The world of a Game show contestant co-ordinator, with Lalitha Selvendra – Part II

Game show contestant co-ordinator extraordinaire Lalitha Selvendra, with the FremantleMedia Gold Award 2014 for Best Program for 'Family Feud'!

Game show contestant co-ordinator extraordinaire Lalitha Selvendra, with the FremantleMedia Gold Award 2014 for Best Program for ‘Family Feud’!

Last week saw Part I of my interview with game show contestant co-ordinator Lalitha Selvendra. Lalitha is a veteran of many game shows, including The Price is Right, The Singing Bee and Family Feud. She’s interviewed countless potential game show contestants over the course of her career. So if YOU’RE a potential game show contestant, and would like a sneak peek behind the other side of the contestant interview desk, then read on…

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SH: Do any examples spring to mind where you knew right away – almost at first sight – that the person was going to be a great contestant?

LS: Too many to narrow down to one. But, if we look at Family Feud, it really is about how a family interacts with each other. Often, we’d see three family members who were really thrilled to be there, and the fourth member who clearly did not want to be there. Sometimes the difficult part was finding four good individuals who, together, make a great team.

SH: And conversely, do any examples come to mind where the would-be contestant made every mistake in the book? And if so, can you talk me through that?

LS: I think more so the people who come along to an audition and admit they’ve never seen the show. Now, for me, this isn’t necessarily an immediate “Bah-bow”, as I like the honesty and we have had people who had just moved back home from overseas etc. However, it certainly does set some alarm bells ringing…

SH: When auditioning or being interviewed for a game show, what are some of the best things a potential contestant can do?

LS: Play along and don’t take it too seriously. Have fun! We know you’re nervous, but nerves aren’t a bad thing. And remember, it’s not the end of the world if you’re not successful in your audition.

SH: When auditioning or being interviewed for a game show, what are some of the worst things a potential contestant can do?

LS: If you come on the show for the wrong reasons, the potential for disappointment is huge if you walk away with nothing. However, if you came on simply to have fun, you’ll have a memorable day no matter what.

SH: I’m guessing you’ve watched a lot of game shows being recorded in your time; do you have any tips or hints on how to win them?

LS: Based on the shows I’ve done, it really is down to luck… and luck can change in the blink of an eye. I think staying positive throughout really helps. If you’re low on points or coming last, the momentum of play could suddenly swing back to you, but you need to be ready for it.

SH: Have you noticed certain things that all the best players do?

LS: They’re prepared. They’ve watched the show, played it at home with their family and friends, played it online. It helps to know the format of the show, even just a little bit. Also, doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about the host.

SH: Which has been your favourite game show to work on?

LS: I can’t pick a favourite child, Stephen! Honestly, I have been so fortunate to have worked with not only some talented and generous hosts but also been a part of shows that have been led by great Executive Producers. I have formed life-long friendships through many of these shows and I am forever grateful for that.

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And what a lovely note to finish on! I’d like to thank Lalitha again so much for her time, and to wish her all the best for whatever show she’s working on next. And, in the future, if you should ever happen to be auditioning for a game show, and see her smiling face on the other side of the desk, be sure to mention www.HowToWinGameShows.com!

Not that it’ll necessarily help your chances – I could use the publicity, that’s all.

Cheers!

The world of a game show contestant co-ordinator, with Lalitha Selvendra – Part I

Game show contestant co-ordinator extraordinaire Lalitha Selvendra, with the FremantleMedia Gold Award 2014 for Best Program for 'Family Feud'!

Game show contestant co-ordinator extraordinaire Lalitha Selvendra, with the FremantleMedia Gold Award 2014 for Best Program for ‘Family Feud’!

Hello! Firstly, apologies for there being no regular Tuesday post here last week, but hey, I did warn you…

We’re now coming into the last couple of weeks of rehearsals for Fawlty Towers Live, and so life is pretty hectic at the moment. I’m living, sleeping eating and breathing Basil Fawlty these days, as Opening Night creeps closer and closer. In fact, here’s an interview I did about it recently.

But I digress.

I have managed to score a new interview for HowToWinGameShows.com, and it’s my first ever interview with a real life game show contestant co-ordinator. Lalitha Selvendra has worked on several game shows over the years, she’s interviewed hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of aspiring game show contestants, so I thought her experience and insights would be just the thing for this site!  So, if you’d love to be a game show contestant, but haven’t yet taken the plunge and applied, then read on….

