My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 4

When you left us last week, David had auditioned for Sale of the Century, he’d done well, and he was now back home, waiting by the phone…

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DP: So, I’m thinking “I don’t really need to study that hard for this show”. I was always into general knowledge and learning capitals of countries and longest rivers and kings and queens and presidents and U.S. capital, state capitals, and so on. So, I figured it’s probably not going to be too hard to study for Sale. But once I’d done the audition, I then religiously watched the show every night. I was living by myself in a King’s Cross flat. I had a sheet of paper and a pad that I would divide into four columns, with the three contestants on screen and me at home. I’ve got a right and wrong column in each of those columns. So, I would then compete against them to see who could hit our buzzers first. (Mine was just hitting the floor). If I buzzed in first, then I got to answer the question.

SH: David… this is music to my ears, because that’s exactly what I did for Temptation! I had the same idea (without knowing this about you)… and you’re right – what a wonderful training tool! The only difference I had was that I recorded the shows, and used my remote as the buzzer. So, I’d hit PAUSE, and if the show paused before I heard anyone else’s buzzer, I knew that I was faster; that was my entree to answer the question.

DP: Wow. I could show you my scoresheet; I’ve still got it. 

SH: Oh yeah! Please!

DP: I don’t know if you can see that…

SH: Wow, look at that!

DP: It’s three pages of that.

SH: So, how many games?

DP: 70. 70 games, so about 14 weeks. That’s how long it took me before I got on the show. In all these games I played at home I never lost.

SH: That’s good.

DP: I rigorously tried not to favour myself. But I thought “I’m not as pressured as them because I’m at home, I’m not in the studio, I’m not actually playing for it”. So, I discounted that fact somewhat that I was winning every time. But the reality was that I actually got bigger scores when I was on the show itself… because there were only three contestants, not four. So, there were fewer points to go around, so I actually did better on the real show. Doing that at home and not ever losing, gave me enormous confidence. So, all I really had to worry about was “when were they going to call”? And as it turned out, I only had to wait a bit over three months

When the contestant co-ordinator, Michelle Seers, rang, I asked “Is the jackpot still there?” And she said, “Yes.” Back in those days, the format was slightly different. If you won, you didn’t just automatically go through to the next prize level; you had to win a certain amount of money to advance to the next level.

SH: Oh right. So, some people might have won, but not progress to the next level, and they’d have to come back and win again the next night in order to get there?

DP: Exactly. And the guy I beat on my first night was on his eighth night and he was still only going for all the prizes. He wasn’t going for the jackpot yet.

SH: Right.

DP: I beat him and felt pretty bad about it… a little bit. He seemed like a nice guy and I felt a bit sorry for him. But certainly that’s what I set out to do. On my second night, I came so close to losing. I remember (host) Tony (Barber) saying, “Beware the Second Night Syndrome.” He often said that. It’s so real. I think it’s like a performance where you do a dress rehearsal or an Opening Night and you’re fabulous, and the next night you try to repeat it and you’re doing it from memory and not feeling, or something. You’re out of the zone.

SH: Right; you breathe a sigh of relief because you got through the first one and you take your foot off the accelerator a little bit. It’s a very real danger, but it doesn’t necessarily help to have the host saying that to you all the time.

DP: Well, it was good as a warning, I suppose. I’d seen him say it before, and I’d seen lots of people win really well on their first night and then crash.

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I can definitely vouch for that – Second Night Syndrome is a widely accepted phenomenon in the world of theatre. Drop by again next week, when we’ll learn how David handled his third, fourth and subsequent nights on the show…

My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 3

… which, (to continue with that ultimately uplifting yet increasingly laboured metaphor), sees the Green Shoots of David’s early career success yield the Bitter Fruit of Showbiz Disappointment. Fruit which then proceeds to split open and rot away, revealing the very Seeds that would later blossom into Sweet Game Show Success.

(Just go on without me, I’ll be fine….)

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DP: Then a few months later (producer) David (Elfick) unilaterally decided that we weren’t experienced enough to direct it and he got someone else to direct it who everybody thought was just the wrong choice, a guy who shall remain nameless, but you can look it up on IMDB, a guy without a sense of humour, which is really useful when you’re making a comedy. The thing was that David, the producer, was full of enthusiasm and then he’d be attacked by nerves and indecision. So he got us to make some test scenes from the film to see whether we could direct it. We booked space at Paddington Town Hall, which has a little community television studio. We shot a couple of scenes there but there were huge sound issues at the studio, so we couldn’t do any recording all morning. We could only work in the afternoon. So, everything was rushed and it was just a really unpleasant situation. We had no sets; we just had two timber door frames to suggest walls, and at the end of it David decided that it looked like television.

SH: Sounds like everything was stacked against you there.

DP: So, he ended up getting a guy who just happened to be a good friend of one of his underlings. Paul and I had worked on this script for two years or so. This director came in weeks before production started, and he was clearly not sympathetic with the script at all. He struck us as a very paranoid individual and we were not allowed on the set.

