Great Hollywood Reporter Feature on SallyAnn Salsano, Creator of Jersey Shore

July 18th, 2011

Read it all. Here are a few choice paragraphs:

Brought in by VH1 executive Shelly Tatro when the project was being developed at MTV’s sister network, Salsano had counseled against making it an elimination contest. “One week it was fist-pumping, one week tanning — all kinds of craziness,” she says. The producer was convinced just getting the right cast and following their antics would be entertaining enough.

So she searched the tristate area, boiling contenders down to a final dozen, reduced to eight the day before shooting commenced Aug. 1, 2009. (Deena Cortese, who later replaced Angelina Pivarnick, was in that first group but had to drop out because her grandmother was ill.)

Now Salsano had to confront another problem: There wasn’t a single New Jersey city that would let her shoot, except Seaside Heights. “If it hadn’t been for Seaside Heights,” she marvels, “we wouldn’t have a show.”

But she did, and when filming began, to Salsano’s amazement, she got enough material in five days to fill three episodes. She was convinced what she had was gold; still, would others think the same? Because if they didn’t, her company was doomed.

More, with spoilers, after the jump.

Fascinating how they capture scenes:

It’s 3:03 a.m. in a sweat-stained nightclub in Florence, Italy, and tension is in the air.

The tension has been brewing since early this afternoon — Thursday, June 2 — when Snooki (Nicole Polizzi), a star of MTV’s taboo-busting reality show¬†Jersey Shore, started guzzling booze, anxious about the imminent arrival of her American boyfriend.

She says it with humor, but she’s been trailing this bunch from club to club for hours, waiting for action, and there’s not a whiff of it. She pushes past a half-dozen sleep-starved colleagues and hunches over four portable video monitors, desperate for something to happen.

And suddenly it does.

A young man is on the ground, writhing. Is it Jionni? Has Mike punched him out? Snooki freezes on the small stage where she’s been dancing, her dress inching up to reveal her butt. For an instant, there’s utter confusion before Salsano realizes it’s just a local who has slipped and fallen. She leans back, crushed.

Then, out of the blue, Jionni bolts.

Incensed by Snooki’s antics, he hurtles from the club and into the streets, followed by Snooki, JWoww, Sammi and Deena — all the guidettes — shouting and wailing as four cameramen struggle to keep up, with the Situation and his pals trailing them.

“Run, bitches!” Salsano yells at the crew.

And she’s running, too, lightning-fast in her sneakers, making sure every moment is captured on tape as the cast scatters like billiard balls, one dragging a plastic water bottle that’s been punctured by her heel, until Snooki collapses on the sidewalk in a maelstrom of tears.

“We got it,” Salsano exults. “We got the whole f–in’ thing!”

And, Salsano interviews Sitch every day for an hour! I thought he was just talking to a camera. I wonder if she feeds him lines..

Maintaining a sensation is nearly as difficult as creating one, as becomes apparent when Salsano interviews the Situation — aka “Sitch” — in his daily, hourlong interrogation, a staple of the series.

The day before the club incident, blunt as a Soprano, alternately caressing and cajoling, she demands to know what he’s going to do about Jionni. Beat the crap out of him, Sitch says. Then Salsano subtly steers him away from the plan while planting the notion that his finest quality is telling the truth, even if doing so could cost Snooki her boyfriend.

Plus the cast-members are only allowed one personal call a week.

She’s equally well versed when “Papa Snooks” calls directly on her cell phone — everyone seems to have her number, no matter how vaguely connected to the show. Forbidden to speak to his daughter right now (castmembers are granted only one private call per week), he peppers her with questions — understandable, because it’s been just days since Snooki crashed into that police car and made headlines.

“Yeah, we had a bit of a problem,” Salsano admits of the Jionni matter, gliding over the fact that his daughter is presently a basket case. “She was kinda upset, but she’s getting over it.” Then they tease each other. “I just got her for two years,” she jokes. “You got her for life!”

Salsano may have her for life, too.

Apparently Sitch cried when his father put up that dbag web site!

Money is just one thing they discuss. Sitch huddles to debate whether he should invite certain friends to visit him in Florence, and Salsano cautions against it, worried about bad influences and telling me she remembers how he wept on her shoulder, soaking her clothes with tears, when his dad posted critical videos on a website. That conflict led to litigation that reportedly has since been settled.

A description of the set (with fake windows, which matches my observation of the Jersey Shore house):

I’m momentarily startled by the apartment’s brightness. The place is lit like a soundstage, with fake windows, 28 fixed cameras in the corners of each room and a couple of cameramen ready to follow the cast at a moment’s notice.

Inside the apartment, it’s so easy to forget they’re there. The eerie silence makes one overlook the outside world — which perhaps explains why the cast acts so unguardedly, with the same spontaneity it exhibited in the very first season. Despite one recent web report that some of Jersey’s drama was staged, there’s no evidence of it whatsoever during my time here.

Right now much of the cast is gathered in a large living room, next to a big kitchen that’s littered with debris. Nobody ever seems to clean this place or even put food away; they just leave it out, forgetting there’s a thing called a fridge. With no TV or radio, when they’re not clubbing or at the pizzeria, there’s little to do but eat, drink and have sex in the “smooch room,” whose sheets few of the cast ever bother to change.
Then Sitch shows us the room he shares with Ronnie. (Vinny, Pauly D and Deena are in another bedroom; Snooki, Sammi and JWoww take the third.) To call it a mess would be kind. The bed is unmade; clothes are strewn all over the place. He leads me into the bathroom, where the sink is blocked, nothing has been cleaned and half-eaten food is tucked into corners. Is he going to fix the sink, I ask? He shrugs. “There’s always others I can use.”