=========================================================================SH: Lalitha, welcome, and thanks very much for talking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com! Can you take us through your career as a game show contestant coordinator? Which productions have you worked on?

LS: My very first game show was The Price is Right with Larry Emdur. It was such a great production to be a part of, and an even better place to learn. Although it may appear to be a simple game show, the amount of preparation that went into every episode was staggering. It involved a lot of people power and the keys, I think, were communication and passion. Everyone who worked on that show loved working on it and a lot of people still have such fond memories. It was a tight-knit crew, with a wonderful host to boot.

I went from Price onto Bert’s Family Feud; thereby being lucky enough to work alongside TV legend Bert Newton. His professionalism and great sense of humour was great to be around. We had a small team but produced a lot of hours and had a lot of fun doing it.

After this I was Talent Coordinator for two seasons of Celebrity Singing Bee, Again, a really fun show to be a part of and a really generous host in Tim Campbell.

Post-Singing Bee, I worked on a few small pilots and went into kids’ TV before joining the current incarnation of Family Feud as Senior Casting Producer. A massive privilege to be working under television’s very own Pam Barnes as EP and alongside an amazingly talented host in Grant Denyer. Bringing back a beloved format is always dangerous and all the elements needed to work to make it a hit.

SH: How would you define the role of a contestant coordinator?

LS: To define it simply, it’s about finding watchable contestants. If I was at home watching from my lounge room, what kind of contestant would I find entertaining? Would I love them? Would I love to hate them? Would I be barracking for them?

SH: What are you looking for in contestants? What would make the difference between a person getting on the show and not getting on the show?

LS: You get to spend a lot of time with contestants during auditions. So, you can tell if they are genuine or putting on an act. There’s no set list of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ for people getting on a show. But, one thing I would encourage is, definitely do your homework before you go to an audition. Know what the show is about and how it works etc. We also often like to tell auditionees, “just be yourselves but on a really good day”. Be genuine and have fun. For me, if you’re not in it to have fun, then there’s no point.

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And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, as my chat with Lalitha concludes, she reveals more great tips, including the Top Two Things you should never ever do at a game show audition. That’s next Tuesday. Until then, keep calm and Don’t Mention The War…

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… The Conclusion

CDQmvWBUUAABGGF (1)As my far-reaching discussion with Family Feud studio host and warm up man Russell Fletcher draws to a close, we chat about the show’s host Grant Denyer, and (in an effort to give you a bit more detail about the nuts and bolts of record days) the studio audience….

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SH: How many people are in the studio audience?

RF: We can fit 140 to 150. Generally, because it’s really hard to get people to come to daytime records, we have about 70 to 80. Sometimes we will have 197 who have responded, and we’ll only get 70. 

SH: People just don’t show up? 

RF: That’s right, but the nighttime records are full, and it’s fun. It’s pumping and we get lots of new people through and it’s really lovely. Not wanting to have been a warm up guy, I’m now the luckiest man in showbiz in a way, because I’ve still got my job. 

SH: And it is a fun positive gig and it makes people happy. 

RF: And everyone, from Pam (Barnes) down, is just incredible to work with. We are cheeky and mischievous as well and that’s really important, because it can become really repetitious – especially my schtick, which I have to renew. Because I do want to keep the crew entertained as well. But the good thing is there’s lots of opportunities for me to make wisecracks. Occasionally I’ll throw a little gag Grant’s way as well, and he’s really appreciative of that. 

SH: As in, you give him gags to do?

RF: Yes. I would do something physical and he’ll pick up on that and use it, which is really nice and he appreciates it. Grant is amazing. 

SH: He is. He’s a good man. I worked with him on It Takes Two, way back when. and what you see is what you get. He’s just a really down-to-earth, lovely guy. 

RF: And he’s smart. And he’s fast. I couldn’t speak more highly of him.

SH: And he’s such a good fit for this and this is such a good fit for him. 

RF: He loves it and I hope he keeps on loving it. ‘Cause it’s all about him.

SH: It would be very different without him and not as successful, I reckon. 

RF: Yep, yep. (PAUSE) Sure, I’m going to stab him one day and hopefully step into his shoes. 

SH: Mm, mm, mm. But that’s down the track. That’s 3, maybe 4 weeks from now.

RF: (LAUGHING) Right, right. Although some people are nice about what I do on the audition days but he is incredibly well-loved by the Australian public. They are very faithful to him and very nice. His wife is lovely and he is great. 