SH: You were banned?

DP: We were allowed to visit the set one day when they were doing some shooting in a studio, but we were specifically told not to speak to the director. We were then allowed to visit the set on the last day of filming when the house in the picture collapses. So, it was like a really big production number. There were a lot of people not involved with the film there watching it, because it was a big event, and it happened in a real location. But again, we weren’t allowed to speak to the director. When we did see a final cut in a theatre somewhere, the director walked up to me and he said, “You hate it, don’t you?” I was just speechless. I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I think that was the last time I spoke to him. But it was out of that experience that I just thought, “Wow we’ve put in so much time on this and it’s been such an unsatisfying experience.” I just thought, “Gee, there’s got to be a better way to make money.” So really, going on Sale of the Century came directly out of that experience.

SH: So that was when the seed was planted. How did you approach it, after making that decision and locking it in?

DP: Well, I’d unsuccessfully been doing a bit of stand up comedy around this time, then I got involved with Theatresports. Now it happened that over the years, various people I’d watched Sale of the Century with had suggested I should go on the show, but I dismissed any such thoughts, as I was going to be a successful screenwriter and was intending to make my fortune that way instead. One of those who’d made the suggestion was my Polish stepmother, a mail-order bride as it turns out; “David, you should go on this show! You do very well. Maybe you can win me some saucepans! I need new saucepans.” And I’m there thinking, “Oh what would you know?” It wasn’t a good relationship. So, I took anything she said with a grain of salt, including that. But now, with the failure of Emoh Ruo, it dawned on me that… they’ve given away a lot of money on this show! It really was a case of just thinking, “my options are narrowing and I am now 31…”

And so, I just thought, “I’ll do this!” I rang them up to do an audition, and did an audition and did very well at the audition. We were told – as I’m sure you were – “You’ve passed the audition, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get on the show. If you haven’t heard from us in two years, please feel free to do another audition.” That was as much as they told us. The next day I bought a Macquarie Atlas (which I still have) and a onevolume encyclopedia. I thought “I’ve really got to brush up on all this stuff that I’ve forgotten”. I was also really big on quiz shows. I loved Pick-A-Box, I loved Coles $6000 Question. I just loved any quiz show on TV. 

David watching the final episode of ‘Pick-a-Box’… way back in 1971! (Photo: supplied)

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And so the stage is set! Join us again next week, when David begins training in earnest for his time on ‘Australia’s Richest Quiz, Saaaaaaaaale of the Century!’

My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 2

… in which the green shoots of David’s early screenwriting career take root and begin to blossom…

* This metaphor has been brought to you by ‘Gardening Australia’, returning soon to Fridays on ABC TV.

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DP: So, leading up to that first question (and this is why we might take more than an hour!)…

Sweet and Sour was a further development; that was early 80s. By that stage, Paul and I had written a short film that got made that was quite successful; it actually made money. We made money from a short film!

SH: That’s fantastic.

DP: And after that, I can’t think who the connection was, but we were called in to work on this new ABC rock-and-roll soapie. It started off a lot more adventurous and radical than what it became. It got so watered down because of concerns about drugs and language and the type of music… It worked and the audience loved it, so they did the right thing. But for those of us who were in the mix, it all seemed to be getting diluted.

SH: My memory of it is that it was on at six o’clock at night. So, no one on it did drugs or smoked or drank… Rock-and-roll, dude! Shortly after that, in 1985, you and Paul wrote a movie! And it got made! And then it got released! That’s a very rare and impressive thing. How did that come about?

DP: In ‘81 or ‘82 and the New South Wales Film Corporation announced a screenwriting competition for budding screenwriters. But one of the conditions was that you had to have the signature of a credited feature producer on your entry form. As it happened, an Australian film that we really admired at that point was Newsfront, so we sought out its producer, David Elfick. Do you know of him?

SH: I know that name.

DP: He was a guy who grew up in the 60s – he was a keen surfer, he’d started a couple of surf magazines. I think he’d made Morning of the Earth which was a very successful feature-length surf documentary. So, Newsfront was his first fiction feature, and we thought it was a terrific film. So David read our screenplay and said, “Look it’s obviously written by neophytes”, (actually, that word’s too big for him). “Newcomers; it’s written by first-timers, but you got potential so I’ll look at anything else you write. You can bring it to me. I’ll be happy to read it.” We then wrote this screenplay a few years later called Emoh Ruo, which is “Our Home” spelled backwards. I think it’s always a terrible thing when you tell someone the title of your film and you explain that it’s a couple of words backwards.

SH: I noticed that the tagline for the movie is “Try saying it backwards”. The poster tells you what it means.

DP: Yeah. I’m looking at the poster here and it also says, “The funniest Aussie movie ever.”

SH: Wow, that’s pretty good! That’s high praise (according to the movie’s own poster). That doesn’t come along every day.

DP: I know! And posters are pretty discerning…

SH: They really are. The poster advertising the product always is very discerning. Whose idea was the title?

