EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part VI – The Conclusion

Martin Flood as ‘the MASTER’, in his big red chair.

 

This week, I wind up my chat with Martin Flood, regarding his tenure as ‘the MASTER’, on the Australian quiz show of the same name. As always, if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show, I’ve put an episode of it up over at the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page. It’s split into two parts, which can be found here and here

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SH: What fame or notoriety did the show give you? And how long did it
last?

MF: While the MASTER was airing, people came up and said hello when they
recognised me, especially when we were holidaying on the Gold Coast. One
woman, as she handed me my milkshake at Sea World, said “You’re Martin
Flood!” For a moment there, I thought she might have been a relative or
friend of a friend because it’s really weird being 1,000 km from home and
someone knows who you are. She was the only one to use my name. Everyone
else called me ‘the MASTER’. That was weird. When people called me that, I
felt so pompous. But as soon as it stopped airing, people stopped coming up
to me.

At the time, I was regularly volunteering for Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The
Streets. I was helping kids with their School’s Certificate or HSC study.
The kids didn’t know I had recently won a million dollars. Then they saw the
ads on TV for the MASTER. They were so excited that the guy they knew as Marty
was some kind of TV quiz guy who had his own TV show. I think that was a lot
of fun for them. But it was even more fun the next week, when the show was
cancelled… because they all really enjoyed ribbing me about it!

SH: If you were invited to be part of something similar tomorrow,
would you do it all again? Is there anything you’d do differently?

MF: I was invited to audition for The Chase. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to
do it, but I found the audition really fun.

With the MASTER, I would have focused more on my on-air persona. I needed
to have spoken with you and perhaps gotten you to write some of my lines. I
was so focused on studying and making sure I’d be really difficult to beat.
I didn’t want to give away free money. But – no surprise! – nothing of what I
studied came up in the eight episodes, so I could have gotten away with doing
no study. I think how I performed as a personality would have been far more
important.

SH: What do you think was the most important thing you learned from
your MASTER experience?

MF: TV is very deceptive. We all know that what we see on TV isn’t completely
real, and it’s usually edited. But I was surprised just how clever producers
are with the ‘magic of television’. I won’t give away any secrets, but I’m
sure you know them.

SH: That all happened in 2006 – what’s been your involvement with the
world of quiz shows and game shows since then?

MF: Nothing. But I like to watch.

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And so do we! I’d like to thank Martin for generously giving so much of his time for this interview, and taking us through his unique journey from game show contestant to game show star! I’m really very grateful to him. And ever so slightly jealous too, if I’m honest…

Next week, a special announcement, as I prepare to do something here at HowToWinGameShows.com that I’ve never before done, in the site’s entire four year history.

What could it be?

Check in next Tuesday, when All Will Be Revealed….

Until then, then!

 

EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part V

This is the penultimate part of my chat with Marty, and this week, we discuss the end of the show’s run, and the effect it had on him. But if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show first, remember that there’s an episode you can watch (in two parts) right here and here.

And now, on with the interview!

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SH: How many episodes of the MASTER were recorded?

MF: Eight in total. The first was cancelled after it was recorded as it really didn’t work. The producers decided to label it a “pilot episode”, not that that meant anything. All that mattered was that it wasn’t going to air. Those five contestants got to come back and were split apart into two other episodes. Two of them went on to win $33,300 and $42,300 on their respective episodes, so it worked out well for them.

SH: How many were shown?

MF: Six of the official seven were shown. I don’t really know why one wasn’t, but
there is always a chance your episode won’t air.

SH: Why did the show have such a short initial run?

MF: Some might say one episode is ‘short’ for its initial run… But others said
even that was too long! Personally, I blame the guy in the red chair. I
was told later however that the publicity department didn’t really do their
job and they apparently apologised to the producers later. Before the first
episode went to air, I did two interviews on radio – one in Queensland and one in
South Australia. Two radio interviews didn’t seem like a whole lot of publicity to me. I
remember thinking “couldn’t I just ring up some Sydney radio people myself (I
know a couple) and schedule a chat?”, but I didn’t want to step on anyone’s
toes. Perhaps I should have. When I watched the show, I thought it went
reasonably well. The only problem I had with it was watching myself. Whether
that was because my acting was so bad or because no one likes seeing
themselves act, I really can’t tell.