SH: Very good. Well, thank you very much, Russell Fletcher! 

RF: You are.

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Again, I’d like to thank Russell SO MUCH for giving up his valuable time for our chat. It was really great to get a such an extensive look behind the scenes of this game show juggernaut that continues to win hearts, minds (and ratings!) night after night, on the Ten Network here in Australia. The show’s official site is here, and if you’re interested in becoming a contestant, be sure to keep an eye on the show’s Facebook page, which you can find here.

Survey says “Good Luck!”

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VIII

russell_fletcher

Russell.

This week, in the penultimate instalment of my chat with Russell Fletcher, we discuss the vagaries of ‘Sudden Death’, the often untapped power of the Family Feud audience, and the various versions of Family Feud around the world….

Now read on!

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RF: So we’ve had a couple of visits from Pam Usdan from America – I don’t know if Pam Barnes has talked about her?

SH: No. 

RF: Pam is one of the keepers from the flame from America. So I don’t know her exact role in producing the very first season of Family Feud in America… but I think she lives in New York, and she’s been just wonderful with her tips. She has come out here and she’s been very nice to me and she loves Grant. She travels the world looking after Family Feud. That’s her gig. 

SH: Wow. 

RF: 31 countries it’s in, currently. I asked her in front of the audience the other day, “what’s the most exotic countries?” And she went “Russia and Vietnam”. And it has different names in different countries. Like in England, it’s called Family Fortunes. And watching the American one on YouTube is really good because they get away with absolute murder. 

SH: You mean in terms of the kind of questions? Double entendres and stuff? It’s Steve Harvey, isn’t it?

RF: Yeah, yeah, and he’s so great. So funny. But Grant couldn’t ask those questions because he is a different type. He is a different archetype. Even though I would venture that Grant is now a comedian. I think he’s become really good. He does really funny physical stuff, it’s quick. He’s really trusting his instinct. He has really flourished on the show, I think. So, yes – I’d hate to think what some of the other versions… “If you get questions wrong in Russia, they take you out and shoot you! It’s in the rules…” 

SH: “You signed the waiver…” 

RF: “Tonight on Family Feud Kazakhstan, you could win goat!”

SH: If you are lucky. 

RF: “You could win goat for family!” 

SH: Well thank you very much, Russell! Fantastic answers, and lots of really helpful information, I think, for people interested in having a crack. 

RF: Yes, I think the other thing I would say is that people practice, they play the board games.

SH: Yeah, play along at home and –

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Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VII

Russell Fletcher and 'Family Feud' host Grant Denyer, with the 2016 Logie award for

Russell Fletcher and ‘Family Feud’ host Grant Denyer, with the 2016 TV Week Logie Award for Best Entertainment Program!

This week’s instalment of my chat with Family Feud studio host and audience warm up man Russell Fletcher includes one of the best strategic tips you’re ever likely to get for playing Family Feud. It’s just below, and highlighted in blue bold, as all the best tips on this site always are.

See if you can spot it…

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SH: Any words of advice – or warning – for anyone who’s keen to go on Family Feud?

RF: It is really fun coming in to the studio because you will actually pick up on some of the nuance that we try and coach people about and that’s all about just staying focused and relaxed. And dealing with nerves, maybe possible strategies. Some people are learning the strategy of getting the top answer and it is a slightly difficult question, they will know the question will be difficult so they pass it over to the other side, in the hope to have time to consult. Because the only time you get to consult with the rest of your family and chat about the answers is when the answering contestants are on two strikes. SO you have that little moment to huddle together and brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm… That one! That’s the good one. 

SH: Does that often work or is it just 50/50?

RF: Steals often work. We get very few clean sweeps of questions, very seldom that Grant would be asking a question and they will get all the answers out in one hit. Very seldom.

SH: That would make sense. 

RF: Quite often a team that’s attempting to steal will also fail at stealing. There are always one or two elusive answers that people cannot get from a survey of 100 people; “Name a famous Australian desert”.

SH: The Simpson Desert.

RF: 43 of 100 people put down “Pavlova“.

SH (LAUGHS) Ha! That’s great!

RF: Yah. So some questions we can’t put to air.

SH: But that’s in the writing, not in the spoken.

RF: That’s right. That is in the written answers to the survey.

