The Road to Reality
by Dianne Burnett
Get ready to laugh. Get ready to cry. Get ready for a whirlwind of an adventure. Settle in for a powerful, poignant story of inner strength and courage-and get a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the making of Survivor, the world's most popular reality show.
Spinning their mutual love of exotic adventure into gold, Dianne Burnett and her former husband, TV producer Mark Burnett, co-created Eco-Challenge, an expedition-length racing event televised on Discovery Channel that catapulted them into the arena of reality TV and set the stage for Survivor-a modern-day Robinson Crusoe with a million-dollar prize. But Dianne and Mark's fairytale marriage did not survive their Hollywood success . . . she found herself left behind, her contributions unrecognized. She lost her partner in life and began to lose her identity. In that experience, she found an opportunity to grow.
A fascinating, fast-paced, heart-warming "page-turner," The Road to Reality takes readers on a roller-coaster ride-complete with a zesty romance, as well as the ups and downs of going for your dreams-while it imparts the lessons learned as Dianne discovers what really matters in life is something beyond fortune and fame.
Dianne Burnett: What I learned writing The Road to Reality
I couldn’t be quiet anymore. That would have been the polite thing to do; zipping it was the societally-preferred course of action. Just smile and take it. For years I did just that.
We do, after all, have two wonderful sons. I didn’t want them to feel torn in what was happening between me and my husband, Mark Burnett. I smiled at dinner parties, showing up with guy friends, explaining my husband was “on location” with Survivor or attending another awards dinner in New York. I explained to the boys that Daddy had a new clubhouse where they could play and where he could work.
The impact of an absent husband no longer living at home, however, sent my world into new orbit. I went from “Does not compute” to the realization I had to find my own path again. The one I’d been on before I met Mark—who, like me, came from a modest background, but who took me gallivanting around the world--the handsome Brit with whom I had a synergy and shared a belief that we were unstoppable. And we were.
We had no background in doing what we were doing, no fancy degrees, no connections. We had nothing but sheer will, and the willingness to research, put together proposals and run through our pitches again and again. But we did it—first with Eco-Challenge, the world’s premiere endurance-adventure race. And then with the idea for a TV show, that was a modern-day Robin Crusoe story. I gave the name to the program that would catapult reality TV into new directions. “Survivor.” And my handsome hubby finessed the concept, developed it, and pitched it.
Nobody bit. Ever single network gave it a red light. But Mark kept honing his pitches and I kept coaching him and encouraging him—“Honey, I know it will fly!”
And it did.
But winning at the lottery machine of life destroyed our marriage. Nobody preps you for success, for the way your credit cards suddenly don’t have limits, and you cause a sensation walking into a room. We went from “aspiring” to “golden” in six months time. And after another year, the union that had defined me for over a decade was seriously unraveling.
The truth is I didn’t know my marriage was effectively over until radio host Howard Stern announced it to the 18-34 male listening demographic. As calls came flooding in from friends asking if Mark and I were divorcing I took it calmly, still believing we’d get back together, that our trial separation wasn’t permanent. But then, as another year, then another went by, with Mark and I both dating other people, I understood that I had to get back on my own road. I didn’t want to be defined by my relationships any more. I wanted to have my own life again.
It wasn’t easy. At first, I felt like Chevy Chase in Vacation, caught on the roundabout, trying to forge my own way, trying to find my road again. I could see where I wanted to be but I wasn’t yet there. Writing this book proved to be the ideal exit.
I began writing it when I realized that I couldn’t get to where I was going until I understood where I’d been. So I went back and traveled my past, back to Commack, Long Island and the talent shows we put on at the swimming pools, back when I dreamed of entering showbiz. I relived my life discovering a tale of making one own way, with a love story at the heart, and a lot of adventure in between.
I understood finally that it wasn’t the destination that mattered, it’s the journey. And as I wrote the last words of The Road to Reality on a balmy, palm-breezy evening in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, I turned off the computer, walked into the night and felt like at last I’d found my road again.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Dianne Burnett is an author, producer, and actor of stage and screen. She is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur. Dianne and her ex-husband, Mark Burnett, joined their creative forces to invent Eco-Challenge, the impetus for Survivor, which kickstarted America’s reality-television show craze and went on to become the longest-running and most lucrative reality TV series of all time.
Following the success of Survivor, Dianne produced and acted in the stage play Beyond Therapy at the Santa Monica Playhouse, served as Executive Producer of the indie film Jam (which won Best Narrative Feature at the Santa Fe Film Festival), and acted in Everybody Loves Raymond. In memory of her mother, Joan, who lost her battle with esophageal cancer in 2010, Dianne formed Joan Valentine—A Foundation for Natural Cures, a nonprofit organization that serves as a resource for those seeking alternatives to traditional medicine.
She also recently launched a multimedia platform and social network: called theotherside.com, it explores alternative views on everything from relationships to health. Formerly of New York, Dianne now lives in Malibu, California, with her family.
What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?
Every year my kids do something sweet for me on Mother’s Day.
How would you spend ten thousand bucks?
A beautiful piece of art work.
Where do you get your best ideas?
Traveling and meeting people.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
What does your main character do that makes him/her special.
The main character is me.
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