Kim Bokovoy opened the front door of her vintage bungalow. “Hi, Kim,” said the visitor. “Hi, Tommy. Welcome to Minneapolis,” said Bokovoy.
Last fall, Tom Silva, the familiar gray-haired and mustachioed contractor from the popular “This Old House” series on PBS, made a house call at Bokovoy’s place, where she lives with her husband Derek Jackson, for the spinoff “Ask This Old House.” The show tackles home-improvement questions from viewers who live in various cities.
The TV crew, including producer Heath Racela and cameraman Jay Maurer, filmed Silva as he admired the 1903 home’s leaded-glass windows, crown molding and pristine woodwork. Bokovoy, Silva and the crew spent an entire day at the residence to create a seven-minute segment that will air this week.
After they did the introduction, Silva and Bokovoy headed to an upstairs hallway to inspect the problem she had submitted. Bokovoy showed Silva a gap in the ceiling where her pull-down attic staircase was stored. “The ladder folds up, but it doesn’t close tight,” she said. “And it doesn’t feel that safe to climb.”
Silva climbed up the ladder to inspect the attic staircase structure and came up with a repair plan to share with Bokovoy — and viewers. One of the staircase springs had broken. “It’s being held together by a bungee cord,” said Silva in his distinct Boston accent. The cameraman zoomed in on the bungee. Since the staircase was in poor condition and not worth fixing, “We’re going to give you a new one,” Silva told Bokovoy.
Racela coached Bokovoy for a reaction shot after Silva gave her the good news. “You’re excited — you’re getting a new ladder — awesome,” he said. Bokovoy laughed. “That’s fantastic,” she said.
Throughout the shoot, Bokovoy was a natural on camera — from giving Silva a home tour to trying out the new staircase ladder. “It’s totally an unscripted show,” said Silva. “We ask the homeowners to help and get in on the action.”
Silva disappeared into the attic to saw off the metal hinges holding the old staircase in place. He lowered the staircase down to Bokovoy, who had donned safety glasses. “Watch your fingers,” he said. It took several camera takes before Racela was satisfied with Silva positioning and installing the new staircase. Silva stood at the top of a ladder. “I’ll pull it up,” he said to Bokovoy, who was below him. “And you push it up.”
This how-to segment was a challenging shoot because it had to be done within the tight quarters of an upstairs hallway and inside a small attic opening. “This hallway looked much bigger in photos,” said Racela.
After Bokovoy submitted her question, which was among 300 from the Twin Cities, an associate producer called and asked her to send photos of the attic stairs. “I never thought in a million years they would respond to my question,” she said.
“Ask This Old House” chooses questions designed to help homeowners, as well as providing practical and interesting material for the TV audience, said Racela. The show completes the projects, which range from relocating an old door to child-proofing rooms, at little to no cost for homeowners. “They get to work with professionals and get a nice project done at the end of the day,” he said.
For Bokovoy, it was an inside look at the making of a popular home-improvement show now in its 14th season. “I can’t believe Tom Silva is in my house,” she said during the shoot.
Silva installed the final piece of insulation in the attic opening for an energy-efficient tight seal. “Here’s your brand-new pull-down staircase with two new springs,” he said. “No more bungee cords.”
Bokovoy easily unfolded and then folded up the attic staircase. “That’s music to my ears,” she said.