My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part II

Hello and welcome to the second part of my chat with Australian ‘Sole Survivor’ Pia Miranda. When we left off last week, Pia and just taken the plunge, agreed to do the show, after discussing it at length with her family.

Now read on…

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SH: So, once the decision was made how hard was it keeping that secret? 

PM: It was hard keeping the secret… especially I went to a theater opening and there were some actors there. And you know actors love to ask each other “what are you doing?”, “what are you up to?” And I said “I’m going away for a while” and so it was “Oh, what are you doing? What are you doing? Is it exciting?” and I was like “Yeah, it is exciting”, but I didn’t want to tell anyone – I wasn’t allowed to – so I just told people I was going to Fiji to film something. 

SH: That’s believable, that’s logical. 

PM: I did tell close friends and family because I knew they could be trusted and I didn’t want them to worry about me. Because you know there’s no email or phone contact out there. I actually directed a few people to Tash, my agent, so she got a bit bombarded with people going “Is she alive? What’s going on?”  

SH: Yes, nowadays we don’t even consider not being in touch with everyone at all times. 

PM: Yeah. Although I must say it was so much easier than I it would be, thanks to the producers. They say “No news is good news”. So, you know if you don’t hear anything from anyone back home, then everyone’s fine. So you kind of don’t miss it at all. 

SH: Right. Obviously if there’s an emergency they’ll let you know. I guess it must boil things down to what matters and doesn’t matter. 

PM: Yes. 

SH: It’s an enforced digital detox. 

PM: Yes, it was a really good digital detox. 

SH: What training did you do beforehand, and what part of your training ended up being most valuable? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part I

Hello! This week, I’m really pleased to bring you the first part of my exclusive interview with the latest winner of Australian Survivor; the marvellous Pia Miranda. Pia’s a brilliant and popular Australian actress, who I had the pleasure of working with on three seasons of Mustangs FC, where we we played proud parents of two of the teenage soccer players on the show….

See? There was a lot to talk about with Pia’s recent ‘Sole Survivor’ experience, so I thought I’d better start at the beginning….

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SH: Pia, thanks so much for talking to me about your Survivor experience for HowToWinGameShows.com!

PM: My pleasure!

SH: Now, you’ve been a fan of the show for many years…. 

PM: Yeah. 

SH: So how did your getting on the show come about? 

PM: So, I did a TV Tonight interview and, as part of it, they asked “what’s your guilty pleasure?” I said “I’m a massive Survivor fan; I’m obsessed with it. I haven’t missed a season since it started”. And then the next question was “if you could be on any TV show, what would it be?” I responded with something quite highbrow,  because I thought that’s what people want to hear. 

SH: What was the highbrow thing? 

PM: I think it was something like The Handmaid’s Tale you know, a worthy drama. I did also wonder if I should’ve put Veep, because I like comedy. But when I wrote my answer and I looked at it, I had this ‘authentic’ New Year’s Weirdness (it was New Year’s Eve), and I just deleted it. I thought ‘actually, if I’m honest, I always talked about being on Survivor.’ Because I was really obsessed with being on Survivor for years. 

SH: Did you ever apply? 

PM: I tried to apply for the American one in my twenties, but you have to be an American citizen. 

SH: Okay.  

PM: So, I just wrote Survivor. I thought it was actually truthful and it’s funny, and maybe not what people expect from an actor. So I sent off all my responses to the interview questions, and didn’t think any more about it, and then I think the story ran on New Year’s Day and then two days later, they emailed me and said “Come play!” and I was like “I didn’t actually mean I wanted to play…” 

SH: “Joking, guys!” So, how did you go from this flippant answer to making the actual decision to dive in? 

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A podcast about ‘Quiz Show’…

Link

Hello!

Another cross-promotional, podcast-related post this week, but this one’s much more relevant to game shows and how to win them.

I promise.

It’s been 25 years since Robert Redford’s brilliant movie Quiz Show came out, and we’re revisiting it today. Quiz Show is a great period drama, based on the real life scandal behind the game show 21 back in the late 1950s. You may remember that I reviewed this movie here last year (my first ever movie review for the site!), but recently, I was invited onto the movie podcast Chatflix to discuss it with host Brose Avard.

Spoiler alert: we both liked the movie.

If you’re interested in the details, you can find the episode right here:

Episode 160 Quiz Show with Stephen Hall

So there it is, available for your listening pleasure right now, if you’re interested.