DP: I can’t remember. I went off it – I was concerned it sounded vaguely Polynesian. I didn’t think it conveyed anything to a potential moviegoer. But it came from the idea that in the 1940s and 50s it was an Aussie custom for a lot of homes to have plaques by the front door with a fancy name, as an ironic comment on the fact that this was just a suburban home. Like “Dunroamin’” or “Gloria Soames”… and “Emoh Ruo” was a popular one. Often, they were printed on glass in nice frames; essentially they meant “Proud homeowner”. I actually wanted to call the movie Homesick, because it was about a couple who were desperate to be homeowners. But the decision from the producer was that you couldn’t have a movie title with the word “sick” in it.

SH: I noticed it was re-titled for some foreign markets as House Broken.

The poster from one o’ them there foreign markets. I think Joy Smithers and Martin Sacks may have reasonable grounds to sue that caricaturist….

DP: I don’t know if it worked in those small African countries.

SH: Their posters were great, though!

DP: Certainly… but ultimately the movie was a very big flop. It may well have been “the funniest Aussie movie ever” but no one cared. I believe the poster went along and enjoyed it immensely.

SH: Yes, the poster must have booked out a whole cinema! Was it fun to make? Was the production of its happy memories for you or was it too stressful?

DP: No, it was a completely depressing experience.

SH: Oh really? How so?

DP: Well, earlier, the short film I told you about (Making Weekend of Summer Last) was picked up by (Australian cinema chain) Greater Union and they ran it before a couple of very successful features. And we got regular cheques from Greater Union, because we were on a cut of the box office!

SH: Fantastic!

DP: Yeah, it wasn’t much, but it was like “who makes money from a short film?” So, that was terrific. And when Emoh Ruo came around, the idea was that Paul and I would not only write the film, but we’d also direct it, because we’d had experience directing a successful short film. There was a bit of nervousness from all concerned about that. So there was a board meeting in the Greater Union head office, where Paul and I had to sell ourselves as directors. And it’s one of those kinds of cliched horrible scenes where you’re sitting at a very long table with serious-looking men in dark suits who aren’t going to put up with any bullshit. At the end of the meeting they just said, “Look you’ve convinced us. We’re going to put money in the picture and we’re happy for you to direct.” And we just thought “This is terrific!”

SH: Yes!

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Things are on the up-and-up! David’s kicking goals left, right and centre! Everything’s coming up roses! Nothing can possibly go wrong!

Or can it?

To find out, tune in next Tuesday afternoon, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com…

My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 1

Thanks tiny-fonted Wikipedia, I’ll take it from here.

I think it’s fair to say that David Poltorak is a legend of Australian TV game shows. After his 1986 World-Record-setting win on Sale of the Century….

See?

he returned for several ‘Champion of Champions’ tournaments, before becoming a question writer and adjudicator for that same show.

Since then, he’s worked behind the scenes on many Australian TV quiz shows, and last year, he became a contestant once again, and won BIG on Beat the Chasers…. 34 years after his original Sale of the Century triumph!

Besides all that, he’s a screenwriter and standup comedian, and he’d already had his first movie produced before any of his quiz show success.

This was a delightful and really wide-ranging discussion, and I thought I’d kick it off by delving into David’s origin story…

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SH: David Poltorak! Thank you very much indeed for joining me today for HowToWinGameShows.com.

 DP: It’s my pleasure Stephen, thanks very much.

SH: Prior to your game show career I know you were a TV and film writer. Your first TV credit on imdb.com is from 1984 for writing two episodes of Sweet & Sour: an ABC drama about a young pop band (which I watched religiously as a teenager). How did that come about, and how was that whole experience?

DP: Yes, it might be my first IMDB credit and fair enough. I wrote those two episodes with a long-term co-writer Paul Leadon (who, in recent years, has been the Head of Comedy at Channel 10). We’d been at uni together, studying architecture. We both dropped out and got heavily involved with our annual architecture review, and that led to work writing sketches for what was then 2JJ. One of the early directors of that station mentored us; a guy called Marius Webb, who was very helpful to us.

We wrote sketches and then we got on – I think in ’77 – The Garry McDonald Show. Garry McDonald had been playing his famous character Norman Gunston for years, and he was sick of that character and he wanted to do a sketch show that was a completely Gunston-free zone. It was a pretty terrible show because it made you realize in retrospect what a great anchor the Gunston character was for him. And so, without that character, he was just another actor in comedy sketches.

SH: How long did that last? I don’t remember that show at all.

DP: Well, I think it only had one series. The head writer was Morris Gleitzman, who went on to become a successful children’s author. It was produced by John Eastway who was an ABC comedy producer at that time. It was a great experience for us because having grown up as a Monty Python obsessive, I just had this enormous weight of Monty Python sitting on my head and just feeling overwhelmed by what I saw as their quality and what they’d achieved. They were such a big influence on me.

