Four years ago I featured Erin and Ben’s Craftsman Cottage in Laurel, Mississippi.
Since then they were asked to shoot a pilot for HGTV called “Home Town,” and it premieres January 24th.
Today they’re telling us how they got noticed by the network, the things they learned about taping a show, and what it was like to be mentored by Chip and Joanna Gaines!
Ben & Erin’s “Home Town” Story in Their Words:
You never expect to get an email at 10 pm at night from an HGTV executive that says “I’ve been stalking your Instagram for a long time, and I’m in love with your town, your business, and your love story. I think there’s a show there. Have you ever thought about doing TV?”
Well, no, we definitely hadn’t!
We’ve been involved in downtown revitalization and historic preservation efforts in our town since we finished college at Ole Miss, got married, and moved to my hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, in 2008.
We got her email in July of 2014 when my husband Ben was preparing to leave his 10-year career in student ministry to focus on his woodshop, Scotsman Co., and our company, Lucky Luxe.
Ben presides as our historic old lumber town’s larger-than-life mascot—the Loblolly Lumberjack, and I’m an artist who’s happy to do pro-bono design work for the city with vintage-inspired murals and banners. I’ve had fun sharing our journey on Instagram but certainly never thought the eyes of a network like HGTV might be watching!
They had seen the renovation of our 1925 craftsman (featured right here at Hooked on Houses in 2012!) and the 1910 flatiron loft we use as our work space.
We thought we were just documenting our newlywed life, but they saw the story of young people going home and doing their best to make a difference in their small Southern hometown.
Grateful doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how we feel.
After months of Skype interviews with our production company, then creating a “sizzle” (a 5-minute mini-episode for the network to see and then decide if they like “the talent” enough to order a pilot), we got the phone call that HGTV was ordering one in December 2014. Then things started moving fast.
Pre-production began and in May we started the two-month adventure of filming our pilot, “Home Town,” a show about how you don’t have to leave your small town to make a big difference.
On the show we welcome a new family to town and help them find an old house. I do paintings to show them our design ideas, and then we gather a team of local expert craftsmen, architects and builders and make it their dream home while bringing them into the fold of our quirky, funny neighborhood.
It’s a renovation show on paper, but it’s a show about finding your place in a small town at its heart.
We quickly realized that there’s so much you don’t know as a viewer of a TV show. It takes an army to cover all the bases of filming a major network pilot, and we felt like we were in the absolute best hands from beginning to end with our production company, RTR Media out of Canada, and our crew, who were such pros and artists.
5 Things We Learned About Taping a TV Show:
1. There are a lot of wardrobe restrictions! You can’t wear clothes with thin stripes or small check patterns (because it creates a crazy psychedelic effect on film), words/logos (without permission from the business etc.), or white.
The “no white shirts” issue was the toughest for us during the Mississippi summer when literally the only thing in my closet is white linen and Ben only wears plain white v-neck t-shirts. It’s like his uniform. But they attach tiny little microphones to your body that can show through white, and you look super washed out on TV.
2. The microphones you wear record all. Day. Long.
3. When you talk to the camera about what’s going on, they’re called ‘on the fly’ interviews, or OTFs. We did an OTF after every scene, no matter what.
There is nothing scripted about shows like ours and “Fixer Upper” — they asked us questions and we answered ‘em on the spot. We were very lucky to have such smart producers who know the right way to ask a question to get a halfway interesting response.
4. Real estate day, when you show the homeowners houses, is EXHAUSTING. It’s hard to be really enthusiastic while discussing (and repeating) design ideas for hours on end.
5. Because Ben is 6’6” and I’m 5’5”, I had to stand on a crate called a ‘half apple’ so we would fit in the frame together nicely in every OTF. There’s a formula for who stands on which side, and you never deviate from it.
Meeting Chip & Joanna and the “Fixer Upper” Crew:
We’ve been incredibly lucky to share some of the same great people who created Fixer Upper, and they were gracious enough to connect us with Chip and Jo Gaines and Kelly and Clint Harp. They have been like big brothers and sisters and mentors to guide us along this really weird journey into TV renovation.
It’s like Chip told Ben — this work creates a kind of fraternity that your family and friends can’t understand if they’re not in the middle of it.
Chip and Jo have definitely been a great support system for us “kids,” green in matters of TV and life in general, always calling and texting them with questions.
In February 2015 we took a trip to Waco and spent the weekend with the whole Fixer Upper gang, eating Texas-sized steaks and BBQ, celebrating the wrap of their second season.
We were in Texas again for my birthday in August 2015 after we wrapped our pilot. One day ended with a 2-hour ride around Waco with Chip. We talked a lot about how fortunate we all feel, even though Ben and I are still nobodies with just the hope of helping save our town.