SH: How did the axing of the show affect you personally?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part IV

Well, it’s a really big chunk of my chat with Marty this week, so we’ll get right into it. But if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the MASTER first, there’s an episode you can watch (in two parts) right here and here.

And now, on we go!

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SH: Watching the early part of the MASTER (in particular, from the 01:27 mark to the 02:05 mark), I notice that there’s a montage of you winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire...

… Except that it’s not, because the Seven network doesn’t hold the rights. (I don’t think the host’s even allowed to mention the name of that show!) So that scene’s obviously a re-enactment. How did you find the experience of shooting that?

MF: Yes, you’re right. They couldn’t use the original footage, so I acted out
winning the million in a really big dark empty studio at Seven. It was the
same big empty studio you see me walking out of in the opening sequence of
the show. I found that difficult and a bit weird. At times I’m sure it
looked like the “Would that it were so simple” scene in Hail Caesar!, but when I just imagined I was really thinking through a quiz question, the producer was happy with how it came across. At least he didn’t scream at me, and for that producer (and you know who I’m talking about) that must have meant he was happy with how I performed.

SH: Your role as the Master required you to observe, interact with,
and compete against the contestants… did this give you any new insights on
the game show contestant experience, “from the other side of the podium”, as
it were?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part III

The set of ‘the Master’, in between takes.

Hello! As Martin Flood and I continue discussing his time AS ‘the Master’ ON the MASTER, I wanted to find out about the birth of the show, and any teething troubles it may have had… So I asked him! 

But before that, just a quick reminder that there is an episode of the Master up on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page for you to watch. So if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show, the episode’s in two parts, and you can watch the first part here and the second part here.

And now, on we go!

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SH: As this was a brand new show, with a brand new format, I imagine that
quite a bit of tweaking and finessing was still taking place during
pre-production and early production. Was that the case? And if so, what form
did it take?

MF: When I was asked to be ‘the Master’, I think Seven had been working on the show
for quite some time. I was probably the last person to join the team. I
think someone from the production team had told me they had already tried
Red Symons as the Master. Originally, (Executive Producer) Grant Rule had imagined that the show would look like a wrestling match, where contestants would be called out of
the audience – much like The Price is Right – to come up on stage and take on
the Master. Perhaps they could have had Michael Buffer announcing “Let’s get
ready to …”

Or perhaps not.

By the time the people at Seven had vetted Grant’s original idea and decided on what they thought would be appropriate, the show looked very different.

SH: When it came to the production, how did you find actually being
the star of the show? What surprised you most about performing that
role?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part II

Martin on the set of ‘the Master’

Hello! As Martin Flood and I continue discussing his time as ‘the Master’ on the quiz show of the same name, I wanted to go right back to the beginning, to find out how it all came about, and why he said yes. 

Oh, and just before we go any further… as I mentioned last week, I’ve put an episode of the MASTER up on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page. So if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show that we’re discussing… the episode’s in two parts, and you can watch the first part here and the second part here.

And now, on we go!

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SH: How were you initially approached to be ‘the Master’?

MF: I was sitting at work one day early in 2006, wondering what I was doing there
given how much money had recently come my way, when the phone rang. It was
some young bloke from Channel Seven, I guessed around 30ish. He sounded very
enthusiastic for all things television and asked if I’d be interested in
looking at a new quiz show they were producing. I didn’t know that he was
the legendary Grant Rule, executive producer of countless TV shows including
Countdown. He was actually 60 at the time. I think you know him, Hally, and I
guess you might understand why he sounded so much younger over the phone.

SH: What made you say yes?

MF: You did.

SH: Really?

MF: Yes. I had never imagined anything past winning on Millionaire. I had visualised
so much about winning the million, but all my visualisations stopped at Eddie
handing me the cheque. I thought it was possible something else might come
along, but being a TV guy was never one of my dreams or goals. The thought of
being a regular on a TV show was just too foreign for me… let alone being the
eponymous ‘Master’ and star of my own TV show! Of course it wasn’t my show; I think Mark Beretta was the real star as he really suited and played
his role as host perfectly. So I asked a number of friends if they thought I
should do it and they all said yes. The last person I asked was you, after
trivia at Bondi RSL one night. Regardless of how we both thought the show
would turn out, you said “Of course you have to do it! That goes without
saying”. For better or worse, you convinced me with that.

