The next reality stars just may be from Pittsburgh, and there’s a contest going on right now to find them.

Ellen Berkman Davis, casting director of Pittsburgh-based One Louder Productions, has her eyes and ears wide open, ready to hear local stories. It may be while in line at the local grocery store or while grabbing a sandwich at a local restaurant. Or she may discover a new talent at one of the upcoming meet and greet opportunities – the next is from 4 to 6 p.m. on June 17 at Franktuary – to find The Next Reality Star: Pittsburgh.

The contest, co-sponsored by One Louder and local entertainment incubator Steeltown Entertainment Project, runs through July 11 when there is an open casting call at WQED from 1 to 7 p.m.

Davis, who hails from Squirrel Hill and is a former casting department manager for reality show staples such as CBS’s Survivor and The Amazing Race, has a pretty good track record for uncovering real life’s hidden treasures.

“Following someone’s life is interesting and sometimes that translates well into a TV show,” Davis says. For example, a person could have an intriguing business that produces a cutting-edge product. Or their entire family could be involved.

It’s been done once before when One Louder and Steeltown partnered in 2012. Their first reality contest produced Farm Queens, with Next Reality Star: Pittsburgh winner Chet Welch. Picked up by the Great American Country Network, the show featured Welch, who simultaneously raises llamas and trains pageant contestants on his farm in Leechburg.

“Until you tell me who you are, I just don’t know,” Davis says.

“We want to be the people that everybody with a reality idea comes to. It’s sort of a way to funnel people to us and hopefully, have a better shot at finding a reality star that we can wrap a show around,” says Bob Kusbit, Pittsburgh native and president of One Louder Productions.

Sounds easy, says Kusbit, a former MTV head of production who oversaw projects such as Spring Break and MADE. But even with the abundance of channels out there, it’s difficult.

“Networks say no, 99 percent of the time,” he says.

The real goal of the contest is to create and produce shows here in Pittsburgh with the abundance of local talent and seasoned technical production types who are settling back in the Burgh.

More than just funding one project like the Next Reality Star contest, local producers also need local investors who understand the economics of what it takes to create, sell and keep a TV show on the air to make it a hit – to invest in an entire local industry and make it work, explains Kusbit.

“The economics of producing a show here in Pittsburgh are much better than producing in the bigger cities, everything from office space to lodging to travel time,” says Kusbit. “Steeltown are the people who realize that there’s got to be a way to get entertainment here in Pittsburgh. They’ve been great in helping us in funding this contest.”

Once One Louder and Steeltown find their winner, One Louder will shoot a five-minute “sizzle reel,” or video used to pitch the show to myriad network execs in Los Angeles and New York. Once sold, the show will be produced jointly in Pittsburgh by Steeltown and One Louder.

“Our goal is to build a bigger company that doesn’t have a base in New York or L.A. and build the industry of entertainment here in Pittsburgh,” says Kusbit.

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.