If you love old houses and small towns like we do, tune in to “Home Town” on HGTV Sunday, January 24, at noon EST/11 am Central. We hope it’ll be a catalyst that brings other young families back home to their small towns all over America! -Erin & Ben Napier
Thanks to Erin and Ben for sharing their story with us!
I can’t wait to see the show. In the meantime, you can check out my original post about
their 1925 Craftsman Cottage. Here’s hoping “Home Town” is a hit!
Can’t wait to see this new show!
Marian L says
I am so excited to watch this pilot and hope that it is successful! Erin and Ben seem like such genuine people and we certainly can use more of that in this world! I am now hooked on their blog, instagram and website, thank you, Julia, for sharing them with us!
Good Luck Home Town!
Alie B says
Good luck, Erin and Ben! I’ll be sure to check out your new show! 🙂
Congrats on your work, the TV show and your marriage too!
I do sorta feel a bit sad though when I think of all the peope who do these sorts of things, never post their work on Instagram, Facebook, etc. and never get noticed (even by their own local communities) for all the great work they do.
But having shows like yours will be a great inspiration for those who’ll take those challenges…and run with them even without a TV show. 😉
Claire @A PREPPY PERSPECTIVE says
Hi Julia! Thanks for sharing this great behind-the-scene sneak peek! It seems it was a very fun experience!
Jenna Keane says
Thanks for the support Julia! Jenna Keane, Executive Producer, Home Town
You’re welcome! Best of luck with the show, Jenna. Can’t wait to see it! 🙂
Melody Leckie says
How exciting for this couple and I am looking forward to the new show. Great mention for your wonderful blog!
Thanks for sharing this. I love behind the scenes posts. They’re fun to read.
Best of luck to Ben and Erin! I’ve set their show to record and I can’t wait to see it. It will be nice to have a fresh new show on hgtv that’s not extremely fake and staged.
It’s too bad that HGTV didn’t let Ben and Erin do the craftsmen bungalow redo in Asheville.
Agreed. I’d love to see what they would’ve done with it! 🙂
Amanda - Life at Cloverhill says
I can’t wait to see the pilot! Erin and I become friends after I started following her blog from your post on their house back in 2012 (we even made a stop into Laurel to see them on our honeymoon!)
It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished already and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for these great folks. Best of luck to them on Sunday 🙂
I love it when blogs bring people together like that! 🙂
I also can’t wait to see the pilot! Like Amanda, I’ve become friends with Erin since your original post back in 2012. I was just trying to remember how long it had been! So excited for them!
Ahhhh! My friends! Hugs to you, Nancy! I am so thankful for HoH that connected me with so many of my favorite friends all over the world!
sharon / tpt says
Dang! I gotta new instagram to follow and show to wait for! (And fancy me, I knew about the ‘no white shirts’:))
Debbie V. says
I’m really looking forward to Home Town! The new renovation shows are fabulous. It will be a great diversion from all the snow??????
Looks like a great show! l’ll be watching.
[email protected] Designs says
Oh my gosh Julia…and to think you found them back in 2012…I so loved reading their story. I am so loving the direction of HGTV now. I was complaining that they had too many “real estate” shows…and not enough home decor and shows with a “story” like Fixer Upper and now Home Town. I am so anxious to see the show. Yes, we love to see homes with history get a “second chance” (hmm, that sounds like a title of a show)…but it is also about the story of the people who want to revive a home, a town and their journey of doing just this. Fabulous feature Julia…I hung on to every word!
Nina Soltwedel says
What a delightful beginning to my day…reading about another excellent HGTV show on the horizon. I have great respect for the Gaineses. With them as mentors, I know the new series will be a hit. Welcome, “Home Town”!
Andrea W says
I saw this on another blog also and can’t wait to see it. I think I will have to stay home Sunday morning so that I can catch it! thank you for sharing!!!!
Wondering why Home Town is not airing in Canada also?
Wow! Watching this awesome show and wanted to know more, so I googled it and found out you had already covered the couple AND that I’m watching the premier!! Love it!!
Just watched your new show…Home Town. I loved it. You both did an awesome job!!
Dianna B. says
Just watched your pilot show and I’m hooked! I was so inspired to see all the love and friendliness in Laurel, I kept snuffling in my hankie to see such genuine emotion. Small town values and front porch living are the bedrock of our great nation. Thank you for reminding me what life is all about….
Lisa Ingram says
Loved it!!! Hope it inspires folks to invest in their hometowns like my husband and I did when we bought my Great Grand Parent’s antebellum in Carthage, TN.
Michelle Davis says
I love this new show! ! Erin and Ben are great!