Now, I did mention at the top of today’s post that it would be much more relevant to winning game shows than the last one was… and it just so happens that there IS one very big tip on winning game shows that’s central to the plot of Quiz Show. But if you haven’t seen the movie yet, this could possibly be considered a spoiler, so I’ll leave a bit of a gap before I reveal it…

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Off on a cross-promotional / self-promotional tangent…

Hello! I’m going off on a bit of a tangent this week, which has nothing to do with game shows, or how to win them.

Sorry about that. Actually, no I’m not. I’m not sorry at all. This is my blog. Mine, do you hear me? So I can do whatever I blummen well like… Right, kids?

And so today I’m just going to remind you about – and give you a quick update on – my B.L.E.* As I think I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve undertaken a fairly daunting task this year – I’m writing my first ever novel, and releasing a new chapter online every Friday, from May 17th, 2019 to May 17th, 2020.

You can find it at http://www.thestephenhall.com/novel-chapters/, or by clicking on the image above.

I’m 21 chapters into it now (of the total of 52), and it’s proving to be one of the most challenging, intimidating, difficult – and yet exhilarating – things I’ve ever done. One of my hopes when I started was that the project would build up a readership, who’d keep checking back each week, subscribe to the blog, get active in the comments section, and even get a bit of story discussion going, as it all unfolded. That hasn’t materialised yet, and that’s partly why I’m plugging it here today. The story is a rollicking, swashbuckling space adventure (PG – rated) that takes place 512 years in the future, on an enormous luxury space cruise ship that’s been boarded by pirates. There are ray gun battles, daring escapes, a mysterious treasure, double crossings, desertions, and all that good adventurey stuff. I’m trying to write the kind of audacious, quick-moving ripping yarn that I enjoy reading myself, for a bit of escapism.

As part of the writing process, I’m also recording a short video diary entry each week, discussing the creation of that week’s chapter. You can find all of the weekly video diary entries on the dedicated YouTube channel (click on the image below)… but I would recommend that you don’t watch an entry until after you’ve read the chapter it’s discussing. (Here be spoilers!)

Anyway, please do consider dropping by and sampling the novel, if it sounds like your cup of tea.

And finally, below is a link to the latest episode of The IndyCast (The World’s #1 Indiana Jones Podcast), where the show’s host Ed Dolista very kindly allowed to me babble on about the B.L.E for a while (starting at the 12:10 mark)…

IndyCast: Episode 285

And that’s it for this week. See you back here next time, when it’ll definitely, definitely, totally and utterly be something about game shows. Promise!

* Bold Literary Experiment.

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part IV

Jon Olb

This week, my chat with game show director Jon Olb draws to a close, as we track his game show related exploits right up to the present day…

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SH: Jon, in the last few years, you’ve directed two game shows that are brand new to our screens – Hard Quiz and The Chase Australia. They’ve both been very successful so far. What are the ingredients that make for a successful game show, in your opinion?

JO: Hard Quiz is a credit to its creators – who would have thought that a host taking the piss out of the contestants would work? (Host) Tom (Gleeson)’s style was showcased on The Weekly With Charlie Pickering, and they, with Tom, developed the show around that. They actually did the very first rudimentary workshop of the idea in my studio. It’s obviously very popular, as is The Chase Australia. (Host) Andrew (O’Keefe) and the Chasers are so knowledgeable and entertaining, and the breadth of questions is impressive. If you look at an episode, you realize the sheer number of questions that they go through on that show. That requires researchers, writers, verifiers, etc. all working with Producers. And it’s not as simple as using questions from overseas – in any Aussie quiz, the questions are localized, so there is a mix of local and international knowledge required. It’s a massive challenge before they even reach the studio.

In my humble opinion, the only necessary ingredient for a successful game show is playability. You need to be able to play along with it at home.

SH: Are there any ‘secrets’ (or even interesting or little-known facts) about how game shows are made – from a director’s perspective – that you’d be happy to share with our visitors?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part III

Jon Olb

Hello and welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with the legendary Australian game show director Jon Olb.

We’re making our way through Jon’s long and illustrious career, and this week, dear reader, we find ourselves in the year 2007…

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SH: 2007’s The ConTest was a short lived Channel 10 show, which I think might have been the last gasp of that trend of deceptive – if not downright mean-spirited – game shows. By then, we’d already had The Weakest Link and Shafted; shows that rewarded their contestants for deceiving and betraying each other. In the interests of full disclosure (and yes I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record), I was involved with this show too. What were your memories of this show?

JO: I quite enjoyed this show for what it was. It was really about entertainment. Many of my memories relate to the technical problems that we had to overcome – it was quite ambitious in some respects. It’s where I first met (host) Osher (then Andrew), who knows so much about the making of television, as well as appearing.

