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…
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.
… and we’ll hear more about those, when my chat with Jon continues, next week!
Hop to see you here then!