Monday, October 4, 2010

Burn My Mortgage Offers Hope

The economic news these days is dreary and depressing.
So a series titled Burn My Mortgage conjures up images of irate home buyers literally making bonfires of all their financial bills on their front lawn.
But, relax, it's no that kind of show.
Rather the Toronto-made series offers serious tips on how to pay down your mortgage before old age overtakes you.
The premiere is on Tuesday Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. on the W network.
I learned all about the concept last week when I had lunch with the two personable hosts.
Kelley Keehn is the big name, an Alberta based financial expert who every week takes a couple on a voyage of discover to discover how much money they're tossing away on the frivolities of life.
Her sidekick is Waterloo based broadcaster Chad Bisch who came in after an initial pilot was junked --he tested with Kelly and it was a case of "instant chemistry".
Thei human "guinea pigs" in the first episode are a very nice couple Christine and Roman Sharanewych--we visit with them at their tony suburban home that also includes two sons who are into every type of sports.
The shock comes when they realize they spend $17,000 a year just on sports. The equipment is carted from the gargate to a soccer field and --suprise--many of the items have never been used.
Wait! There's more. They spend $1,000 a month juston take out and restaurant meals --the amount keeps creeping even higher because Christine also has a job and often doesn't have time to cook big dinners.
The housekeeper they employ costs. the landscape gardener costs. The dry cleaning costs.
"In this series we selected people who could afford to save," Keehn explains. "First of all there were ads on the Internet and on W. We didn't want people desperately trying to stave off foreclusure --that's another stories. We were after average families who were not aware the huge amount of monthly pay that went into frivolities.
"And the thing is after the economies they can still have some take out. Just not every other night of the week."
But why would Christine and Roman and the other couples profiled in the 13-episode series be willing to give up their privacy to become reality TV stars?
"I think their time was now,"Keehan guesses. "They knew they had a problem but didn't know where to begin."
When presented with their bills for takeout the couple look stunned.
And when faced with the vast litter of all that unused sports equipment they're equally shocked.
Somehow their expenses crept up and up and nobody really noticed until it was almost too late.
Tht's where energetic Chad Bisch steps in. He takes the couples --now contestants --through some fairly rigorous physical challenges that would enable them to win up to $5,000 that can be used to help pay down their mortgage. In Episode 1 the four family members dash about cutting a field of grass, race through obstacles, hunt for prizes at the bottom of a hundred orders of Chinese takeout --it's a real physical challenge.
"It was fun," Bosch grins. "And I think the families sort of enjoyed it although that was a lot of grass to be cut."
When last seen on camera this family of four are brown bagging their lunches, the boys have stopped hanging out at a private golf course and everybody helps in cooking suppers in the kitchen.
Biggest surprise is the revelation Roman is a financial adviser --he was unprepared for the family's spending spree, no doubt about it.
"In all the families we profiled the kids were surprisingly supportive," says Keehn. "They were willing to make some changes to help parents burn that mortgage down. They though it sucked to be worried about making mortgage patyments at 70."
Keehn says the biggest hurdle was making sure each couple had a different set of problems otherwise the narrative would get repetitive. "Different families experience different kinds of financial setbacks."
Bisch says the three challenges per show are different for each couple, too.
The first episode seen was actually the fourth to be shot --at the last minute the third was pulled because the fourth played stronger.'
"We just got along from the start," Bisch says. "And we got better with each episode. Each was shot in four days so that's a lot of footage to be boiled down to 21 minutes. Sometimes the cameras are still rolling and the couple will be way off in the dustance and unaware we're still shooting. The challenge was to make them feel as comfortable as possible and none had been in front of the camera before."
Favorite location was Mississauga because it's the perfect suburban setting and the series is being sold to U.S. TV, too. But there are other locations throughout southern Ontario. "I mostly got to drive home to Waterloo at night,"Bisch says. "Even the days we were in Richmond Hill."
Made by RTR Media the series boasts excellent references: executive Kit Redmond's series include Instant Beauty Pageant and Income Property.

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