SH: Okay, no pressure…. So who or what was the character of ‘the Master’? Were you just playing yourself?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘The Master’, Martin Flood – Part I

Hello! So this week sees the first instalment of my EXCLUSIVE interview with Martin Flood; Who Wants To Be A Millionaire winner and star of the 2006 Australian game show the Master. I was really curious about Marty’s time as the star of this brand new format, so I grilled him on every aspect of it, from its creation, to its gameplay, to the effect it had on his career and his life. He was very generous with his time, and I’m very grateful to him. Now, if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show we’ll be discussing…

As I mentioned last week, I’ve put an episode of the Master up on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page. It’s in two parts, and you can watch the first part here and the second part here.

Or, if you’d just prefer to dive right in to the interview… Here it is!

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SH: Marty, thanks for talking to me today about the Master, for HowToWinGameShows.com. For those who don’t know (or who may have not done their homework!), what was the format of the Master?

MF: Five contestants would compete against each other, much like Sale of the Century, Temptation and Million Dollar Minute. The winner would then take on
‘The Master’ in the endgame, in a literal face-to-face best of five
questions (multiple choice).

There were some variations on the Sale of the Century theme. In all but one
round, contestants did not lose points if they answered incorrectly. They
would only be locked out of the next question if they were wrong. This
format was also played out on Seven’s Million Dollar Minute. Which reminds
me; the ‘points’ they received for each correct answer was $100, which they
got to keep. Nice touch by the producers. So most went home with some money.
There was only one round where contestants would lose cash for incorrect
answers. Each contestant would be asked a list of questions from their
‘preferred subject’. Correct answers scored $100, while incorrect answers
lost them $200. Most contestants seemed to go backwards, so the producers
decided to call it ‘The Master’s Mean Minute’. What would we do without
alliteration?

The winner of the five contestants would be given $50,000 on top of their winnings from
the rounds. Then Mark Beretta, the host, would ask how much of the $50,000
they were prepared to risk against me, the Master. They could risk anything
from $10,000 to the whole $50,000. If they risked it all, they got to decide
on the subject, otherwise I would decide. If they risked $10,000 they played
for $100,000 total. If they risked $20,000 they played for $200,000 total
etc. But if they risked all $50,000, instead of playing for $500,000 (as you
might expect), they got to play for $1,000,000 and the chance to become the
new Master! For some viewers, I think the numbers might have been a little
complicated but I think the basic idea of “how much will you risk?” was quite
clever. I assumed most would risk $40,000 (leaving them $10,000 to take home, guaranteed) and play for the $400,000, but most only ever risked $10,000 (keeping $40,000 to take home) and played for $100,000. That really surprised me. In truth, many really should have gone for the million, as some of their Preferred Subjects were my
worst nightmares, and they could have beaten me easily.

The end game was like a soccer penalty shootout – best of five.
Theoretically, the quickest game could finish with 3-0 (no point in going on
from there)… but in one case, the contestant and I went to 5-5 and into a
sudden death playoff. Interestingly, both the producer and the executive
producer had confided in me at separate times that they hoped the final
score would not be 5-0 as that wouldn’t make good television. Each time I pointed out that a clean sweep in a ‘best of five’ game stops at 3-0, whereas a 5-0 result could only happen in a ‘first to 5’ game. I would then politely ask them if they were sure they knew how this quiz show worked, especially given that they had designed it.
I think the producers found such smug remarks of mine quite delightful.

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No doubt! Next week, our discussion moves on to cover how Marty was approached, why he said yes, and the tricky territory of playing the character of “the Master”…. So, we’ll see you then!

 

My next EXCLUSIVE interview, and your homework, should you choose to accept it….

Hello! I hope you enjoyed last week’s (and the week before’s) interview with Millionaire Hot Seat Executive Producer Steve Gilbert. He was great to talk to, and I think there were some really good Who Wants To Be A Millionaire tips in our chat, for anyone interested in going on that show.

Next week, the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire theme sort of continues, as I begin my next exclusive interview. You may recall that way back in August 2013, I interviewed Australia’s second Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaire Martin Flood. Well, after his big win, he was approached for a pivotal on-air role in a new Australian quiz show that was being developed at the time. It was called The Master, and it pitted Martin against 5 members of the general public, who would try to beat him in a quiz format where the top prize was one million dollars.