SH: Was it helpful having a writing partner, being part of a team? Surely you could bolster each other up in those moments of self-doubt?

DP: We could. We wrote more stuff together later. Initially, although we were hired as a group, we were all writing individually, not actually collaborating. So it still felt like a very lonely, isolated experience and it’s not one that I look back with any great joy, apart from what it meant in career terms. After that, we did another comedy series called Jokes which was the same thing; just half an hour of unrelated sketches. That was also on the ABC, produced by John Eastway. And that was a short-lived thing. In later years, Australia produced much more successful shows: D-Gen, Full Frontal… but at this early stage, everybody was just scrambling. We didn’t know where we were going.

SH: I’m guessing you’re in your early twenties at this stage? Not long out of university.

DP: I’m in my early 20s. I’m a pretty heavy dope smoker, I’m a cab driver. I’d been on the dole for about a year after I dropped out at uni. Back in those days, you could front up to your local Commonwealth Employment Service office and say, “Look I’m sick of being a bus conductor. Can I go on the dole, please?” “Yes, sign here. Here’s your first cheque.”

SH: Different times.

DP: Very different times! Anyway, Paul and I then became a duo and worked on kids’ shows on the ABC and did other sketch shows…. none of which are remembered by anyone except the people who made them, because they made such little impact. Back then, the top-rating current affairs show was on Channel Seven, hosted by Mike Willesee. He’d been dominating the ratings, but in 1981, Channel 9 premiered Sale of the Century up against him. And Sale of the Century was a monster – so huge, so successful!

And as a result, Mike Willesee had this brainwave that he’d introduce comedy to his current affairs show. So he hired a bunch of people to write and perform sketches. Doug Mulray, Austen Tayshus, (who at that stage was just called Sandy Gutman) and Paul and me. So, there’d be a production meeting in the morning with Mike and we’d all sit on the floor while he sat behind his huge oak-panelled desk. We would discuss the big stories of the day and he’d get one or two of the writers to write a sketch and then somebody else would perform in it for that night. Paul and I didn’t perform; we just wrote. I think it lasted about three months. Mike was getting killed in the ratings by Sale of the Century, so he tried comedy, but it didn’t work. But it was great training; we’d have to write at least one sketch a day in the morning. We only had a couple of hours to do it, but it was terrific. It was great having the subject to write about because you then knew what the sketch was. And they’d try and film as much as they could during the day.

SH: But they would broadcast it that night?

DP: Yeah, it was very ‘on the hoof’.

SH: That’s really exciting.

DP: It was exciting, yeah. It was a pity it didn’t work. And although Sale of the Century was beating it, to me Sale was just this other thing out there… if I happened to be watching TV, I liked to sit there and answer the questions, but the idea never entered my head that I’d ever go on it as a contestant.

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“Well, of course not – what possible reason could there be for David to want to do that?” I pretend to hear you ask.
As it turned out, there were actually 376,200 reasons.
And we’ll get one step closer to all of them when we pick up David’s story next week.
See you then!

It was fifteen years ago yesterday…

… that my seventh – final – episode of Temptation went to air, on

Wednesday August 24th, 2005.

Judi and I were living in Sydney, and had been diligently keeping The Big Win secret for a couple of weeks by this stage. Well, I  had been, anyway…. I began to suspect Judi mightn’t have been quite so discreet when Mikey, our friendly neighbourhood greengrocer, started greeting me by saying “AH, G’DAY EINSTEIN! WHAT CAN I GET YOU?!”

Thankfully, the news didn’t seem to have spread much further, although I’m sure the few friends Judi invited over to watch the final episode with us had a pretty good idea. Unbeknownst to me, she’d made a number of T-shirts for them all to wear on the night. The shirts all had different slogans on them, saying things such as “Neighbours of The Champ”… but my favourite one featured something I’d said to (host) Ed Phillips, when he’d asked me during the show; “You’re way ahead of your opponents – why aren’t you buying anything from The Gift Shop?”

The garment’s a little worse for wear, but hey, it is 15 years old…

And despite all the different messages on the T-shirts’ fronts, they all featured the same image and words on the back:

I was so touched that Judi went to all the trouble to create these (still am!), and it did make me laugh when friend after friend showed up at our door that night wearing them, and beaming.

I remember feeling extremely excited and nervous as we all settled down to watch the show start – its opening theme instantly brought all those pre-game emotions flooding back. I also remember getting stupidly annoyed with some people for talking over some of the more tense moments of the game. That was petty of me. This was a party, after all; what was I worried about? Of course I knew that I’d already won, but I couldn’t help it…. the powerful emotional memories of the experience tended to drown out any logic.

