This week, as our chat continues, Russell gives us an insight into the mechanics of contestant selection for the show, and a rundown of what those successful families can expect when they turn up to the Family Feud recording session…
SH: Just in terms of the practicalities, for those who do get through the audition and then get called in for the studio record day, you generally record five episodes in a day. So you’ll have how many families there? You’d have a couple of spares, wouldn’t you?
RF: That’s right. We always have standby families who are Melbourne-based families just in case the car goes off and we need two new families for the next episode, not just one. Or someone who hasn’t been able to turn up. Someone’s been crook, a flight has been delayed for our interstate contestants, all those sorts of reasons. These standby families will get a shot at the next recording day.
SH: They get bumped up to the top of the next record?
RF: That’s right. Selecting people and then getting them to turn up on the record days is just a war on logistics. Who is available? Is that exact 4 people available for the record? It seldom happens, but it has happened that they’ll have to get a replacement person because they really want to play but what we told them at the end of the morning sessions in the auditions when we say, “we might not be calling all of you back. So if you haven’t had a phone call by 12:15 you aren’t coming back to play Family Feud and we hope you had a good morning. And thank you and good bye.”
SH: Just on that – you have a morning session and presumably a lunch break?
SH: Do they just hang around?
RF: Yes, they go for a walk. We do it in South Melbourne, they go up to the Shrine, or they go to South Melbourne Market, or go up to Southbank and come back. Generally they just go and have a coffee.
RF: No we won’t call those people who are not coming back. This is show business, Stephen – I don’t know if you know it. Sorry about your audition for that insurance commercial, Stephen…
SH: Well no – that was only just in 2012. I’m still waiting to hear… Any day now…
RF: Can you come in for some counselling? Because I can hear there is a bit of shattering in your voice…
SH: I’ve just got something in my eye, that’s all.
RF: (LAUGHS) It always gets a laugh. You know that showbiz rule; “don’t call us – we’ll call you”. I say that at the start of the day, at the end of the morning session. All throughout the morning session I will say that, because we say goodbye to them after the interviews. I might not see them again. So I do say to people – as they are going out the door and also at the end of the day – that they might get a call on Monday to say “Can you come in next week?” They might get a call in 3 months, they might get a call in 6 months. It’s like we develop a CIA profile on these people.
SH: How do you mean?
RF: Just because they give their photos, what they’re like on the form. It’s a very efficient archiving system of those who are successful and those who are not successful.
SH: So, on the day, during lunchtime, if they don’t get a call by…?
RF: I say 12:15.
SH: If they haven’t heard, you’d say…
RF: Enjoy your life. Thank you. We hope you keep watching. So that’s why I make sure that I am pretty entertaining for the first 15-20 minutes when I work with them and we have fun with those exercises that they do, doing the survey.
SH: So on the day you record 5 episodes. Are they called there really early? Like way earlier than recording begins? Is there a bit of a wait for them?
RF: Oh yes. Some families are called at about 10 AM, and have to make sure they have 5 sets of clothes in case they go all the way. And that they (their clothes) are camera friendly. We’ve got two wardrobe people who help with that. There’s a green room they go into. Standby families are called a little bit later. We do a camera rehearsal at one o’clock and I host that as well. So I just walk them through a quick run-through for each family, where to stand for fast money, etcetera. That’s obviously for all our camera guys and technical people running the game machine. We make sure the buzzers are working and all of that stuff. It is a good little warm up for them to go “Oh, okay, this is what it is going to be like”, before we load an audience in. We coach them to be energetic with it because once the audience is in they will be shouting out “Pass” or “Play” in certain stages as well. So that is fun. I host, camera rehearsals and we just muck around and make sure it is as relaxed as possible and they don’t have to remember too much.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, we discuss Good Contestants versus Bad Contestants, managing energy levels and the time-frame of the actual record day. And I’ll try to include a picture of Russell where he’s not ruining the carpet.