“It fills us with a lot of pride,” declares cameraman extraordinaire Jon “Sarge” Schneider about receiving his fourth Emmy nomination for Best Reality Cinematography for his work on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” For our recent webchat he adds, “We do a lot in two days for an episode. There’s a lot packed in and typically the same crew returns season after season. Nobody wants to leave the show. It’s so much fun to work on and we’ve gotten really tight as a unit amongst the crew ourselves. Then to be allowed to shoot content such as this and to tell stories that we’re able to tell, you know, so many of the stories that we witness in the workroom, we’re blown away by.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a global phenomenon and an Emmy powerhouse, winning Best Competition Program the last four years running (and nominated again this year), with the iconic RuPaul winning the last six consecutive Emmys for Best Reality Host (with a possible seventh next month). The series is up for eight Emmys this year, while its behind-the-scenes offshoot “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked” is up for Best Unstructured Reality Program (which it won last year). Popular spinoff “RuPaul’s Drag Race Allstars,” which brings back fan-favorite queens to battle it out all over again is up for reality series picture editing, and even co-producer and mainstay judge Michelle Visage‘s short form series “RuPaul’s Drag Race Whatcha Packin’ with Michelle Visage” is up for Best Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series.
The concept of the reality TV juggernaut is relatively straightforward: a group of talented drag queens compete in challenges to win over host RuPaul to win a cash “tip” of thousands of “doolahs” (i.e. a big cash prize) along with a crown and the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Each episode of the show features a main challenge, after which the queens perform in a themed runway show, where one is generally declared the winner, while usually two others are announced to be up for elimination. The bottom two must then go head-to-head and lip-sync for their lives, where the winner may “shantay you stay” instead of the dreaded “sashay away.”
Over 16 episodes Season 14, 10-time Emmy winner RuPaul put 14 queens through their paces with comedy roasts, game shows, mini and maxi challenges, musical numbers, soap opera spoofs and lip-sync smackdowns to find “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” In the end, only five queens remained with a chance to snatch the coveted crown, and in the breathtaking climax of the dazzling grand finale episode, it was Willow Pill that triumphed over Angeria Paris VanMichaels, Bosco, Daya Betty and runner-up Lady Camden, as she proved to Mama Ru that she had the right mix of “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.”
Schneider, lovingly referred to as “Sarge” on the show, is a key member of the dynamite camera department, who capture the glitz, glamor, laughs and heartbreak of the werk room, the larger-than-life musical and comedy challenges, the frenetic lip-sync battles and the final judgment of each runway extravaganza. He also made a name for himself in the Season 9 episode ‘Makeovers: Crew Better Work’, when the queens had to make over the members of the crew into their drag sister and he received a sensational makeover from Peppermint, who turned him into his sassy sister Winter Green.
Schneider doesn’t hesitate to keep the spotlight on the contestants as the stars of the show, who he admires and respects for what they bring to the set each day. “They’re superheroes! They have superpowers and it’s incredible what they’re able to do,” Schneider passionately declares about the queens featured on each season of the show. “The talent alone is one thing, but then to witness these stories that they each have, they’re unique individual stories. On some shows as a camera op, it’s ‘here we go, we’re shooting this again, we’re doing this again, oh this person’s getting into a fight again or this person’s doing this again,’ but on this show, we’re constantly amazed by the content that we get and the stories that the queens give us to tell.”
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