On the night, we had to patiently wait for the broadcast time of 7 PM, and then wait through all the commercials, as the game unfolded. But today you don’t have to; if you’re interested in watching the episode, you just have to click on the ‘Play’ button in the centre of this image:

 

Watching the game play out that night was a bizarre, joyous, out-of-body experience. Although I obviously knew how it would all end, I couldn’t help feeling nervous, anxious and excited on behalf that red-headed fella buzzing his way through round after round of questions. And on behalf of his mum and sister in the audience, too. (After all, there was rather a lot of pressure on him, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher.) And the happiness and excitement in our lounge room was just electric. In fact, I find myself tearing up even now as I write this. It truly was one of those moments in life where I found myself thinking “what could I possibly have done to deserve all this good fortune?” Although that evening was essentially a replay of The Big Moment from a fortnight earlier, the excitement in the room that night, and the joy, and the… well, the love… was simply overpowering.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the making of the episode – of what it was like to ride through the eye of that storm – right here. Here’s an image from the final, celebratory moments of the show, when my dear, dear Mum joined me up on the main stage…

and a pic that was taken a couple of minutes later, for TV Week

and a photo I recently rediscovered taken back at Mum’s house afterwards…with that same champagne and bunch of flowers.

In Mum’s kitchen, just after getting home from that life-changing episode. I have no recollection of where my sister got the crown from….

But I digress.

On the Wednesday when the episode went to air, it had only been over for a couple of minutes when the congratulatory calls and texts started to come in. There was so much happiness and so many good wishes flowing my way, it was absolutely mind-boggling. In the coming days, there were cards and letters, there were various newspaper interviews….

There was an interview with A Current Affair (for which they also talked to Mum), and all the while, various smaller prizes I’d won along the way kept arriving at our house.

A big screen TV? Thank you very much indeed. A telescope? Don’t mind if I do. A Swarovski crystal vase? Sure, why not? It felt like some sort of Bizarro-World-Upmarket-Christmas-in-August.

And then the cheque arrived. What a staggering, astounding, once-in-a-lifetime moment that was. To hold in my hand a cheque for such an amount… and for that cheque to be made out to me! I made a photocopy of it, which I still have, somewhere. I clearly remember the excitement of depositing it at the Bondi branch of my bank (which was in Hall Street, as it happened). I’d been speculating about what the teller’s reaction would be when I handed the cheque over, but he had the perfect poker face. He stared, expressionless, at the cheque for a couple of seconds, and then stamped and processed it, as though this was the most regular, ordinary, commonplace thing in the world.

Well, it wasn’t to me. To me, that cheque changed EVERYTHING. Profoundly.

For someone brought up in a single parent family, and who’d then gone on to be a freelancer in the entertainment industry, this provided security… and it provided options. I could help my family, I could make plans, I could invest for the future.

And when Judi and I joyously welcomed our daughter Lily into the world less than a year later, I can’t tell you how great it was to have that security. To know that things were going to be okay; that I had provided, and that our brand new happy little family was off to a wonderful start. To this day, we still drive the car that it bought (I never took delivery of the Volvo – I sold it back to the dealership instead), we still live in the house that it bought… and there have been so many other benefits, far too numerous to count.

And they all come from something I did over a handful of days, fifteen years ago. In some ways, it all still feels like yesterday. I was, I am, and I always will be so very, very grateful. And so very glad that I decided to embark on my quiz show journey, all the way back in 1994. Crikey – that’s 26 years ago now! The rewards just keep on coming, from that day to this, and I know they’ll continue to do so, into the future. So if you happen to be considering diving into the world of quiz shows / game shows, all I can say – loudly, enthusiastically, and fairly unsurprisingly – is…

GO

FOR

IT!! 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part VIII – The Conclusion

And now, please enjoy the final instalment of my interview with the inspirational Sole Survivor…. Pia Miranda!

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SH: Just before we wrap up, Pia, for Howtowingameshows.com I always ask people “what would your tips be?” Do you have any tips for people who’d like to do exactly what you’ve done? 

PM: My tips would be don’t go on a game show unless it’s your passion. I don’t think you’re going to win it unless it’s your passion. I don’t like camping or being in the outdoors. 

SH: You don’t eat raw coconut all the time?

PM: No, funnily enough! But for some reason, when I watched that show, I had this instinct and passion to win it… and I’ve obsessed about it for 20 years; “I just know I can win this!”

I think go in with a game plan BUT don’t be afraid to be malleable with that game plan. In other words, trust your instincts but move with the flow, because you’re going to have to change it up. 

SH: Pivot. 

PM: Yes, you’re going to have to pivot. And also know that the camera doesn’t lie… the editing can lie! Boy, can the editing lie – the editing lies quite a lot. But the camera doesn’t, so there is no point in being too aware of the camera if you want to win. I think if you want to recharge your career, or become a personality then that’s one reason to go on a game show, but if you want to win… just forget about the camera and play to win. 

SH: Be yourself.  

PM: Just forget about the repercussions, because they’ll be mixed anyway, if you’re a winner. Just go and play… and play hard!

SH: Play hard! Yes! Thanks very much for your time today, Pia. 

PM: Thank you. 

SH: And again, congratulations! It couldn’t happen to a nicer person. 

PM: Thank you. Well, tell that to Survivor Facebook! (LAUGHS). 

