Hello and welcome to my latest EXCLUSIVE interview, and this time it’s with Judd Field, a contestant who recently had a very good run on Millionaire Hot Seat, here in Australia. It’s a multi-parter, and Judd goes in to a lot of detail about the entire adventure… so let’s get right into it!
SH: Judd Field, hello and welcome! Thanks so much for talking to me for HowToWinGameShows.com today. You, sir, are a certified, genuine brand new game show winner, so firstly – congratulations! Now, the show that you were on – Millionaire Hot Seat – is an offshoot of the original Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? format, but it has some significant differences, doesn’t it? Some regular visitors to this site may be unfamiliar with its format, so could you give us a quick description of how the show works?
SH: No worries at all, love that detail! To begin with, I’d like to establish the timeline for your Millionaire Hot Seat adventure. When did you initially register your interest, or apply to go on the show?
JF: June 2018.
As my chat with The Fabulous Adam Richard continued, there was one question that I simply couldn’t leave out…
========================SH: From your perspective as a quiz show question writer, are there any other tips, hints or pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring quiz show contestants?
AR: Quiz shows don’t just cast for intelligence. If you are boring, you won’t get on, no matter how much you know. You don’t have to be funny, and you don’t have to be a gregarious ‘life of the party’ type of person, just don’t be dull. If you are shy, don’t worry, we all are. Even the most famous people who are great public speakers are often overcompensating for being shy. Just be yourself. Don’t mumble, or be too self-deprecating (what you continually say about yourself, you can end up believing after a while) and most of all, don’t think you have to be someone you’re not. Just be the person you are when you’re with friends and family. Pretend the casting people are all people you know. Aunt Jenny and that cousin’s husband you always talk to at barbeques.
SH: But your question-writing career hasn’t just involved writing questions for TV. Another related venture – that you and I both worked on – was writing questions for the Australian version of the board game Cranium, back in 2001. What are your memories of that?
AR: I remember it was quite silly! Most of us had been working on All Star Squares, where alleged celebrities hung out in a giant noughts and crosses board. I remember carrying on with Catherine Deveny at a meeting where we were coming up with those performance-based questions. There’s a part of Cranium where you play charades, and I remember cackling as we tried to act out a sausage roll. The actual writing part was fairly isolated, as these things naturally are, but remembering that first day, where we played the game and stuffed about in a meeting room, that kept me ploughing through the actual writing of the questions.
SH: Do you ever play the Australian version of Cranium with friends? And win? And if so, do you tell them that you already knew all the questions?
AR: When I was doing the breakfast show at Fox FM in Melbourne, we had a Cranium promotion where a family of listeners won a night playing the game with me! I remember that being a fun night. I think I ended up just ‘hosting’ the game, asking all the questions, making sure people stuck to the rules, rather than participating. Also, making merciless fun of people trying to do charades as a sausage roll. It really is hilarious.
SH: In addition to all of this behind-the-scenes stuff, you’ve also appeared many times onscreen in game show / reality shows; shows such as Celebrity Splash!, Hole In The Wall, and Celebrity Dog School (!) After these experiences, do you have any tips for any aspiring reality show contestants out there?
Hello! Something a little bit different this week. A few weeks ago, I received a call from a radio producer in Sydney asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed by Bec De Unamuno for an ABC radio segment on game shows.
Now, I’ve known Bec for years and so was extremely happy to have a chat about this subject close to my (and, I’m guessing, your) heart. In the interview, Bec also spoke to Andrew O’Keefe, another old pal who currently hosts The Chase Australia, and hosted the Australian version of Deal Or No Deal for a number of years.
So, if you’re interested in hearing what a game show host and a game show winner / blogger have to say, then this 18 minutes and 25 seconds of audio may be of interest to you….
The original link to the interview is over on the ABC Radio website, but if you’d prefer to play it now (or right-click and “Save As…” so you can listen to it later), then here it is below!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…Tweet
Last week, in my chat with serial game show contestant Vicky Jacobs, we discussed her appearances on Greed, Temptation and Million Dollar Minute. But Vicky’s game show contestant career certainly doesn’t end there….
SH: You’ve also appeared on Millionaire Hot Seat, whose format is very different to the original Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. What strategy did you employ – if any – to make sure your time in the actual ‘hot seat’ was as advantageous as possible?
VJ: I had lots of permutations of strategy in my head going in, but when it came to the actual day, none of them made any difference. I answered the most questions right in my episode, but with the way the day panned out, there was pretty much no chance of getting back into the hot seat. In my opinion, there’s a huge amount of luck in that game and it will only be with a certain set of events that strategy will do you much good.
SH: And most recently, you took to the stage on The Chase: Australia. How did you go, and as a former contestant, what tips or tricks would you now give any future contestants?
VJ: I had a great time on The Chase. I’d been watching the British version avidly and was busting for a chance to play myself. I knew the odds were low of going home with money – I just wanted to play! I got through to the final round – there were only two of us left – but we got caught by the Chaser, losing $22, 000. My advice would be to do everything in your power to have four people playing at the end. Chat about it when you’re hanging out backstage (they don’t seem to mind this). And if you do get to the end, have a “passing” strategy, with a clear leader who is boss of the passing! I think we may have squished in a couple of more questions if we had have worked something out beforehand. Also, this is a small thing but I think could be helpful – don’t stress too much about the chit-chat bit with Andrew O’Keefe beforehand – if you say something goofy, it really doesn’t matter, just keep your head in the game. I reckon we lost one of our players to this on the day I was on.
SH: Vicky, obviously game shows are a recurring theme in your life, and you’ve applied and been accepted time and time again. What do you think are the keys to being selected as a game show contestant?Tweet
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, here, here 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…
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.
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….Tweet
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.
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…
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.
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!