Producer David Berrent ran away from reality shows to join the circus — and it’s starting to pay off.
In 2007, film and TV editor Kevin Bourque invited Berrent to attend his wedding, one that reflected Bourque’s other job … as a ringmaster.
“He’d kept telling me that he and his girlfriend had started a circus, but I’d never seen it,” says Berrent, a veteran TV producer whose credits include “Decade,” which won MTV Networks its first Peabody Award in 1989.
That weekend, under a circus tent in the desert outside San Diego, Berrent witnessed Cirque Berzerk, a sort of underground Cirque du Soleil. “There were all these hot, sexy clowns and I realized, this is how they roll,” says Berrent. “This is not a costume party for them.”
Berrent immediately thought the enterprise would make a great reality show, but the industry thought Cirque Berzerk wasn’t freakish enough — at least, not reality-show freakish.
“They wanted drama and I wanted interesting, cool people doing interesting, cool stuff,” he says. “No one wanted it.”
At that point, Berrent decided the reality show wasn’t the business; the show was the business.
Berrent, now the circus’ CEO and a managing partner, raised seed money that allowed Cirque Berzerk to plant stakes for a summer’s worth of Los Angeles shows. He also quit his regular gig, producing “The Locator” for WEtv. Says Berrent, “I owed more to my investors who trusted me with their money.”
Cirque Berzerk opened June 18 in Los Angeles State Historic Park on the fringes of Chinatown; after 35 shows (and two extensions), it will close Aug. 9. And then the real work will begin.
“Agents are circling us,” Berrent says. “We’ve been approached by producers who are interested in taking the show to New York, Chicago and Seoul. And I’ve been approached by at least a dozen producers who want to make it a reality show.”
He’s not interested.
“Last year, it was an art project,” says Berrent. “This year, it’s a business.”