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Reality TV producer Jonathan Murray speaks at MU about 'mesmerizing' medium

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | 3:56 p.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 11, 2014

COLUMBIA — Hours before a ceremony announcing a new documentary program at the Missouri School of Journalism, Jonathan Murray, who is endowing the program, talked about his experiences in reality television and documentary filmmaking.

Murray, a 1977 graduate of the Journalism School, founded Bunim/Murray Productions and co-created "The Real World," one of the first reality TV shows. Bunim/Murray Productions has produced other popular reality TV shows such as "Road Rules," "Bad Girls Club," "Project Runway" and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."

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"It was mesmerizing watching people interact with one another and capturing it on tape," Murray told a group made up mostly of students at Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Murray said that as reality TV became more popular, it began moving in a direction different from the way he and his colleagues wanted to go.

This led Murray and his company to produce documentaries alongside reality TV shows. Documentaries gave them the ability to open people's minds and bring them into worlds they didn't know, Murray said.

They looked for young filmmakers who had stories and connections to interesting characters, finding stories that people could relate to and feel something about.

"A documentary is a voyage of discovery," Murray said. "You don't know where you're going to end up."

BMP Films, part of Bunim/Murray Productions, has since produced several documentaries, including "Autism: The Musical," "Billionaire" and "Valentine Road."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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