SH: Yikes! (LAUGHS) 

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I’d like to thank Pia so much once again for her time, and so freely sharing so much of her Survivor experience for HowToWinGameShows.com.

Remember, you can follow Pia on Twitter, on Instagram, and you can also catch both of us now in Series 3 of Mustangs FC!

See you next time, with something completely different.

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part VII

Hello and welcome to the penultimate instalment of my eight part interview with Australian Sole Survivor Pia Miranda. When we left off, Pia had just beaten all the other contestants, to win $500,000… in a moment that looked something a little like this;

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PM: It’s a big thing, winning that amount of money. 

SH: It’s absolutely life-changing. I think back on it all the time, and its benefits continue… and will continue, all the way through. 

PM: Our kids will benefit from this. We bought our house late, because we’re actors – we just don’t have money. Just that whole idea that we’ve now fast-forwarded our lives and we’re in that position. Even if I got in a great television show and I was the lead, I still wouldn’t be in this position! There is no point in time that I ever thought that amount of money would fall into my lap. It was weird because right before you go on Survivor, they put you in this little hotel room with no TV or anything and you’re just stuck there for three or four days by yourself. And you go to shoot the promos and you see who else is there…  

SH: Lots of athletes?

PM: It’s not just athletes, I felt like that little kid at school on their first day at a new school and everyone is kind of cool… I just regretted it. The last thing I said to him – and he was trying to pump me up, going “you can do this”. So I said to him “Okay, right now I’m going to go out and win us this money,” and then I hung up. 

SH: And sure enough…. fifty days later, there you were! How was it to decompress and return home after all that privation and starvation? 

PM: It’s bad. You should see the WhatsApp groups that various players had with each other after the show. For 3 weeks, they were just all about food. 

SH: Like “what are you eating?” “What are you eating?” “What are you eating?” 

PM: Yes! Totally obsessing about food. It is non-stop food. I spoke to one of the dads at school (where my kids go) and he said “In the army, we generally reintegrate you into society after you’ve been through something like that.” When I got out, I missed out going to jury villa decompressing with everyone and talking the game or having that bonding experience. I just got thrust out and had that weird guilt of “Oh, I won – sorry about that guys.” The night I got let out, they gave me a meal. I said, “I just want a bottle of wine.”  

SH: At least!  

PM: I drank wine. I was trying to tell Luke everything that was going on. I had a shower, and just fell asleep in bed with the kids – it was amazing. My head was spinning and Janine’s husband and my husband spoke and discovered me and Janine were going through the same thing. I had to come back and work on Mustangs two days later. 

SH: Just two days later? Wow. 

PM: It was just hard to look anyone in the eye. There was an energy about me; I couldn’t connect with anyone, I was talking a million miles an hour, I was super overstimulated. The whole time you’re there, you only see Tribal, you see the beach and you see the challenges. In between that, you see nothing, you don’t hear music; there is no external stimulation at all. I couldn’t stop eating. We just talked about food the whole time and we’re talking about Hungry Jack’s at the airport. I had this massive thing of Hungry Jacks in my lap on the plane. Then I saw one of the other contestants walked onto the plane with his Hungry Jack’s. 

SH: Did it make you sick? 

PM: Sick for days. I had the runs for like two weeks. I was bingeing, runs, bingeing, runs (LAUGHS) it was just this cycle… One day I woke up and said “Okay, this has to stop”, and then it stopped. Actually, I found out I had an autoimmune disease when I was out there and went to a naturopath and she was like “don’t eat this or this”. I was on this restrictive diet, so that stopped me – no more burgers. The weird thing was though, when you are that starved – I don’t have a sweet tooth at all. I don’t like ice cream and all that kind of stuff – but when you’re out there, your body starts obsessing over and thinking about sugary food cakes, ice creams, I guess your body is just looking for a quick calorie hit. 

SH: A bit of energy. 

PM: Yes, one of the first things I did was to have gelato… which I’ve never eaten (LAUGHS).

SH: Okay. I’ve already asked you what you’re doing with the prize money… 

PM: Yes, mortgage and Disneyland. 

SH: Disneyland!

PM: When I was up on that big endurance challenge, Jonathan was “So, Pia what are you going to do with the money if you win it?” I was crying, “I’m going to pay off the mortgage. I’m going to take the kids to Disneyland.” and then I pulled myself together and added “And I’m going to buy a Chanel bag, Jonathan.” He was so impressed he just nodded and said “Nice.” 

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Next week, as we wind up the interview, Pia gives her very Top Tips for any aspiring Survivor contestants out there. So if you’re dreaming of, thinking of, or applying for, your very own Survivor experience… you can’t afford to miss that.

Until then, then! 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part VI

Hello and welcome to part six of my eight part interview with Australian Sole Survivor Pia Miranda. In the closing stages of her game, Pia made an observation about the different versions of the global franchise that is Survivor. It was an observation that I wanted to follow up on…

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SH: In your final appeal to the jury, when discussing your strategy, you said, “Australian Survivor is very different from American Survivor”. What did you mean by that? 

