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Jon Meier is driving to North Carolina for the installation of another custom container home. It's a 1,000-mile drive, and he's trying to get work done on his computer as his cousin drives.
After they arrive, camera crews will follow the unloading of the container from a flat-bed trailer with a huge crane, to finish it out on its new homesite.
Meier and his Backcountry Containers business in Needville are getting regular visits from their Dorsey Pictures camera crews as they film footage for a new reality TV show in which Meier, wife Kristen Meier and his container homes are the stars.
The show doesn't have a name yet, but filming is expected to wrap up in early fall, and its six-episode inaugural season could air late this year or early 2018 on the DIY/HGTV Network.
Already, filming is underway for two episodes and a third will start in July; they are looking for three more buyers to fill in the rest of the lineup. Each episode will follow a different client and home from start to finish.
Followers of home reality TV may remember Backcountry Containers, which creates unique homes out of 20-foot and 40-foot containers, when it was featured on a Season 4 episode of "Tiny House, Big Living" in January.
Want to be on TV?: Dorsey Pictures is still looking for three Backcountry Container clients who want to be featured in episodes of this reality show.
Requirements: You must already have land for the home and financing secured for construction.
Getting picked: They're looking for fun, outgoing couples, families or individuals with sidekicks. You should be interested in versatile and unique home design.
Information: email@example.com or backcountrycontainers.com
An exciting beginning: The phone call that started the Meiers on their journey.
In that episode, Jon Meier created a home for his sister-in-law, Emily Flowers, who fussed over details, wanting a bigger bathroom and closet for her 200 pairs of shoes.
Back then, he produced "tiny homes" ranging from 150 to 275 square feet for $25,000 to $40,000. Since then, requests have poured in for people wanting to use several containers to build a larger home, and costs have gone up, ranging from $60,000 to $120,000.
During filming of that episode and even now on the new show, the entire Flowers family - her parents and four siblings - got in on the action. Kristen Meier, an Alvin ISD physical therapist, does plenty of work with her husband. Her parents, sister and three brothers, Brant, Clark and Rockne, help out and score some camera time for themselves.
"I'm one of five kids, and we all live in the area and have strong personalities. We are very loud and outgoing," Kristen said. "They all help in the build. Jon tries to teach my brothers, who have no construction background at all. It's been fun for all of us."
Jenna Ford, casting producer for Dorsey Pictures, which produces "Tiny House, Big Living," "Living Alaska" and two "Tiny House" spinoffs, "Love Yurts" and now the show on Backcountry Containers' homes, said the full family camaraderie is what she loves most.
Her team knew the Meier-Flowers combination had potential when they were casting for that "Tiny House" episode.
"We liked the interaction, the husband-wife team and the family involvement. They had great personalities, interaction and charisma," Ford said.
Ford explained that the show will be similar to other reality-TV build shows, in which builders meet clients, review wants and needs, then the home is built, and it all finishes with a big reveal.
Filming and construction are done in chunks of time that are slower than Jon Meier's usual schedule, he said. They get work partly done, then wait for crews to film them finishing it off. That process repeats itself a few more times. When it's all done, they've been in and out for six to 10 days of filming before it's edited and packaged.
Post-production work is done in Dorsey's suburban Denver shop before sending it off to HGTV for approval.
The Meiers had several Skype interviews with HGTV, and each customer who might get an episode goes through similar interviews.
Since authenticity is important in the success of reality TV, the Meiers and the Flowers family have to just be themselves when the camera is rolling, he said. The couple joked that they're definitely comfortable in front of the camera, though Jon wouldn't compare himself to Chip Gaines on "Fixer Upper."
"I say exactly what's on my mind when they're filming, and sometimes I see the cameramen laughing behind the cameras. I won't eat a cockroach, though. I wouldn't do that." Gaines ate a bug on a dare during an episode of his show.
Kristen and her mother and sister help with decorating, and they've sometimes been asked to make unusual things, including using a piece of metal found on the side of the road in a coffee table.
Since the family's appearance on "Tiny House, Big Living," life and work have changed for the Meiers.
Interest in their homes has skyrocketed. They have open houses for people to see their homes and ask questions; 50 people showed up for the first one. At their last open house, 170 people showed up, visiting Needville from all over Texas.
Those home models they began with are a thing of the past. Now they're putting 20- and 40-foot containers together. Sometimes two large containers are added onto traditionally built homes. They've even had someone ask if they can turn a container into a swimming pool.
The couple has a newborn, so in the first episode Kristen starts out pregnant and has a baby in her arms by the big reveal.
They are stunned at the fast growth of Backcountry Containers.
"Kristen said it best: 'You don't plan for these kinds of things.' There's no clear, defined route we took to get here. We never applied to be on 'Tiny House, Big Living.' They found us," Jon Meier said. "Some people ask what we did to get a show, and I hardly know. We just did our best on that build, and they liked us.
"As an engineer, I sat at a desk every day, and I never, ever in my wildest dreams would have imagined this would be the case."
Diane Cowen has worked at the Houston Chronicle since 2000 and currently its architecture and home design writer. Prior to working for the Chronicle, she worked at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune and at the Shelbyville (Ind.) News. She is a graduate of Purdue University and is the author of a cookbook, "Sunday Dinners: Food, Family and Faith from our Favorite Pastors."
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