SH: The classic English game show Countdown has clocked up thousands of episodes since it premiered in 1982, and its French antecedent ‘Des Chiffres et des Lettres‘ has had more than 20,000 episodes since it started in 1965! By stark contrast, the Australian version (‘Letters and Numbers‘) lasted just two years; from 2010 – 2011. Jon, why do you think that was? Is it to do with the relative smallness of our population? The format of this particular show? Or perhaps some other factor? I’d be interested to get your take on this.

JO: I should mention that I did work on that show, but only filling in for the incumbent. I loved, and still love, that show, and note that it’s quite popular in repeats. Sure it’s not for everyone – it’s fairly serious and dry subject matter, but it’s very easy to play along with at home and the presenters make it interesting. I think that the UK has really hit on something with a hybrid version, 8 out of 10 Cats – very funny. My opinion is that you could do that show again now and it would find a loyal following. I think that the problem is that it’s niche, and as you say our population is small so the economics don’t work. The other aspect is that it’s evergreen – people don’t remember that they’ve seen it before, so the repeats can seem like new shows, which is, of course, more economical. I think that the local version did very well casting the hosts too.

SH: When 2013 rolled around, you found yourself in the director’s chair for the Seven Network’s Million Dollar Minute, which was touted as an original concept (although it looked an awful lot like a slight tweaking of $ale of the Century to me)… Anyhoo, how did you find that experience? Was there anything markedly different in the way that you approached directing this one, to the way you’d approached directing the previous game shows you’d worked on? Or are the general principles largely the same, from your perspective?

SH: I saw some similarities, but still thought that it was different from $ale. New concepts are always difficult in trying to make sure that everything important can be seen and understood (and sometimes that things can’t be seen, if you don’t want them to be seen!) You work closely with the Producers and Set and Lighting Designers when creating something new. That show was challenging on several levels, but enjoyable. The big vault – the centrepiece of the show – was interesting incorporating the computer. Little things that you don’t think of – like the number of digits – all come in to play. You may want to show figures that are more or less than the display allows, and all those tiny details become important.

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Next week, as we say ‘Bon Voyage’ to Jon Olb-age, I ask him for his Three Top Tips for game show success, and if he has any secrets – or little known nuggets of wisdom – from the Control Room, that he can share with us…

You won’t want to miss that! Next Tuesday, right here! 

 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part II

Jon Olb

Welcome to Part II of my chat with Jon Olb, and when we left off last week, we’d been talking about his first ever game show directing experience, back in 1998, on Battle of the Sexes. Now read on…

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SH: Of course, you kept very busy directing other shows in other genres after that, but the next game show that came your way – in 2002- was QuizMaster. This was a more straightforward quiz hosted by Simon Reeve (who would later go on to host Million Dollar Minute. This show only lasted for one series of four episodes, and seems to have been largely forgotten by most of the world! This is about the only information I could find on it. Has it been forgotten by you as well? If it hasn’t, what were your memories of this one?

JO: It’s most certainly not been forgotten by me! It was actually a precursor to many other shows – perhaps before its time. I thought that it ran for more episodes but perhaps not. It was set “in the round” which created a unique set of issues. Also, it was one of the only formats to utilize then-new technology that allowed the cameras to automatically cut to the contestant when they buzzed in. It was a little too serious, but interesting. I think that it may have been Simon’s first foray into game shows – he is such a genuinely nice man. The writer subsequently replaced a guy named Stephen Hall as a Producer on Deal or No Deal and is now an Executive Producer at the Network.

SH: Aha! Yes of course – Stevie Murray! (More on him in a later post here). Now Jon, you and I were both involved in The Einstein Factor, which premiered on the ABC in 2004. This was a quiz show where members of the public got to show off both their general knowledge and their familiarity with their own ‘special subject’. I’ve already interviewed the show’s host Peter Berner, but I’m curious to hear your recollections of it. Do any of the contestants – or indeed any of their special subjects – stick in your mind? Or when you’re up in the Control Room calling the shots, do you not get much time to relax and pay attention to those aspects?

JO: It’s funny – on game shows you generally do get to play along in the control room. When I used to direct News, I was so busy during the weather report, that I never knew what the forecast was for the next day! Of course the machinations of the game are all secret, but in essence, they all test knowledge. That show was very loosely based on Mastermind with the ‘special subject’, and now there are shows loosely based on that program. Contestants had all sorts of weird and wonderful expert subjects. From memory, they were less adept at the general knowledge aspect. Peter Berner was a good foil for the contestants and the Brains Trust – I think that people often forget that Red Symons was also a regular contributor. The show had a fantastic production team, including Pam Barnes initially, and helped forge the way for many hybrid comedy/quiz programs.

