Dana Mladin
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Undercover producer or how to better lie to get the whole truth…

If I were to write down all that I have lived in television ever since I was 3, there would be some kind of an Encyclopedia Britannica… I mean Mladin-ca J.

There are periods in life that have marked my life, there are shows that have remained in the people’s consciousness and I cannot lie, I am proud of having built them step by step, together with some great people. Well, some are terrible people (just as I am myself), because television is not just glitter or milk and honey.

I could write a lot about the shows of my communist childhood, about Stars’ School, Surprise Surprise or Ciao Darwin, about our pranks shows, about the kids talent show Next Star, the Masks shows or the 15 New Year’s Eve programs I have produced and… so many others! Maybe I should do this one day, but in order to do it I need to take a vacation. A 3 year vacation. J

Until then, I want to write a bit about the obsession of “fabrications”, of “fakes”.


These months, I was an… undercover producer. After so many years of studio shows, I discovered reality-shows!

The show “Undercover boss” was broadcast on ProTV, produced under the hat of Zucchero Media, where I met people I have known for 100 years. Some of them from ever since the Cretaceous Era, I could say J.

I took over the project at a certain point and I had to quickly understand things, to read about it, to watch the shows produced in other countries and to take out the entire arsenal to convince companies to enter the project. But the most difficult thing was for me to lie to simple people, the people we have filmed. You need ability to do that. God, I don’t even want to remember what we told the employees…


“Is this a fake?” – I was asked a lot of times by the people who watched the show. Nooo!!! And I was not the only one from the team who had to answer this question. In a tv market where, yes, there are lots of fabricated shows, some even openly so, anything you do makes people doubt.

But that is not something new. The fear of “fakes” has existed for years!

When we were producing “Surprise, Surprise”, people suspected that the “surprised” people knew why they were in the studio.

During “Ciao, Darwin”, people were sure that we bring actors to play the Time Travel moment.

Even during “Next Star” they said that it is impossible for a child to sing that well live, so it was clear, it was a studio recording…

And the list can go on. The truth is that we, as viewers, have lost confidence in the product we get. But I think we are exaggerating with the conspiracy theory that makes us more concentrated on discovering the “fabrication”, than on enjoying the show – be it a huge studio production, a reality show or a quizz.

During The “Surprise” production, we canceled expensive surprises when we found out that the ones who were our accomplices did not keep their mouths shut. We have “thrown away” farces, when the victims realized what was going on. I fought with my bosses when we refused to take for Next Star children recommended by different people, because they were not at the level of the show and they would have hurt both the show and themselves!

And now, during Undercover Boss, we canceled a shooting (so we lost both money and a part of the show), when we failed to convince a worker that we are not the ones “from the ProTV show”.

As during other shows, we have been lying through our teeth. But not to the viewers, but to the participants! We have been accomplices of the Bosses, but we played a role in front of the employees, to get a 100% authentic product.

The ones who caught the lie were shown on TV. It seemed fair enough to do this. The reality shows have a special trait: it does not always come out as planned…

We have had unpredicted moments, that obliged us to take instant decisions, we have filmed with the mobile phones when things happened far from the place where our cameramen where, we have lost our main characters when, during emergency interventions out of the blue, they ran away from our visual range. And you should have seen us run after them…

“old men’s council” before shooting – the director (George), myself and the scriptwriter (Sorina)

For me, this was a new experience. We had to shoot at 4 in the morning, the second day at 10, then at 7 in the evening, and after that in the morning again. And we had to go places we never knew existed J.

I went from working in a big studio, with a lot of cameras and lights, with a team of tens of people, to field work with a small team that could hide anywhere. But here you could not shoot a double, as I could do in a studio. You could only shoot once and that was it.

We are not preparing for surgery, we are in a sweets factory… I look like a character from a cartoon hihi.

I have played too… I found something in every company, belonging to every boss. This was the best was to really wake up before shooting.

with the protection casket of the BGS owner
“driving” one of the cars belonging to the Alka owner
…suffocating in a real diver helmet, in the Salad Box owner’s office
discovering very old books in the Phoenicia owner library

We have been filming for hour on end. We tormented the company owners… The ones who accepted the challenge and left the luxurious offices and went to work.

We went into the kitchens of the companies – both figuratively and in the real ones…

But, most importantly, I met simple, beautiful people, with interesting stories, people who accepted to do their daily job in front of a camera. And they believed us, without thinking about our production plans.


Sweepers, couriers, maids, cooks, security agents, sellers, stewardesses, pizza delivery men and many others. All real. Authentic. People who, without trying, gave us some lessons. A woman who was sorting garbage, illiterate and without teeth, with health problems and with a mother who was ill at home, gave us the most important lesson of the season! It was said better than any scriptwriter could have written it:

“I took a credit. To repair my teeth, to help my mom and to clean our house. If you don’t give your parents everything you can now, after they die it is all in vain”………

For us as a team, this was a show we had to do to the best of our abilities. And to make it REAL! For the viewers, it was an entertainment program they really liked. And for the bosses, the owners involved, this was a LESSON! The lesson of going down from the ivory tower, of getting rid of all the advisors and all the yes-men and of confronting the real, brutal truth that no study can show as accurate as this.

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