PM: I think Australians in general are different to Americans. Americans like bombastic behaviour and they like big moves; they’re very much willing to follow someone who shows themself to be a leader. Whereas in Australia, anyone who we think is getting too big for their boots – or seems like they’re on top of the pack – we’ll cut them down. So you’ve got to play a really different game. America rewards a brash game; you need to find an idol. It’s really hard for a woman to win American Survivor at the moment. I don’t think one’s won for 14 seasons or something. 

SH: Really? 

PM: Mm. So you have to make moves – because you want to have something to tell the jury – but you cannot let people think you’re on the top of the pack. Even when I was on top of the pack in the Contenders Tribe, I made sure everyone thought I was at the bottom of the three girls. Which was not true; it definitely was Janine and I running the show and then Abbey was following what we were doing. But I would tell the contenders that I didn’t know what was happening and they would tell me right before tribal “I’m just here to make friends,” that kind of thing. 

SH: So that was on your mind all the way through? That was your whole game plan. 

PM: They didn’t show this much, but I was really friendly. One of my biggest game plans, I learned from Cochran who is a super fan who played once played terribly, played second time played amazingly. Cochran and Sandra are my two people that I learned from. Sandra’s big thing was “don’t talk strategy unless you need to”. Don’t be running around camp all-day talking strategy, because it will come back to bite you in the arse. Cochran was really like “make real relationships with people, but then be willing to vote anyone out”. My social game was to really actually become friends with everyone and they were truthful relationships. I didn’t fake any of those relationships. When I got to jury in front of them, I could honestly say that I was really friends with every single person in that jury. And pretty good friends. I made an effort with them. 

SH: And voting them out is the game – it’s not personal, it’s just strategic. 

PM: Yes. Even Janine. I didn’t want Janine to go, but I kind of knew she had to go for me to win. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it because I wouldn’t have put her name down. 

SH: Yes. It’s been a while now, since it all happened. Would you go back again for an Allstars version?

PM: No, (LAUGHS) I wouldn’t do it again. Winners get voted out pretty early. I’ve only got somewhere to fall now. And people know my game now.  

SH: So you can’t surprise them. 

PM: If America had an “All winners” season, I might do that. That’d be fun. And also, the American challenges aren’t as hard as the Australian challenges. Honestly, those challenges…. I would turn up for those challenges with a knot in my stomach thinking “What the hell?!” I was fine once I got to the merge and they were individual challenges. Those team challenges I found traumatizing. I felt my game was always to be likeable but strategic and then come out at tribal council and obliterate my competition and just be really aggressive. I’d have to think of a new game plan… I mean, there are tribals that go for 2 hours. 

SH: Really? 

PM: Yes, even people yelling at me “YOU ARE S**T!” 

SH: What? 

PM: That’s the job of the jury! To tell you how bad your game is, and why you don’t deserve it; your job is to fight. People are like “why were you getting so angry?” (in tribals). Well, they get angry at you for two hours, and it’s really intense. They only show a smidgen what really happens. But yeah, I definitely wouldn’t play Australian Survivor again – they would vote me out. Because I won it the previous time. 

SH: Back to what you were saying before – you’d have a target on your back, just by walking in the door. 

PM: Yes. Also, I won the half a million! I don’t know if I could fight as hard to take that away from someone else who hasn’t had the chance to win it. 

SH: Someone else’s turn. 

PM: It’s someone else’s turn. If I won it twice, I’d feel a bit guilty about that. I don’t know if I’d have the passion inside me – there’s 23 people going in, and someone else deserves a shot at this. 

SH: Absolutely. The only way is down. I felt a bit like that after Temptation. They had these Quizmasters (Champion of Champions) series. I did go on one, but I shouldn’t have… because I lost and it was embarrassing (LAUGHS). But after my big win I was flushed with success – I was riding high and my ego was doing strange things. Based on that, I also decided to go on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. As it turned out, I did just scrape through, although I probably didn’t really didn’t deserve to win. 

PM: The passion goes because you won or something.   

SH: It does feel a bit unfair – it’s someone else’s turn. It really is. 

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Next week, Pia and I discuss how winning this life-changing amount of money has…

erm…

changed her life.

See you then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part V

Hello and welcome to part five of this eight-part interview.

And just as we reach the final stages of our chat, we’re also reaching the final stages of Pia’s Australian Survivor experience…

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SH: Now we’re getting down to the pointy end of the show… when Baden took you – and not Harry – through to The Final Two with him. I remember watching it, and at that moment, I thought ‘Pia’s got this’. I thought if Baden were to have any chance, he should have taken Harry; Harry had made himself unpopular in various ways along the way, so at least Baden would have had some chance against him. But when Baden chose you instead, did your heart soar? 