I ran across this show by accident today, it was originally aired last night (Sat. 24th of Jan. 2016) I stopped what I was doing to watch and I LOVED IT! I loved that Erin & Ben are real people, and like Chip & Joanna, are trying to make a difference in their communities! Let’s bring small town USA to the forefront again! Please, please, please we want more!
Carol Turner says
Loved the pilot. Keep the shows coming
SHIRL SMITH says
I ALSO THINK THE SHOW OUT OF NASHVILLE IS TERRIFIC……MASTERS OF FLIP IS EXTRA GOOD..TAKE NOTE PLEASE..
I’m from Mississippi, born in Laurel… and could not wait to watch it. Erin & Ben really made the show so special. Hoping to see more episodes.
I just loved the pilot and hope HGTV carries this show. It’s so refreshing to see another sweet “real” couple and their talents!
Laurel @ Sopo Cottage says
Oh no – I missed the pilot! Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to go back and see if they’ll show it again soon. So cool that you featured them first on your blog!
Hi Laurel! I hope they’ll air it again soon. It was really good, and I loved how the house turned out! 🙂
Darn, I missed the original airing too, but this looks like just the type of show I love. I will be anxiously on the lookout for the re-airing!
Esther George says
Hi Julia, as usual I’m late making a comment I can’t help it once I on your blog I get amongst it, so much too see, my hat off to you! You amaze me… They have just started these shows over here, I love Chipp and Jo everything they do looks like they put their hearts into it, they have inspired me. And to Erin and Ben your home looks so beautiful. Thank you for sharing beauty. Till next time, regards Esther from Sydney. PS because it’s been hot and steamy over here I have become an Ant Slayer…seriously…. Its an invasion of these critters every summer.
I loved the new show Home Town please keep this one going!
Pam McCuan says
We thought the show was great. Kind of too much like Fixer Upper though. My husband loved Ben’s shop, and how he really got involved – not just for the camera. Maybe I’m the only one, but I am so over Chip and Jo. It is way too “syrupy sweet” and fake. But last nights episode was the best. No shiplap and color on the walls!
Sara Jo Floyd says
So excited about this show! My husband and I are both artists trying to bring an 1893 farmhouse back to life in rural KS. The Napiers are an inspiration and encouragement to us! Thank you for sharing this behind the scenes look at their new show. Praying their show is a hit too!
Don Sorensen says
Where did you hide all the black folks? Less than 30% of the people living in Laurel are white, but you would never guess that from the show.
Ronda Johnson says
Loved this show. Ben and Erin are great, you would have thought they have doing this for years. As for Fixer Upper, a show I hate due to Chip acting like an ass all the time. I always turn the television off when it comes on, but I will most definitely be watching this show. TY HGTV for putting a great show on your network. Can’t wait to see next week show.
I loved the pilot show. I’m wondering is anymore being made?? I hope so. I’d loved to live in laurel,ms.
They’re still waiting to hear if they’re going to be picked up for a full series. A lot depends on how well the pilot fares during repeat showings, I believe. Here’s hoping!! 🙂
Saw it late last night and they seem so friendly and approachable, and I like her low-tech drawings with a bit of computer help. So much more realistic. Both houses were really cute and the one they picked turned out great. Unfortunately I missed some of the during because I dozed off because it was on so late! They do seem to respect old houses a whole lot more than most shows, and I hope they get picked up. Laurel looks like a cute town.
However, I am nearly positive that the house the couple picked is a lot older than from 1940. The trim and very high ceilings and vertical window proportions are classic late Victorian, and that died out by 1920 if not earlier. Houses from the 40s tend to be squatter and the windows are less elongated and the trim is typically quite simple. Small town records are often scanty and it may take some research in the state archive and a complete property title search at the courthouse, supplemented by a newspaper search to verify the building date. Real Estate listings are a guesstimate at best. Sylistically, I think between 1900-1910 is closer to the mark.
This new show has so much potential and in my humble opinion, the Gainses could take some mentoring from Erin and Ben! I totally agree with the posters who think that Chip behaves like a clown and the “sweet” family moments are over the top. I prefer to watch after I’ve DVR’d it so I can skip the stupid stuff…only the last 10 minutes is worth watching at all. There’s no denying that Jo has talent, and they should focus more on those strengths and much less on Chip’s antics and “demo day”.
Best of luck to Erin and Ben and I so look forward to more Home Town! Be yourselves…please, please don’t try to emulate the Gaineses (Chip, specifically…Ben is breath of fresh air…a genuine, sincere and humble man who is a talented craftsman). I would describe Erin with the same adjectives and add sweet as well. She is also a very talented artist an designer who needs no help from anyone. Kudos to HGTV for recognizing these two very talented people and giving them the opportunity to create a new show, that while very similar to Fixer Upper, is leaps and bounds above in reality and watch-ability!