SH: But if Grant was to ask that question verbally it would be a different answer because he wouldn’t be pronouncing “dessert”, he would say “desert”. 

RF: “Name something that comes in a carton”. 

SH: Milk. 

RF: Yes. SpongeBob Squarepants…. comes in a cartoon.

SH: Oh, for goodness’ sake.

RF: Bugs Bunny.

SH: Really?

RF: Yeah. So the hardest part of the show is writing questions because I am not  a fully skilled question writer like your good self, it is a muscle that you have to adapt and you have to develop techniques for writing questions. What is going to be fun to play with? What is topical? What is going to capture the zeitgeist? It is a really inexact science. Questions that are going to be fun for Grant to ask and fun for the contestants too. Sometimes you’ll get Fast Money questions which are so easy for that family, and sometimes you go “wow, that was a hard set of questions”. And that is a really hard judgement call. I write 500/600 questions per year and that is the hardest thing to do. 

SH: Also to make it answerable enough, and not too hard and not too easy, and not too accessible and not too inaccessible. 

RF: Yes because it’s not a factoid. There are no facts, it’s not trivia. 

SH: It’s not right or wrong, it’s not yes or no. 

RF: People will answer and say the most reasonable things and it won’t be there on the survey.

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… which all just goes to show how much thought, effort and care goes into the questions you see on the show. Family Feud, like all game shows, is very much an “iceberg proposition”; we only see the 10% that’s “above the surface”. So many hours, days – even weeks – of work has already been done by the time the network delivers that half hour of TV content each night. Which I think’s really cool. 

It also goes to show the reading levels of many people auditioning for the show. Is that also cool?

Not so much. 

See you next Tuesday!

 

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VI

 

Russell Fletcher

Russell Fletcher

Hey, I must say it was great to chat to Angela and Andrew on Weekend Sunrise about How To Win Game Shows on Sunday! If you didn’t see our brief interview, you can catch it right here. But now, back to business. And this week, as my chat with Family Feud‘s studio audience host and warm up man Russell Fletcher continues, Russell lifts the curtain on how to find out when the show will next be auditioning, the best mindset to have when playing Family Feud, and what not to say when you’re asked to name a city beginning with D…

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SH: This is the third year now of Family Feud‘s run on Channel Ten – it started in 2014?

RF: That’s right. 

SH: It’s been a big success for the network. Has it been renewed through to the end of the year?

RF: Well, we’re going up to June, but we didn’t start until the second half of 2014 so we haven’t been 2 years yet. I guess something that the wider audience might not know is that when auditions opened in May 2014, eight and a half thousand families applied and basically broke the system. Because there are only 2 or 3 producers that can work with the contestants! Everyone else has got other jobs. So we closed auditions down immediately so people who applied back then… we are still working through that number of families. That is a lot of people; that is eight and half thousand by four. 

RF: I am doing auditions tomorrow night in Melbourne and then we have Adelaide coming up very soon. And we just spent a double header this weekend in Sydney with 40 families per day. So we do meet a lot of people. That may be something that the general public might not know. We are about to finish working through that backlog of people. I think they are going to open up the auditions again too. 

SH: That’s good to know, because I did get a few questions on the Facebook page asking “how do I audition for it?” and saying “I went to the Family Feud website, and it said auditions are currently closed”… Well, now we know why. That’s huge. 

RF: It is always worth maybe emailing Fremantle or maybe having a look at tenplay because we are just about to announce that auditions will be opening. I think that would be really good fun because it almost will be like a different market, like a fresh pool of people come to the show. It is really interesting how many  different school groups, media groups who kept coming along for the records, I find that every school teacher, especially the primary school teachers actually play Family Feud with their classes. They do their own survey questions, they survey the class and they have the top answers because it is a fun way of getting to know how everyone thinks. 

SH: It is a Social Sciences exercise, I guess. 

RF: Yes, in a way. How do people think? We have a bunch of camera rehearsal questions and there is one question in there: “Name a city beginning with the letter D” and the first thing you would say….?

SH: Me? Dunedin

RF: Dunedin’s very good. That is on there.  

SH: Or Darwin

RF: Darwin’s the top answer.

SH: Düsseldorf.

RF: Düsseldorf is not zare, sadly, for za cherman peeple. Düsseldorf peeple, don’t be dizappointed. Out of 100 Australians – and I’m not saying these surveys are like Morgan Research or anything – but out of  100 Australians, “Darwin”, “Dublin”, “Dallas”, “Denver”, the greater city of “Dandenong“… Most of our contestants say Denmark. 

