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Producer Peter Cunningham talks working with top talent on UK hit 'The Only Way Is Essex'
Peter Cunningham has been fascinated by the world of film and television from a young age. When he was a child, his parents took him to Los Angeles, and seeing Hollywood was like a dream come true for the Australian native. He remembers seeing the studios and the cameras and nothing had ever excited him more. He knew that one day he too would be working behind the camera, and as he grew, his interests turned from the fantasy world of film to real people in real life situations. Watching and examining became his new fascination, and he realized that with reality television being at peak popularity, it was the perfect way to combine both his passions.

Now, Cunningham is an industry-leading senior producer, recognized for his tremendous contributions to the world of reality television in his home of Australia. He has entertained millions with his work behind-the-scenes on hit shows like The Biggest Loser AustraliaBig Brother: AustraliaAustralian SurvivorMarried At First Sight Australia, and even more.

"I always wanted to do something with my life that excited and challenged me. TV has always been that for me ? it's something I love and am interested in, but it's also something that scared me when I was younger. I didn't think a kid like me could make it in the big bad world of entertainment. As I grew up, I realised that's exactly the reason why I should go for it. I took a risk by putting myself out there, and it's paid off," he said.

It isn't just Australia that Cunningham has impressed the masses. His work on The Only Way Is Essex captivated Britain. Part soap opera, part reality show, The Only Way Is Essex follows the lives, loves and scandals of a group of real-life Essex guys and girls. Cameras capture the happenings at all kinds of locations including nail bars, nightclubs, and salons.

"I loved that I was in a different country gaining international experience, working on one of the most talked about and popular shows in the UK. I loved that I was working with these high-profile people who lived such interesting lives. This project for me was a huge lesson in producing talent. I learned how to deal with people who were faced with conflict. I learned the importance of balancing drama and comedy. The team behind the scenes were incredibly impressive. The show had a culture of its own and it was a magnificent experience to be a part of it," said Cunningham.

Having previously worked with the production company, Lime Pictures, on the United Kingdom's version of Jersey Shore called Geordie Shore and greatly impressed, Cunningham was asked to come on board for the hit The Only Way Is Essex during the show's twelfth season as a Talent Producer where he worked all the way through Season 16.  

The role involved building a very close personal and professional relationship with the 20-25 cast members of the show. Cunningham was on set with the cast every day, preparing them for scenes and debriefing with them during and after the scenes were shot. It was his responsibility to retrieve information from them and feed that back to the editorial team, who would then make a plan for the next day of shooting. He consistently built a strong relationship with the high-profile talent, and they trusted him to tell their story correctly. Cast members included James "Arg" Argent, Gemma Collins, Chloe Sims, Lauren Pope, Vas Morgan, Ferne McCann, Danielle Armstrong, Lydia Bright, Jake Hall, and Tommy Mallet, just to name a few, all of which are iconic celebrities in the UK. Without that trust Cunningham had with the cast, the show would not have been as entertaining or successful as the storylines would not have been as true and authentic. 

"The fast turnaround of this show meant that whatever we had shot would air on screens across the UK just days later. When we were shooting the season, we were getting real-time audience reactions. As the storylines unfolded, the audience was in on it with the cast essentially at the same time. It added a dynamic to the show that was really unique, and it made it exciting," said Cunningham. "It's very similar to a soap opera, just with real people. I had never done anything like that before and working on this show was a masterclass in storytelling."

The Only Way is Essex continues to be a success and is currently on its 24th season, an extraordinary achievement for any television series. Cunningham is proud to have played such a major role during those five seasons, and to have been a part of the show's continued story.

"To play such an important role in the lives of the cast members as well as for the production as a whole for such a significant amount of time is something I am really proud of. Seeing how this show has progressed and continues to build an incredibly loyal audience is very impressive," he said.

Cunningham is now back in Australia still working on hit shows, and will soon be making his way across the pond to produce Live From LA With Dean McCarthy. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

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