SH: From 2005 to 2006, you directed all 22 episodes of the Australia’s Brainiest franchise (in the interests of full disclosure, I had a passing involvement with this show too). What are your main memories of that show? And were there any contestants who really stood out, in terms of how they approached the game?

JO: This was a special show – one of the first big “celebrity” quiz shows. Full disclosure indeed – you were crowned ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster’, from memory! I met the lovely Sandra Sully on that show. We filmed at the ABC for Channel Ten. It was difficult as it was precise, and there were those hidden cameras (not always flattering) and cameras on scaffolds, which bounced when the operators chased the action. It was a great series, with some really interesting incarnations such as Comedians, Kids and even Big Brother contestants. It challenged your preconceived notions of who would know some things. There were many standouts on that series.

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And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. In next Tuesday’s instalment, Jon and I discuss his directing gigs on two adaptations of English game shows;  Letters and Numbers (an adaptation of Countdown) and The ConTest (an adaptation of PokerFace), and an original Australian format – Million Dollar Minute.

See you here then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part I

Jon Olb

Hello and welcome to the first part of my EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb. Jon has an illustrious TV directing career here in Australia that spans three decades, and a variety of genres – from sketch comedy, to live concerts, to pretty much every aspect of light entertainment, including, of course…. game shows! While he’s an expert at all of the above, directing a game show from the control room requires a very special set of skills…

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SH: Jon, thanks so much for chatting to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com! For our visitors who may not be aware, can you explain the role of a game show director, and exactly what that job entails on a day to day basis?

JO: The Director on a game show is traditionally a more technical role. Virtually all quiz shows have a “format” which must be adhered to. Some game shows (like Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation) will vary substantially according to the content, but it is fairly rare…On most game shows, particularly the ones that are “stripped” daily, it is important that they look and feel the same from one episode to the next. Much like a McDonald’s meal, it will be made with local ingredients and resources, but should feel fundamentally the same anywhere in the world.

On a quiz show, the creative is largely the domain of the Producers. They have a large staff, including question writers, verifiers, researchers and contestant coordinators to control. Then on the day of record, they need to be the most well versed in the rules of the game, the electronic systems, and then ultimately the edit of the program.

So a Director on such a show is more about working with the technical crew to ensure that it’s all seamless and looks and sounds appropriate. Of course, I have my say on other aspects, but I will defer to the Producers. I usually look after the smooth running of the show and listen out for any comments or changes from the Producers or host. On international formats, there is also a responsibility to the originators to make it feel similar. There is often a “show bible” that will detail every aspect, from graphics to sounds to terminology and of course set design. I was responsible for helping adapt The Chase for Australia, and we have kept it as similar to the original as possible, whilst of course, allowing for the production company ITV and the Seven Network to put a local spin on it.

SH: Way back in 1998, you directed your first game show; Battle of the Sexes. The show’s host Ed Phillips has already chatted to me a bit about this show, but what were your memories of it?

SH: I already knew Ed, who is a fantastic and witty host. I was moving to The Adventures of Lano and Woodley and so was involved in the setup and the initial episodes, before handing it over. I had also worked with the Producer Michelle Seers previously. I remember it being a really fun show – it didn’t take itself too seriously and was one of the first to work with celebrity panelists. We filmed at the Ten Studios in Nunawading. Rules are always important, but on a show like this it was more about the comedy and I think that translates to the home audience. It was primarily about fun.

SH: As your first foray into the genre, what lessons did you learn from Battle Of The Sexes about the art of directing game shows?

JO: BOTS was so geared toward the comedy, that once we’d established the format it didn’t really feel so much like a game show. I learned a lot about making shows in general from that production, but others have been probably more informative about the art of game shows.

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… and we’ll hear more about those, when my chat with Jon continues, next week!

Hop to see you here then!

 

 

Next week…. a first!

Just a quick announcement this week about my next exclusive interview.
As I look back over all the interviews I’ve done for this site over the years, I’m surprised to see that I haven’t interviewed a game show director before now…
Well I’m about to put that right. Next week sees the first instalment of my four-part interview with veteran game show director Jon Olb. Jon offers another perspective on the whole game show experience. He’s directed loads of them, for every Australian TV network, and there are many valuable lessons to be learned from what he has to say.
So that’ll be right here, next Tuesday.
And the following Tuesday.
And the one after that.
And also the one after that as well.
See you then!