America is a complex and fascinating place. It often takes someone who is not a native to the US to reflect who we truly are back to us. Lauren Bissett has made her way through our country seeking out some of the most inspiring and frightening tales of its inhabitants. As a producer of documentary programs like Murder in the Heartland and Secret Lives of Americans, Bissett laid the foundation for communicating stories of everyday people who persevered to overcome the most challenging and difficult situations imaginable. Balancing exposing the story and doing so with the utmost respect is a demanding parameter and the reason Bissett was chosen for this position. Although also known for her work on lighter subjects like the Emmy Award Winning series Undercover Boss (CBS) and The People’s Couch(Bravo), this producer from the UK has made a name for herself in the United States with these gripping and dramatic series that highlight the perseverance of the American spirit.
Investigation Discovery Network’s Murder in the Heartland features stand-alone hour-long episodes focusing on the investigation of a homicide case. The stories are told via interviews from victim’s family members, detectives, and townspeople overseen by Bissett and her small crew. Descending on small Midwestern towns with cameras to gain the trust of law enforcement and citizens is no small task in itself. Ensuring that the footage is compelling without being sensationalized is the trait of an exceptional producer. While confirming that the experience was emotional behind the camera as well as in front of it, Lauren reveals, “Being able to connect with people and help them open up and talk about their loved one who was so tragically taken was emotional, yet also gratifying. A lot of people effected by homicides struggle to deal with what has happened and their lives are literally changed forever. On several occasions I had contributors thanking me for allowing them to speak freely and openly about the hardest time of their life. It also felt great knowing that I was helping to keep the memory alive of these victims who were taken too soon and in the most horrific ways. I believe that this is so important to continue. Giving the victims a voice is my ultimate goal.”
Lauren’s career is a series of productions which seek to prove the positive and beneficial possibilities of shows that tread a thin line between reality television and documentary. It often seems as if she aspires to redefine the public and the industry’s definition of this programming. Her work on Secret Lives of Americans gives the opportunity for people who find themselves at a precipice and committed to making public revelations about themselves and their experiences. Each episode displays an individual making a confession to friends, family, and important associates. The exceptional part of the series is not necessarily what it teaches us about these individuals but what it reflects to us about why they feel the need to conceal a part of themselves. Ranging from a mother who has kept her illiteracy secret to a Muslim woman who has hidden her faith due to religious intolerance in a post 911 world, personal interviews are paired with news footage for context in these stories. They exhibit the personal experience of a world that tends to overgeneralize. Bissett considers her work as producer on Secret Lives of Americans to be among the most important she’s ever done. She confirms, “Television genres are always evolving and it’s exciting to be part of this. I think as TV creators we are always looking for new ways to story tell and get the viewers invested. With advances in technology we are able to explore the concept of reality tv further and adapt how we produce it. Having contributors filming themselves for their real-life journey on Secret Lives of Americans was really cool and a new way of receiving content that I’d never been a part of before. I was more used to being in the field with a crew of camera men and audio and filming the reality. This new way of making reality TV was fascinating and enabled the contributors to be in control of their content, making the entire experience feel more real and raw. It’s an exciting time to be working in television.”