanting his first date, and a 390-pound man needing a paid gym membership.
Unlike other wish-fulfillment shows, RANDOM 1 doesn't give away money. Instead, the team appeals to the higher nature of others, staging impromptu fundraisers, searching out community assistance, and generally asking lots of favors. The show's financial philosophy initially stemmed from not having much money to share. "It stayed that way because we found it to be the best way to do things," Schreck explains. "It shows viewers that you don't need a ton of money to help people, that you could do this tomorrow if you wanted to."
Schreck, who's shortened her surname from Schrecengost for ease of professional use, has found great personal satisfaction from her role on the show, learning how to work past her judgments about people. "It's an amazing experience to help an individual," says the twenty-seven-year-old, whose parents raised her to always leave things better than she found them. "Once you fully immerse yourself in it, you realize that there's no other way to live your life."
Her path to this road show began during college when she took some acting classes, realizing that she could wed her interests in entertainment and business. An internship with a local production company brought her to a major television conference where she met budding filmmaker John Chester. He'd already been fulfilling RANDOM 1's philanthropic mission with buddy Andre Miller, a fitness trainer, for years before any cameras filmed them.
Sold on the idea that their good deeds would make a great film project and be meaningful work, Schreck relocated from Atlanta (her home since age nine) to Baltimore, Maryland, where she first worked with Chester as an associate producer of The Euphoria Project, a documentary about the pursuit of happiness.
They filmed RANDOM 1's ten-episode first season, which concluded January 27, during a five-week trek through six states. Garnering good reviews and ratings, the show has elicited great response from viewers on its website, www.random1.com. "We've gotten hundreds of responses, saying not just, 'I liked the show,' but 'I liked your show; it made me feel differently about the world, and here's what I'm doing about it'," Schreck says.
After the season finale, Schreck won't know for a few months whether A&E is renewing the show. Whatever the outcome, she is confident that the RANDOM 1 concept will live on, and she's committed to remaining a part of it, even though the unpredictable, unstructured nature of the television business is sometimes difficult for a self-confessed creature of habit.
During the show's production break, Schreck is planning to attend a health-food cooking school in New York. "If I can get this background with natural foods, I would have something else to offer RANDOM 1," she says, explaining that many of the people they help appear nutritionally deficient.
Schreck, whose favorite TV programs are cooking shows, says she enjoys the business side of her job much more than the on-camera part. In addition to helping locate resources for the needy, her duties include working with accountants and lawyers, supervising the show's merchandising, and finding inexpensive, often gritty music to complement the hard-luck tales on screen. Her Georgia Tech education was great preparation for all of it, she says. "Tech taught me that you not only have to work hard, you also have to work smart."