SH: (PAUSE) As a city?

RF: Yyyesss…. and all the camera guys know that I hate that response – because I am an atlas guy – and they go “Ooohh….” (LAUGHS) 

SH: The great city of Denmark. Knowing what you know, if you were a contestant on the show, how would you approach it?

Continue reading

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part V

Russell, with the 'Family Feud' audience

Russell, with the ‘Family Feud’ audience

So, Russell Fletcher (Family Feud studio audience host and warm up man par excellence) is talking us through a typical recording day on the Feud. So far, the contestants have auditioned, gained a place on the show, and made their way in to the studio, all pumped and primed and ready to play the game on national television, for the chance to win big bucks… and maybe even a car! And you can read about all the preceding steps that brought them to this point in my previous posts here, herehere and here.

So now the families have arrived at the studio, and they’re excitedly awaiting their 15 minutes of fame, some more graciously than others…

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SH: The families that are waiting to go on; do they watch the show in the audience, or is there a Green Room?

RF: Yes, there is a Green Room. 

SH: Do they mingle?

RF: Some of them do and some do not. Some of them are real prima donnas and some of them actually turn into real a***holes, which is really interesting. And that’s why we’re pretty fastidious about saying on the audition day “We are looking for people we want to work with”. And some families have been hilarious, sending us emails about their rider; you know, “we need 14 different types of cola, we need three dwarves massaging our feet…”  They are really, really funny. We do get lots of emails thanking us for the experience they’ve had. Because our team is totally professional but also incredibly relaxed and all about saying “:Guys, be playful, have fun, don’t over-think it”. It’s a game, and we are just trying to give everyone a really good experience. Some families are like Eyes-On-The-Prize Only and you go “Dude, it’s not worth it – you might win ten, you might win twenty”. I think our highest money winner has been thirty something, thirty thousand dollars…

SH: And that’s over three nights?

RF: Yeah, so it’s ten grand up for grabs every night. No one’s won more than $34,000. We have given away about, over the journey – and it’s been nearly 2 years now – 7 or 8 cars? Maybe more. I am not sure of the actual number. But it would be good to see a graphic of how many families we’ve auditioned, how many have got through that process and then how many families we have had on the show. I think they are trying to work that out, but keeping those statistics is quite complicated. You can shoot a bunch of episodes in the afternoon and then by the evening record session not know who you had on that afternoon because we meet so many people and some of them are quite unremarkable. And then there are some families who are quite remarkable – like they’re playful, they’re funny, they’re articulate but they are not false. They are just real and they have a good story. I always like meeting the salt-of-the-earth people. They are awesome. That is truly one of the delightful things about it. It’s ten thousand dollars which is a lot of money but it is not heaps of money – Stephen Hall, former game show winner – and how excited people get about getting through the show and then winning ten grand is actually really delightful because they get so excited! And it’s fun and they are grateful and they are thankful. It does actually confirm your belief in human nature. 

SH: That’s nice. 

RF: It is nice. 

SH: What time would a studio day recording finish?

RF: We try and record from 2:30 till about five. But we never get three episodes done in that time. It usually goes up until 5:30 and then we have a meal break and then we have another audience for two episodes in the evening. We hope to finish by 8:30 but generally go closer to 9:00. 

SH:  And the families that are in those final two episodes presumably have been there since 10 that morning?

RF: That is right. So it is a long day and they have to manage their energy. The producers are really good at coaching them and we kind of reinforce that as well a lot. Show business is about managing your energy and your expectations and then just turning up when your time comes. 

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Russell’s point about “managing your energy” here is worth repeating. As has been pointed out in previous interviews by various guests, studio record days are long. Really long. And there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting. Then, all of a sudden, you’re ON, and instantly expected to be performing at peak capacity. It’s a good idea to learn a few little relaxation techniques – even if it’s just sitting quietly somewhere and doing some deep breathing – and to make sure you bring some snacks. Such as muesli bars, or pieces of fruit, so that your blood sugar isn’t going up and down. Bringing a few snacks with you is a small thing, but if you’ve thought of it and your opponent hasn’t, then you will have a very, very slight edge before you’ve even gone on set.

And as we all know, every little bit helps….

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part IV

the-kitchen-sink

Here’s Russell in his pyjamas, pouring some milk onto the floor.                                                    Note: this is not one of his ‘Family Feud’ duties.