PM: It was complicated… because Harry didn’t play a great game up until maybe the final eight and then he played a fairly a good game. Whereas I played a really good game up until the final eight, and I had been on the bottom before, so I was struggling to survive. Baden didn’t see the first three quarters of my game (before the merge) so he didn’t know what game to play– 

SH: He was on the other tribe then, of course. 

PM: And I’d been working with Baden a lot to get him to take me through. I’m like, “you can’t take Harry, because you both play the same game”, yada-yada. So, I was pretty confident Baden was going to take me; that’s why I didn’t have to beat him in the challenge. But my heart did soar, yes! Harry and I had told each other we weren’t going to take each other… but we also thought we could lose to Baden because this is Australia and Australia loves an underdog and Baden is sweet. He annoyed people, and he was a blabbermouth – that was probably his worst trait, but that was the trait he owned and was part of his game. But I thought you could totally lose to Baden because it’s that thing where people can vote with their heart sometimes and be like “Oh, he’s a sweet kid, let’s give him a shot”. I loved Baden, but Harry and I both though that losing to Baden would be very traumatic. 

SH: Yes, because you worked so hard and you gave it your all. 

PM: Yes, so we definitely had a moment where Harry and I thought ‘it could happen, because this does happen sometimes in Survivor‘. My heart did soar a little bit, though, because when I looked at the jury, there were a couple of people I was convinced would vote for Baden…. but when I was counting in my head, I thought ‘I think I can count on five votes here’. 

SH: Yes, you needed five out of nine to win…. but as it turned out, you got nine out of nine votes! That’s never happened before. 

PM: Nine has happened a couple of times in America, but I’m the only female in the history of Survivor to get a nine-zero vote, which gave me legendary status on Twitter – that’s where it counts! 

SH: I imagine that when the votes were being counted and they told you that you won… that you didn’t learn about the number nine until well after all the hoopla. You only needed five. 

PM: Yes, I was expecting to do that thing where they create jeopardy… you know, “that’s two votes Pia, two votes Baden….” and build the suspense as they go.   

SH: But they didn’t, because they couldn’t – they didn’t have any Baden votes to add into the mix. 

PM: They did “two votes for Pia” and then I expected two votes for Baden to come up… but then they went to “three votes Pia, four votes Pia”… I think you can see my face getting really confused. I’m just so shocked. And then I’m like “I’m going to need one more”. When Jonathan said “you’re the winner”, I just didn’t process what had happened… but then when I went into the interview afterwards, they said “you’ve got every single one. You’re the first female in history to get every single vote.” I was just like pretty overwhelmed. 

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… and here’s the picture of that moment, which Pia shared with her son James.

What a LEGEND! Next week, I ask Pia about the differences between Australian Survivor and American Survivor and whether she’d ever consider returning to the franchise as part of an All Stars season…

See you then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part IV

Hello and welcome to part four of my exclusive interview with Australian Sole Survivor Pia Miranda! Before our interview officially began, Pia had mentioned that there were two challenges out there that really tested her...

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PM: The first challenge that was the hardest was the first Tower of Terror, where you had to grab the peg. Because there are a couple of challenges in Survivor that if you’re short, you’re at a real disadvantage. 

SH: Yes, we noticed that, while we were at home, watching you… 

PM: Yes. And it wasn’t just because the peg was high up; it was also very far out, so I just couldn’t get it. I did that one 14 times in a row…. which was painful! Slamming into that water every 6 minutes is painful. I was literally lying on the floor of that tower just waiting for my turn, with no breath, going “Physically, I can’t do this”…. 

SH: And yet you did. 

PM: I eventually did it. And the other one there was the Stepping Stones. Ross broke his ankle doing that one. There were these big poles you had to run over, and they were so far apart. 

SH: So again you were at a disadvantage. 

PM: Yes. I think I fell off of that about 12 times too. 

SH: So that’s just a built-in unfairness in those challenges. If I were to do it, for instance, I would find it much easier than… 

PM: Shaun just stepped over them. (* Shaun is 201 cm tall). So the taller contestants aren’t running and jumping and falling like I was. 

SH: Of course.  

PM: So, you get through that stuff. I think the Tower of Terror was the worst one for me, but you get through that stuff, you go through all this pain and your family is there that really propels you because I’m looking at my husband going “I really want to win this money for us!”, you know. 

SH: Yes, when I was watching that final endurance challenge at home, putting myself in your shoes, I found I was also putting myself in your husband’s shoes, watching you endure that stuff. If I was watching my wife do that, I’d find it pretty challenging. 

PM: Yes, he said it was hard not to just jump in and take me off. 

SH: Yes, you’re suffering – he wants to help end your pain. 

PM: Yes. 

SH: So, you earned your money!

PM: Yes, medical came up to have a chat with me because my feet were getting  too swollen, but I didn’t want to get off and he said that it was tough knowing that medical actually stepped in. I did it and I beat Harry. 

SH: You did it!

PM: But it’s okay; I’m flying Harry out for the holidays. I only made two promises on the beach. 

SH: What were those? 

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