Saturday, 19 November 2011

Becoming a contestant

Friday's analysis will have to wait, as the SBS website is accidentally showing next Monday's episode instead; hopefully they will get that sorted out soon!  This is a reasonable time to talk about why the next week's episodes will be difficult to score sensibly: I was at the filming of them.  In fact, I'll make an appearance on next Friday's episode, as I was not just an audience member but also a contestant.  I'm going to omit most of the details as I don't wish to spoil any unaired episodes, but hopefully there will be some small points of interest in the following.

Earlier this year, inspired by an online friend who has taken some steps outside her comfort zone, I decided that I would audition for the show.  I was busy with some project at work at the time, but once that was finished I filled out and sent in the contestant registration form (available from the show's website here).  I had no idea how long it would take to hear back from them, so I went about things and almost-forgot about it.  It was a pleasant surprised when some time later I got the email inviting me to an audition at the SBS studios in Artarmon.

(As I understand it, originally auditions were only held in Melbourne.  Recently they branched out to Sydney, and I think that they have held one in Brisbane.  The locations that they will hold auditions at is information that I hope they will provide on their website eventually, as it is key for some potential contestants.  Similarly for filming locations, as audience members would want to know this; it's currently all in Melbourne but I understand there is a possibility of a Sydney filming at some point.)

I won't go into the audition process, but I don't think it will give anything away to say that it does involve playing several rounds of the game (but not against anyone).  I arrived somewhat early, and got to meet a few of the other hopefuls, and have several pleasant chats.  Ryan Sutton from episode 316 was one of those I met there, and we got on fairly well; Toby Baldwin from episode 330 was another.

Another reasonably obvious thing is that they will want to know things about you, so that they can assess your potential to be interesting on TV.  It's worth thinking about a few things in advance (as I did, although I'm not sure that they were that interesting).

All in all, the audition was a fairly enjoyable process, with time to socialise with like-minded others there, and a chance to play the game in what feels like more realistic circumstances.  If you think you'd like to participate, then I'd certainly encourage you to give it a go.  The results aren't final; if you don't get a callback then you can keep practicing at home and audition again another time.

I knew that I'd done very well on the technical part of the audition; not quite as well as possible, but definitely well above average.  So I was very pleased, but honestly not completely surprised, when sometime later I got contacted to arrange my appearance on the show.

The filming took place in the ABC studios in Elsternwick, Melbourne; apparently it's the same studio that is used for Spicks & Specks (although not any longer, alas).  Getting there early again allowed time to chat with the other contestants of the day; with a week's worth of episodes filmed in a day, there's a minimum of six contestants needed.  If there's the possibility of a retiring champion (as there was this time, with Daniel Chua returning after two victories) then a standby seventh may be required.

The day's contestants were a lovely bunch, and Daniel in particular did a great job of putting us at ease and making us feel welcome.  That allowed people to get over any nerves and just focus on having a good time.

Since I was going to make my appearance on the last show of the day, I spent most of it in the audience (or the green room).  So did the other contestants, of course, except when in make-up or competing.  There's a wonderful energy on the set, and most of the crew play along with the game also -- pens and small pads of paper are distributed to audience members -- calling out suggestions for words to David during the filming breaks, and trying to good-naturedly one-up each other.

Just being in the audience was a very enjoyable day, and it's thoroughly recommended to anyone who has the time and is in the vicinity.  They sometimes have school visits in the mid-morning sessions, but otherwise there are plenty of seats available and enthusiastic clappers are always welcome.

I won't say much about the process of the game itself -- best experienced in person -- but I will note that David and Lily are both just as good as they are portrayed.  There's no computers or extra time thinking involved, they come up with their answers in the same thirty seconds as the contestants.  (OK, there's a tiny amount of extra time while Richard asks the contestants what they have, but that's not quality thinking time.  The real advantage that Lily and David have over contestants -- aside from their ability, of course -- is not needing to write answers down.  But I digress.)

What I do want to say again is that it was a very pleasant time, even aside from getting a chance to play.  It was good to meet Richard, David, and Lily, of course, but also all of the other members of the crew.  Most of my interactions were with those who I think of as the contestant wranglers: Gillian, Rochelle, and Josie; then there were Maureen, Monica, and Sue in make-up, Nee in wardrobe, Voula and Emma on the show floor, Brose who kept the audience entertained, Steve from security, and I'm sure I've overlooked others that I met for which I apologise.  A very friendly bunch all, and I want to thank them for making the experience a good one for me, and I'm sure for the other contestants also.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff,

I heartily concur with all that you have said re the process, and also to mention the great hospitatlity that is showered upon all ie food and drink throughout the really is a very friendly family atmosphere, with egos all in check. In my specific shoot, it started badly with me getting virtually no sleep the night before and the cabbie taking us to ABC Southbank and not Elsternwick, so were late tired and stressed before we even started, but it all turned out well in the end, largely due to the welcoming nature of all involved. Loved it! Wish I could do it again. Wonder if they would consider a Senior's Master Series (over 50's)I would be there in a heartbeat. Great work Geoff. Love your entries in the blog

Cheers, Roman