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…

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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?

RF: Yes.

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.

SH: And then during that break, the producers make their decisions for each family? So they will either get a call while they’re out at lunch saying “thanks but no thanks” or –

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. 

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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.

Until then!

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part III

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Russell Fletcher

As my chat with Family Feud warm-up person, and studio audience host, Russell Fletcher continues this week, the subject turns to those unexpected moments…

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SH: Do any moments spring to mind where contestants have really surprised you, either for better or for worse?

RF: Having done 470 episodes now, there are lots! People will say things that you don’t expect them to. Like they will make a salacious or rude comment, or a vaguely racist one. And you will just be going “I wasn’t expecting him to say that!” Fortunately it is not live to air and we will say, “Have another go”.

SH: Yes. “Any other thoughts, perhaps?”

RF: For instance, in the very first episode; “Name a yellow fruit”. BZZZ! “Orange?”

And I just go “Umm….” And because we have to have the contestants’ best interests at the core of what we do, we couldn’t put that in the episode. We just couldn’t do it.

SH: It’s a shame…

RF: It would be unconscionable. But what we did do was put it in all the promos for the show! But when it came to the day, it was edited out. And they did quite well. I can remember a really intelligent woman who was a doctor and the question was “Name an African animal you would see at a waterhole”. And “hippo” was up there, and “elephant” was up there, and she couldn’t think of any others and she said “platypus”. And that sort of thing happens all the time because people just don’t connect with the question, or they are having an out-of-body experience; they’re not in the moment, being able to think of different suggestions. The show is a combination of chat and answering questions and really surprising stuff comes out and sometimes it’s really touching, it is really nice. Just last week we had a Filipino family who were reunited after being separated for 33 years. They didn’t know each other existed because of parents’ divorces, etcetera. They had only been reunited three months earlier, they came and auditioned for the show and they got on the show and they’re still getting to know each other. That kind of stuff you just go “Whoa!” And there are people who’ve survived cancer and there’s people who have done amazing things, done stupid things, and they all open up to Grant, because they trust him and he gets them in a weak moment.

SH: But that stuff surely would be pre-screened, wouldn’t it? He’s not hearing this for the first time… 

RF: No. What happens is when they come to the studio, before we start doing anything with them, they are filling out forms; “Name your brush with fame”, “Name something you’re really good at”, “Name something you are embarrassed about”; those kind of questions are on the form and so when they actually make it to the show the writers go through that stuff and then check in with the families who’ve arrived at the studio. And then they go back and check it and then they’ll have a little discussion with Grant and he’ll have it on a card, in little bullet points. That could be about sporting achievements, being able to put their whole fist in their mouths, it could be they’re really good at Irish dancing, they could have met someone incredibly famous… but it was just in a lift. 

SH: But Grant would still get mileage out of even that; the anticlimactic nature of it… 

RF: That’s right. Grant has become so good at taking the piss, in the nicest kind of way. That’s the kind of stuff I find out on the spot, and I love playing with that kind of stuff. 

SH: Where it’s clear that the host isn’t laughing at them, but he is helping them to laugh at themselves.

RF: And sometimes we laugh at them…

SH: But they do too. That’s important. No one’s feelings are hurt. 

RF: The whole thing is about reading people and being able to take it in the direction you think that’s going to work. And that goes for both the audition and the recordings. 

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Next time, Russell reveals more about the mechanics of the record day, and breaks down how the audition process actually works on an audition day. Again, all greatly useful stuff to know, if you’re thinking of auditioning for the show.

Until next Tuesday, then!

 

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part II

Welcome to the second part of my interview with Family Feud studio audience host, and warm up man extraordinaire… Russell Fletcher!

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‘Family Feud’ audition host and warm-up person Russell Fletcher

When we left off last week, we were discussing auditioning for the show, and Russell was telling me about one occasion when 27 families had arrived at the audition, and all 27 of them made the cut! Now read on…

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SH: They were all good?

RF: They were all good! And then I put them through another similar warm up and we did another survey. There are 25 questions on that survey, and that’s how we get the surveys for the show. 

SH: So you’re actually polling the people who are auditioning to be contestants?

RF: Well, we do the “we surveyed 100 people and we got the top eight responses to this question”. That is the core of the game show. 

SH: So you’re getting the responses from the people who are coming in to audition?

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