Auditioning For Game Shows
Guide 5 - Auditioning for game shows
This Good Game Guide, written by Thomas Scott, provides a beginner's guide to that all-important application process for all you wannabe game show stars.
The game show is one of the longest running and most enduring genres on television. It's also one of the most exciting to watch; will Debbie from Birmingham answer the final questions correctly to win the Big Prize, or will she go home with nothing? Since the arrival of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, game shows seem to have recaptured the public imagination, and applications for shows are reaching a new high. So, if you fancy your chances on Blankety Blank or 100%, here's my advice to help you to your fifteen minutes of fame.
Choose your show
My experience with game shows started a few months ago when I applied for the new version of Blockbusters on Sky One. You'll also have to choose which game show you want to go on first - and there are many, many shows to pick from. To maximise your chances of getting on the show:
- Avoid random selections. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Greed and The Weakest Link all pick their contestants randomly. The odds of getting on popular shows this way are low. By all means try, but don't keep your hopes up. Of course, if a small, unpopular show uses random selections, go for it.
- Pick desperate shows. Millionaire has about 50,000 people applying for each show. At £1.20 per phone call, it's going to cost you a lot if you want a good chance of getting on. Instead, try a show that's not as popular - a daytime show, for example. You've got a much better chance of getting on if they're desperate for contestants.
- Work out the odds of winning. The Weakest Link has ten people per show, and nine go home with nothing - and get insulted by Anne Robinson to boot. Those aren't good odds. On the other hand, Playing For Time only has two people per show, and only one goes home with nothing. That's better - particularly if your buzzer skills are particularly sharp. Even better is something such as Wheel of Fortune, where there's a prize at the end of every round, and you're almost guaranteed something. And of course, if you can find a show that pays money for each question right, you're laughing.
The application form
Your first hurdle is the application form. For Blockbusters, my school was sent several 'on spec', but you'll usually have to write off for one. Some companies will require you to send a letter; others are happy with an e-mail; some just hold 'open auditions' - come along and try out.
Of course, first you have to know that the game show is asking for contestants. The best resource I've found for keeping track of the latest contestant calls is here at UKGameshows.
So, let's say you need to fill out an application form. The chances are it will ask for some personal details, plus pose questions such as 'What are your ambitions?' and 'Do you have any embarrassing stories?'
The embarrassing story question is a favourite of contestant researchers, as well as providing plenty of fodder for the pre-game interview. You should never, ever put down 'no' for any question - it marks you off as being unimaginative or boring. Even if you put down a jokey answer, it's better than nothing. It's also a good idea to draft and proofread your answers before writing them on the application form proper. There's nothing worse than crossings-out or correction fluid on an application form.
As for your ambitions, it's best to put something that's just achievable - sail around the world, do a solo parachute jump, or something similar. This is more to work out your personality - and possibly help out with a prize selection. If you don't really want to parachute jump, don't put it down on your form. As the old proverb goes: be careful what you wish for - you just might get it. For example, Blockbusters contestants who put down that they like animals, or working with animals, may get to adopt an animal at London Zoo for their first gold run prize.
Make sure you send your form off well before the application deadline - just in case! With any luck, you should be invited back for an audition.
Auditions vary wildly from company to company. However, there are a few guidelines that go for all auditions.
- Clothing: Go for a happy medium here - not the suit and tie, excessively smart look, but don't go in with clothes that say "impoverished student". In the end, it's up to you, but remember - everything you do at the audition, including your clothing, will affect whether you're chosen or not.
- Smiling. Always. Keep a pleasant smile on your face at all times. It says "photogenic". On the other hand, a constant forced ear-to-ear grin says "insane".
- Electronic gadgetry. Off. Not in silent mode, or vibrate mode, but off. You should under no circumstances have any beeping alarms, digital watches, or mobile phones. Not only does it disrupt the audition, it will probably turn the contestant researchers against you.
So, on to the audition itself. Generally, there are three parts to each audition. Firstly, the contestant researchers - the people running the audition - will explain the game (or games) you're auditioning for. Even though it may not seem like it, you ARE on audition here! Don't nod off, or yawn, or gaze around the room - even if you know the rules inside out. Do be attentive, do ask questions, laugh at the jokes, but on the other hand, don't stand out from the crowd too much. You're looking to be noticed, but not too much.
Then, there will probably be a quick general knowledge quiz. Don't worry too much about the score - this is usually to make sure you're not matched with someone much better or worse than yourself when you get on the show.
Finally, you will almost always need to 'introduce yourself' or engage in a quick chat with one of the researchers. This could even take the form of a quick on-the-buzzer game. This is the most important part of the audition - a personality test. Just remember to keep smiling and keep chatting. If you can't think of anything, don't stutter and hesitate - either say "that's it" or just bring your sentence to a close and smile. It's not good to "um" and "er", it's not good to keep prattling on, it's not good to "clam up". Oh, yes, and be yourself. If that's still possible.
After the audition, it's a case of "don't call us, we'll call you" - and it could take anything from two weeks to two years. You will be kept on file, there's no need to pester the researchers - heck, take the time to apply for another show! With any luck, you'll get The Phone Call in a few weeks. Feel free to yell, scream, or just quietly say 'thank you'. Congratulations. You've made it.