I recently spoke to Marty about this experience in great detail, and I’m pleased to say that the resulting interview will be here in its entirety over the next few weeks. It’s fascinating stuff – Marty takes us right through the entire process, from initially being approached, through the making of the show, to its conclusion and all the public recognition he attracted  along the way as a result.

As I say, it’s a far-reaching discussion, and I suspect that you may get a bit more out of it if you have a working knowledge of the show. And so to that end, I’ve popped an episode of it up on the How To Win Game Shows Facebook page. The video is in two parts (here and here), and its total duration is just under 50 minutes.

So that’s your homework for next week, if you choose to accept it; watch the episode of The Master that’s over at Facebook.com/HowToWinGameShows. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, you’ll undoubtedly learn a few useful quiz facts, and you’ll be all set for next week’s post, when my interview with ‘The Master’ himself – Martin Flood – begins!

Until next Tuesday, then!

EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert – Part II

‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert… doing a little bit of brushing up….

Hello!

This week, my 2-part interview with Millionaire Hot Seat Executive Producer Steve Gilbert concludes, and I wanted to start by seeing if he had any words of wisdom about when to use the show’s built-in lifelines…

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SH: Are there certain times when it’s strategically best to use the ‘lifelines’?

SG: Yep. If they don’t know the answer!

Firstly, with Hot Seat, it’s only this year that we extended the show to an hour. We have added the ‘Fastest Finger First’ element of the “classic” format back in to Hot Seat.

15 questions are asked of all 6 contestants. Whoever is the fastest overall wins $1000 that they may keep or use to buy a lifeline when they get in the Hot Seat for the main game. These lifelines are slightly different to the “classic” format. They are: 50/50Ask A Friend and Switch. The contestant may use only one of these lifelines once during the main game. This has worked really well for some contestants this year, helping them win some big money.

SH: So, in the Hot Seat format, when is it advisable for contestants to use these?

SG: 50/50…If you have absolutely no idea of any of the options offered, then to use this lifeline is risky as you’ll simply be left with two answers you still don’t know. But it’s a great lifeline to use if you are throwing up between two answers.

Switch…You can elect to get rid of the question you have and get a completely new question. This is probably the most popular lifeline, but again risky, as you may get something else you have no idea about.

Ask a Friend… This really depends on who your friend in the audience is. If, for instance, you’re faced with a cricket question and you have brought your brother along who plays cricket for Australia, then I’d be using this lifeline. Totally depends on the question being faced and who the potential friend is.

SH: Thanks Steve, great tips. Just jumping back to 2009 for a moment, where did the format for Millionaire Hot Seat originate, and how did it come to be on Australian TV at 5:30 on weeknights?

SG: Well, I started with Millionaire back in 2003. The format is owned by a company in the UK. It was then Two Way Traffic, now it’s Sony Pictures. In 2006, the “classic” version of the show was rested, as Eddie (McGuire, the show’s host) took over as the company CEO (of the Nine Network – the channel that broadcast Millionaire). I was sent a copy of a version done in Poland I think, where they played the show as musical chairs. It was sent to me in the hope we could develop this into a half-hour format. Between us we shaped it into what is today “Hot Seat”.

SH: And, from your perspective, who have been the best contestants on Millionaire Hot Seat?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert – Part I

‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert… doing a bit of research!

Hello!

We’re back to the interviews this week, and I’m delighted to have scored one with the Executive Producer of Millionaire Hot Seat, Mr. Steve Gilbert. Steve is a real game show producing veteran, having produced the classic version of Millionaire here in Australia, as well as this new version. I figured he’d be expertly placed to provide advice and tips for anyone interested in appearing on either of these shows, so that’s exactly what I asked him about….

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SH: Hello Steve, and thank you for talking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com. You’ve served as Executive Producer of Millionaire Hot Seat since it debuted in Australia in 2009. Before that, you were Producer and then Executive Producer of the classic format of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? For our overseas visitors, can you explain the difference between Millionaire Hot Seat and the original WWTBAM format?

SG: Certainly. The “original” or “classic” format of the show was billed more as a drama than a quiz show. As the contestants had as long as they liked to think about the question AND they could take the money at the level they were then playing for, there was more drama involved as they struggled to decide to back themselves with an answer or take the money. With Hot Seat however, the questions run to set times; 15 seconds for the first 5, 30 seconds for the next 5 and 45 seconds for the last 5. This gave us a chance to then develop the show down from the one hour classic format to a brighter, more fun half-hour version more suited to the 5.30 time slot.

SH: Back in those WWTBAM days, (1999 – 2006), any memories of the most impressive  contestants?

SG: Without a doubt it would be Rob Fulton, our first “Million Dollar winner”. He had seen a clairvoyant several years before who had suggested that she could see a lot of money in the next few years for him. He had done years and years of research on all sorts of subjects and had filled dozens of exercise books with miles of notes of seemingly “useless” information.

SH: What did he do, do you think, that set him apart?

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Interview with ‘Hard Quiz’ question writer Gerard McCulloch – Part II

Last week saw the beginning of my two-part interview with writer / comedian / actor / MC / audience warm up man / game show question writer for Hard Quiz and Family Feud; Gerard McCulloch. And although we’re used to seeing everything run perfectly smoothly on our favourite game shows when they go to air, the process of getting them there can sometimes be a bit bumpy. Not just from the perspective of the host, the contestants and all the technicians working on any show, but from the perspective of a show’s question writers, too….

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SH: Have you ever written any questions – on any shows – that turned out to be controversial?

GM: I follow the Hard Quiz Twitter hashtag as it goes to air, and read the occasional ‘correction’ from viewers. I check every query, and luckily they rarely stand up to scrutiny. A few people disputed our assertion that every Australian postage stamp features a year, but not a denomination (i.e.; value). It’s true – concession stamps for seniors show no value, but years of issue appear, often hidden in microprinting. Someone delightfully emailed the ABC a scan of a ‘Fairy’ stamp, declaring that it didn’t show a year. I told her to look under the toadstool.

I think this is the stamp Gerard’s referring to. Look at under the right side of the toadstool, just where it overlaps the border.

GM: Some of our other Hard Quiz contestants were taken aback by how tangential to the expert topic some of our questions get. It’s true that part of the fun we have with the notion of the ‘hard’ quiz is that the questions can get ridiculously obscure. But at the time of recording, the show had not yet gone to air, so it’s understandable that some guests may have felt miffed at the licence we took. It’s a brilliant moment when a contestant still knows the answer. I would hope that in subsequent seasons, contestants will have seen the show, and know a bit more about what they’re in for.

SH: Have producers ever rejected any questions that you’ve written? If so, why?

GM: All the time! “Seen it before”. “Too easy”. “Too hard”. “It was on The Chase last week”. “Too similar to one that’s already in production”. “Too long”. “Too complicated”. “Too obscure”. “Not suitable for the viewing demographic”…  Having questions rejected is part and parcel of being a question writer.

SH: How did you come to be working on the 2014 Australian reboot of Family Feud?

GM: Apart from the questions, all shows need a writer to work on the ‘hostings’, which are the mundane things like introducing the contestants, throwing to the commercial breaks and plugging the show coming up, as the credits roll. Some hosts stick to these these scripts and some don’t, but it usually falls somewhere between the two. They’re mainly reminders to make sure everything happens in the correct order and nothing is forgotten. I filled in on that role for a couple of weeks while my friend Ray Matsen took a holiday, and had so much fun with (host) Grant (Denyer) and the excellent team behind the scenes there that they let me stick around and write questions. Writing Family Feud questions was a bit of a dream come true – I used to love watching the show in its earlier versions when I was a kid. I’ve also filled in as the audience warm-up act there too. I’m hoping the show sticks around until I’ve slowly performed every role in television there. Maybe I could be the lighting guy next.

SH: What specific skills are required to write questions for Family Feud?

GM: The ability to think out of the box. The more original the question, the greater the chance it hasn’t been done before. Questions involving un-provable matters of personal opinion (like appropriate behaviour on a date) are more fun than lists like ‘food starting with B’. Having said that, it’s been a while since they called… maybe too many of my questions got ba-bowwwwwwed.

SH: Are there mistakes or common errors that you see people repeatedly make on Family Feud?

GM: Giving answers that in no imaginable universe could possibly be relevant to the question! It’s funny to see what people come out with under the pressure of the lights and the time limit.

SH: And finally, do you have any specific tips or hints that you could give someone wanting to go on Family Feud?

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